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Alternative Site Plan for Loughborough Commons

Today I was test driving some fun features with Google Maps (custom maps, drawing tools). Using the old image of the area which is now Loughborough Commons I drew one concept I had for streets and land use in the area. As you will see, my idea is quite different than what is being constructed. lc_concept1

The first thing to notice is that I have retained nearly every home that was located at the corner of the site along Grand & Loughborough. I’ve then cut public streets through the site to create numerous other smaller parcels. The main artery would be extending Loughborough Drive through the site to create a 5-block long commercial district (shown in blue). Buildings facing this street would be “mixed use” with retail/resturant on the ground floor and office or residential above (shown in purple). Residential housing of various forms would face Grand, shown in red. The two big orange boxes would be a Schnuck’s & Lowe’s with the gray box in the middle representing surface parking. Side streets from the adjacent neighborhood would be brought through the site — connecting the commercial district to the existing housing stock.
Mixed-Use (purple):

Lining both sides of a new Loughborough Drive, as well as facing Loughborough, these mixed use buildings would be a minimum of 2 stories high but up to 5 stories. The street-level would be designed for retail/restaurant tenants such as St. Louis Bread Co, Great Clips, Qdoba, Starbucks, and Office Max. Upper floors could contain office space or residential units. Retail parking would be on-street diagonal parking along Loughborough Drive. Shoppers would be encouraged to park once and check out multiple stores via foot.

The main street of Loughborough Drive would be just that — a main street. Think a cross between an old shopping district (Delmar in The Loop), a pedestrian friendly “lifestyle center” (the Boulevard on Brentwood) and a New Urbanist town center (New Town at St. Charles). This was one of the few sites large enough in the city to have developed such a mixed-use model connecting to an existing and stable neighborhood.
Big Box (orange):

This concepts accepts the necessity of big box retailing for the masses. It also accepts most big box shoppers will arive by car, so surface parking is provided between the two stores. The big box stores would not face the main shopping street (Loughborough Drive) but would instead face each other. Both would have excellent visibility from I-55. Blow & Roswell would be used to access the surface parking for the big box stores.

Two options existed for the Schnuck’s here. One is for Schnuck’s to have built on the south location I show above while the existing store remained open. Once the new store was open the old one could have been razed for the new Lowe’s. An alternative would have been to add on to the existing Schnuck’s and basically create a new entrance facing Blow St. The bulk of the existing structure could have been reused, reducing the amount of debris heading to a land fill.

Those shopping on the main street would have easy access to the big box stores, and vice versa, without having to move their cars.
Residential (red):

Housing would be located on this section of Grand, facing existing single-family detached homes. This housing would have a rear alley (shown in yellow) with rear loaded garages. Ideally the residential mix would have varied from condo buildings with shared underground parking to townhouses with individual garages. Garages at the alley might also have had granny flats for small & affordable housing. Low to moderate income and senior housing could easily be mixed in with market rate housing both in the residential section facing Grand as well as above the retail in the mixed-use areas.

For the most part I have “bent” the side streets like Robert & French as they cross Loughborough Drive. This allows the new mixed-use buildings to become more in the line of sight as well as to block views of the highway. However, making these streets perpendicular to Loughborough Drive helps create square corners which are cheaper in new construction than odd angles.

This is only one version of an alternative street grid for the site. Perhap when it has failed in 20 years we can take another stab at the site and get it right.


Political Eye on Ald. Florida

Last weeks ‘Political Eye’ editorial in the St. Louis American took aim at 15th ward Alderman Jennifer Florida. Florida, you may recall, is the alderman that I squared off against last year over her push for a relocated McDonald’s on South Grand. Thankfully, her relocation of the fast-food chain failed. Here is an excerpt from the editorial, she was rumored to want the job as Lewis Reed’s Chief of Staff:

Florida’ 15th Ward didn’t exactly deliver the bacon for Reed, though it did give him well over the typical 15 percent of the ward’s vote for an African American running citywide. During Reed’s campaign, Florida was considered by many to be overbearing, rude and grossly insensitive. While Florida reportedly got on everyone’s last nerve, even when she snapped at low-keyed and in control Alderwoman April Ford Griffin, her antics were dismissed and the campaigned moved forward. At one point in the final days of the heated campaign, Florida’ see-saw personality finally disqualified her from even getting the community outreach post, which was taken by Rory Roundtree.

You can read the full editorial here. Thanks to Steve Wilke-Shapiro’s 15thwardSTL blog for the heads up.


Lowe’s & Schnuck’s Customer Using Mobility Scooter Forced to Use Street; Center Lacks ADA Access

I’ve been harping for nearly a year now about the lack of ADA access for customers of the city’s newest big box shopping center, Loughborough Commons.  Despite $14 million in tax incentives, not all are able to easily access the two stores that opened last year, Schnuck’s and Lowe’s.

