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A Weekend of Bicycle Racing in St. Louis

Last Saturday night thousands of casual bike riders were on the roads after Midnight (Sunday morning) for the 46th Annual Moonlight Ramble:

Riders assembled on Market Street at 15th just before midnight on 8/29/09.
Riders assembled on Market Street at 15th just before midnight on 8/29/09.

Starting tonight and continuing through Monday racing cyclists take over the streets.   The annual Gateway Cup is 4 days of racing that attracts riders from across the country to compete for cash & prizes.  They always put on a good show.  Monday is the start of the Tour of Missouri, a pro-level bike race.  The first stage will take place in St. Louis Monday.

Here are the details for interested spectators:

Friday 9/4/09:

The nighttime start to the weekend.  Lights are set up on the four corners around Lafayette Park for the Tour de Lafayette.

Join the Lafayette Square neighborhood and business district for a Friday night festival  celebrating an evening of racing under the lights! Lafayette Square is known as one of the country’s best preserved examples of Victorian “Painted Lady” architecture dating from the 1870’s and 1880’s.  It is also St. Louis’s oldest historic district. The neighborhood (and tonight’s race course) surrounds the first public park in the city of St.  Louis as well as one of the first public parks west of the Mississippi.  The neighborhood took a hit during the Great Depression and after WWII,  but thanks to the restoration efforts of a determined group of urban pioneers,  Lafayette Square saw a renaissance starting in the early 1970’s. Today it is  one of the crown jewels of St. Louis, with condo and loft developments as well  as a business district blossoming with restaurants boutiques and art galleries. Enjoy!

Bring a lawn chair and pick your corner and enjoy the neighborhood as the riders speed by or enjoy food and beverage from the many vendors.  Parking is tight so carpooling, biking or taking transit (Union Station MetroLink) is advised.

Saturday 9/5/09:

A first this year, racing around Francis Park in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood.

The St. Louis Hills Francis Park Criterium For the first time the historic St. Louis Hills neighborhood is host to the second leg of the Gateway Cup! Francis Park, named after David Rowland Francis- President of the Lousiana Purchase Exposition in 1889, is know for its wide, tree lined streets and for having beautiful churches on every corner. Today the St. Louis Hills neighborhood showcases gingerbread bungalows, stately homes and some of the tidiest landscaping in St. Louis. Home to St. Louis cultural and iconic Ted Drewes- our homegrown ice cream oasis. We hope you enjoy the new and improved race course selection for this second stop of the Gateway Cup!

Please join us for bands and a post race par-tay just behind the finish line in Francis Park. Featuring local band Ship of Fools during the day and followed by local hero Steve Ewing of the Urge, one of St. Louis most revered musical acts. We encourage everyone to stay until 8:00pm before heading to the Tour of Missouri Women’s Soiree event later in the evening.

Should be a fun day around a wonderful park in a beautiful neighborhood.  First race 11am, last race starts at 4:30pm.

Sunday 9/6/09:

No park to race around.  Even better are is the dense neighborhood known as The Hill.

The Hill is proud to once again host the longest standing bike race in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area – the Giro Della Montagna – the third stop of the 2009 Gateway Cup!

The Hill boasts the finest Italian restaurants anywhere. It is the boyhood home of such baseball legends as Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. It is a neighborhood that acts as a model for community as generations of families continue to maintain their residence creating a close-knit feel. The neighborhood was settled by Italian immigrants starting in the late 19th Century. The anchor for the community continues to be St. Ambrose Catholic Church, the Start/Finish site for today’s race. The Italian heritage continues to thrive with the Hill’s variety of Italian restaurants, bakeries, taverns, groceries, community organizations, and social clubs. One of these such clubs, the Bocce Club, hosts the traditional pasta dinner for the cyclists Sunday evening after the completion of the last race of the day. Giro Pasta Dinner, Sunday, September 6th 4:00-8:00 pm, St Louis Bocce Club 2210 Marconi @ Bischoff on race course. Menu includes all the Pasta you can eat, plus 2 meatballs, salad, Italian Bread, and dessert. $7 adults/$4 children. Tickets available at the door.