Yesterday I spotted a person leaving Loughborough Commons by the secondary entrance along Grand.  He had made purchases as I could see shopping bags in the front and back of his mobility scooter.  The center has only two ways in —- one on Loughborough and this one off Grand.  An ADA compliant route from either public street (and to either store) has not been provided.

Above this customer is using the wide auto drive which is also used by delivery trucks.


The customer then heads northbound on the public street.  Loughborough Commons developer DESCO did not provide a public sidewalk along Grand despite a wide public right of way.  This puts people most vulnerable at risk.  Alderman Villa, when approving this project, could have likely required a public sidewalk within the public right of way.


I was expecting the customer on his mobility scooter to turn on one of the many streets that Loughborough Commons turns it back to.  Instead, he continued north on Grand toward Loughborouh.  You might ask, why didn’t he make it over to the sidewalk on the left (west) side of the street?  Well, it is not ADA compliant as not all corners have ramps.  A sidewalk along the east side of Grand would have added very little to the overall budget of the project which again received $14 million in public tax breaks.


The customer turned left onto Loughorough Ave, a very busy street!  Above you can see him just ahead of the westbound red pickup.  Due to the high volume of traffic I was unable to get across the street to get better photos as the man on the scooter approached the rear of a parked van.  It was nerve racking watching him pass this parked vehicle on such a busy road.


The man then continued on westbound Loughborough and turned right into Carondelet Park (look closely and you can see  him at the entrance).  You may look at this image and wonder why he is not on the sidewalk shown at right.  That would be a good question.  Remember, sidewalks in St. Louis are only for show — not for actual users.  This man had no way, from Grand, to get onto this sidewalk which would have put him out of harms way on a very busy street.

The man entered the park, most likely cutting through to get home. He continued on this road for a bit until he caught up with the internal path system where he continued west-northwest.  The nice sidewalk seen in the last picture does not continue into the park.

How is it that a new from scratch $40+ million project with $14 million of that in public tax subsidies can fail to accommodate real users?  Answer, lack of priority.  Ald. Villa will remind us that the center is not finished even though the two stores opened last year.  The large site has only two entrances and, given the grades of the main entrance, neither will meet the federal ADA requirements even when finished per their plans submitted to the city.

Yes, the new grocery store is cleaner than the old one and hey we are getting a Breadco (Panera to folks outside St. Louis) and a Starbucks soon.  Do these things make up for the fact we’ve failed to ensure that people such as this man can travel safely to the store?  I don’t think so.

I hope nothing happens to this man or anyone else traveling by foot, wheelchair or mobility scooter and headed to Loughborough Commons.  But, I’m putting the City of St. Louis, DESCO, Schnuck’s and Lowe’s (and soon Panera, Starbucks, etc…) on notice that Loughborough Commons fails to meet the needs of the community and to meet the requirements set forth by federal civil rights legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act.  If some unfortunate accident happens, I will help to make sure you are all held liable.


Second Empire Rehab in Gravois Park

Passers by this “home” on Compton near Cherokee can see the sky — literally!

But this is a good thing. This home, which has seen better days, is getting a new interior as well as a roof. The old rotten (and burned?) wood was hauled away as part of the rehab process.

I have no brilliant commentary to make about the project, I’m just glad to see it happening. Gravois Park has very few vacant lots and I hope that remains the case. Affordable rehab projects as well as habitable homes can be found in the neighborhood.

Compton is a regular north-south route for me when I am riding my scooter so I’ve been enjoying watching the progress on this well-proportioned home.


Tower Grove Farmers’ Market Kickoff Celebration, May 12th

From my friend Jenny Ryan….


On Saturday, May 12, one of St. Louis’ newest and most successful farmers’ markets will celebrate the start of its second season by hosting its Kickoff Festival. The Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, together with community partners, The Southside YMCA and KDHX will host an event filled with great food, music and family fun.

Joining the Market’s regular cast of farmers, bakers, ranchers and artisans, the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market Kickoff Festival, scheduled for Saturday, May 12 from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm, will feature the following activities:

  • Various arts and crafts
  • Face painting
  • T-Shirt art
  • Sack racing
  • Food concessions by Missouri and Illinois small farmers and restaurants
  • Free Yoga
  • Music by Noah Earle, Swing De Ville and Grass Pack
  • Outdoor fitness activities with the South City YMCA

For additional information on the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market Kickoff Celebration visit http://www.tgmarket.org or email the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market at Contact@tgmarket.org.

Tower Grove Farmers’ Market’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the St. Louis area by providing a community activity that fosters social gathering and interaction while promoting sustainable agriculture and urban education.