First race at 12:15pm, last starts at 5:50pm.

Monday 9/7/09:

Labor Day will be a busy one downtown with both the Tour of Missouri Criterium finishing the Gateway Cup series plus the start of the Tour of Missouri.  The Criterium’s first race starts at 7am with Pro 1 & 2 starting at 10am.  At 1pm is the start of Stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri.  Both can be viewed from Citygarden on Market Street. The Tour of Missouri stage extends into Soulard & Lafayette Square so plenty of places to watch the race go by exist.

Parking will be scarce so if possible use MetroLink, or your own bike, to get downtown.

The routes all four days use city streets, which will be closed to traffic.  It is possible to cross the route on foot but not by car.  When crossing on foot look for the volunteers which will help you cross safely.

If you haven’t been to Lafayette Square, St. Louis Hills, The Hill or downtown in a while this is a good excuse to do so.   Hopefully the rain will come at times the riders are not competing. Have a great weekend and Labor Day!

– Steve Patterson


Avalon Cinema For Sale

The long-closed Avalon Cinema is finally for sale.  For years people have said the 1930s structure was an eyesore that should be razed.

Thankfully it has avoided the fate of so many other fine buildings.  The property at 4225 S. Kingshighway is listed at $1,000,000 by Bjaye Greer of Realty Exchange. The owner is finally convinced to sell:

Inside the pitch-black carcass of the Avalon Cinema, the windows are boarded up and the electricity has been shut off since it closed its doors on South Kingshighway Boulevard nine years ago. The faint sound of dripping water is audible, and junk lies strewn across the floors of the building — ruined reels of film, broken projector parts, a shopping cart and a filthy mattress.

Amid the squalor, the building’s owner, Greg Tsevis, navigates the darkened stairs and crawl spaces with the ease afforded by 30 years of familiarity, oblivious to the ruin around him.  (Riverfront Times July 2007)

The building includes land with 200 feet of frontage along South Kingshighway – a substantial length.

The West face of South Kingshighway at Chippewa (map link) is mostly intact.  The parking lot adjacent to the Avalon was there in a 1958 photograph.

I’d like to see a new building be built adjacent to the Avalon with street-level retail, offices and/or residential units and structured parking.  Basically it would be structured parking at the rear of the site with a thin face at the street.  I haven’t done a proforma to see how the numbers work out.  My focus is to create a nice wall of building fronts along the sidewalk line so that the area is more connected and friendly to pedestrians.

Source: Google Street View
Source: Google Street View

The garage on Delmar (left above), across from the Tivoli Theater, still looks like a garage with the open second floor.  But I’d take it on South Kingshighway next to the Avalon as a compromise to having occupied space at the front on the 2nd level.  A 3rd floor would be excellent and in keeping with nearby buildings.

The first step that needs to be taken is to develop a form-based zoning code for the area that would guide future development.   This would give developers an assurance that any adjacent development would also take on an urban form.

Further Reading

– Steve Patterson


The Widening of Delor Street

Delor Street winds through South St. Louis, from East of Grand to the River Des Peres.   The block of Delor Street West of the Bevo Mill area (map) is know for cute but modest houses and for a very narrow roadway:

(image source: Google Street View)
(image source: Google Street View)

Delor Street, above, has been so narrow that cars had to go very slow.  Now the city is in the process of widening the curb to curb width.  The South curb line (right, above) is being moved a few feet over.  I have mixed feelings about this work.  The narrow width helped slow traffic.  But I would not want to try to get in/out of my car on the narrow street.

When I drove down Delor Street recently I saw the construction in progress.  One thing is clear is the narrow tree lawn was being eliminated in order to move the curb line. Mark Groth has observations and a couple of construction pics on his blog, St. Louis City Talk (link to post).  From his pics I can see curb bulbs and islands.  Once construction is complete I’ll return, walk this block as part of my therapy and get photos.

– Steve Patterson


Brick by Brick: 2857 Cherokee Street

At the West end of the Cherokee Station Business District lies a three story brick storefront property. Ruined by years of neglect, this rotting structure stands in defiance of being utterly forgotten by its owners.

2857 Cherokee

2857 Cherokee

The city finally issued a condemnation notice last week. The door had been kicked in by vagrants, unmasking the internal ruin. This debris-filled stairwell degrades right inside of the front doorway. Plainly visible to any passerby; and enticing to anyone needing a free place to stay the night.

Saint Louis doesn’t need to be losing any more buildings, that goes especially for 107 year old brick storefronts. South City has done a remarkable job of avoiding the wholesale tear-downs that ravaged North City. South City has thoroughly rejected bulldozers and the McKee’s that circle over them. Thanks to dedicated landlords, an undaunted Alderman, energetic entrepreneurs and activists, and a sprinkling of idealistic artists Cherokee Street has managed to save, restore, and invigorate its numerous historic buildings.

2857 is the only building within the mixed-use/commercial district in the shape it’s in.

20th Ward Alderman Craig Schmid, once contacted about the property’s condemnation, committed to finding what resources the city has in getting the property into the hands of a responsible developer.

The situation is ripe for a community-driven rehab project. As a resident and proprietor on Cherokee Street, I have a vested interest in seeing this building reconstructed. Other stakeholders, business owners and residents, have expressed interest in pooling what resources they have to save this building.

To be sure, this is a major job. The structural report states plainly that whole walls will need to be relaid. Internal damage is severe, water has had nearly every window open to its invasion. Plants have managed to grow from the windowsills and a tree has sprung out of the garage.

This post is a call for more involvement. Brick by Brick Saint Louis needs to be preserved. If you are a rehabber, a member of the Cherokee Street community, or simply a fellow Saint Louisan dedicated to the preservation of architectural history I ask that you join this project.

For more information on how to get involved please contact me.   With enough volunteers we can start putting together an organization and a plan to save this building.

Update: Before I’ve even managed to post the first installment, new developments have arisen. On Saturday, June 20th, workmen were spotted making superficial fixes on the building. A real door has been placed in the front; no other changes are visible.

Photos provided by Cranky Yellow’s photographer Amanda Beard; www.amandabeardphotography.com. All rights reserved.

– Angelo Stege


Darst-Webbe Public Housing Project Long Gone

The old high-rise housing projects that used to ring downtown are gone now.   One such project that struck me upon my arrival was Darst-Webbe.  The J.M. Darst Apts., opened in October 1956,  consisted of four 9-story towers and the A.M. Webbe Apts., opened in May 1961, consisted of two 9-story, one 12-story and one 8-story towers.  Darst was bounded by Lafayette, 12th (now Tucker), Hickory and 14th.  Webbe was to the North bounded by Hickory, 14th, Chouteau, and 12th.  To the West, across 14th, was the Clinton Peabocy Terrace 2 & 3 story apartments which opened in July 1942.  Click here to see a map of 12th (Tucker) & Hickory.

Winter 1990-91
Winter 1990-91

I took the above picture a few months after my arrival in St. Louis.  I believe this is the Webbe Apts. located North of Hickory. The housing in the background still exists.

  • Darst/14.75 acres/645 units built/683 units razed
  • Webbe/12.27 acres/580 units/578 units razed
  • Clinton Peabody/27.49 acres/657 units/687 units razed

All of the above information is from an early 1970s St. Louis technical report titled, History of Urban Renewal.

Thanksgiving of 1990 I had visitors from my home state of Oklahoma visiting St. Louis for the first time.  Driving them around my newly adopted city I took them past Darst-Webbe.  I said, jokingly, “maybe we’ll see a fire.”  Guess what?  There was a large fire in a dumpster near one of these towers.  In the years that followed I’d drive by and see lights on in a few of the apartments.  I was shocked that people lived in what appeared to be ruins.

The reasons high rise public housing failed are numerous and complicated.  But very simply we would have been better off had they left the old slums in place rather than razing them for the new slums.  Hindsight is a wonderful teacher.

– Steve Patterson