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Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years

July 22, 2021 Featured, Planning & Design, Retail, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years
Aerial view of the site and immediate surroundings. Source: Apple Maps. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps.

Last week I outlined the problems with the vacant Jamestown Mall, its massive 144.51 acre site, and the surroundings. See Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options. When you look at the problems the solution becomes obvious.

Problems > solutions include:

  • Vacant 422,533 square feet enclosed mall > tear down mall.
  • Lack of a major grocery store > include site for ALDI-sized grocery store on edge of master plan. Building should be easily connected to new sidewalk network.
  • MetroBus stops along both sides of Lindbergh Blvd adjacent to the site are just shoulder on a state highway, discouraging pedestrian use. No pedestrian infrastructure or access to site > reroute MetroBus through the redesigned site and/or add pedestrian infrastructure along this stretch of Lindbergh Blvd.
  • The Fox Manor subdivision is immediately south of the site, downhill. It only has one way in/out — onto Lindbergh Blvd for cars only > connect the two dead end subdivision streets to new public streets on the site.

Finding a single developer to build out the nearly 145 acre site is proving difficult. Of course, it’s massive. It’s way too much for one entity to take on. Yet most people think if one developer won’t build the mixed-use neighborhood that area residents want then one developer should be allowed to development an awful warehouse complex. Wrong!

The best places in the St. Louis region weren’t built at one moment, by one developer. No, land owners subdivided their land and created building lots, putting in streets & utilities to support those who would eventually buy a lot and build on it.  This is how downtown St. Louis was developed, as well as Kirkwood MO, Florissant MO, Belleville IL. Nearly every pre-WWII downtown or commercial district developed in this manner, over time. New Town at St. Charles was planned by one developer, who also built some buildings. But not all.

St. Louis County needs to master plan the entire site, put in connecting streets & utilities, rezone the site and adopt a form-based code to guide the build out over the next 10-15-20 years. Subdivide the land so a grocery store could own their parcel.  An insurance agent might build their housing unit over their office space. A multi-family housing company might build a few buildings with apartments. A home builder might build on some single family lots.

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time” — Desmond Tutu

Ok. don’t eat an elephant…or even kill one. And don’t expect developers to bite off more than they can chew.

For comparison most of downtown’s central business district would fit in the same 145 acre site: From the Arch grounds to 8th, from Market to Washington Ave.

Ballpark Village is 10 acres and the Cardinals had to split that up into multiple phases because they learned they couldn’t do it all at once.  The Streets of St. Charles project is a 27 acre suburban mixed-use project and it is being phased in.

The Streets of St. Charles, 2016

Below is my crude schematic showing new streets (blue) connecting to all 7 existing site access points, including 2 dead end streets in the residential subdivision to the south. The pink is commercial and/or mixed use, the orange is residential without commercial. The green around the perimeter is a green buffer around the perimeter with a walking path, water, fruit trees, etc.

Click image to see larger version.

My roads shown above in blue would be initial roads. Maybe. At a minimum three of the seven site access points should be connected: one off Lindbergh Blvd, one off Old Jamestown Rd, and one of the two dead end streets in the Fox Manor subdivision. My idea the initial streets 1) have an intersection in the commercial area and 2) connect to the residential subdivision.

Eventually there would potentially be many more streets given the size of the site, but that can happen over time as demand warrants.

A concept from a decade ago with more of the site built out than what I envision.

My main point is the St. Louis County Port Authority, as property owner, should plan it out, put in some streets and utilities and begin to sell the land lot by lot. I think most everyone would agree a well-connected mixed-use neighborhood with a grocery store is the best possible outcome. I just don’t see it happening all at once, but incrementally over time.

— Steve Patterson

 

Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options

July 15, 2021 Featured, Retail, St. Louis County, Suburban Sprawl Comments Off on Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options

My blog posts about Jamestown Mall are few. In 2011 a poll followed by the poll results with a few thoughts. In 2016 I posted that it had been two years sine the mall permanently closed. My 2011 visit was done while the mall was open, I arrived via MetroBus using my power wheelchair.   As it had been over a decade since my last visit, we recently drove up to the dead mall to reacquaint and get current photos.  Driving allowed me to take in more of the overall area.

The first site entrance going clockwise is the southern entrance off of Old Jamestown Road. Designed for vehicles pedestrians from the areas to the south have also used this entrance despite lacking an accessible route into the site.

Some things have changed in the last decade, others have not. Today I want to share with you my approach to analyzing the site, its surroundings, listing the various problems I see, and what options exist for moving forward. The 2nd part will be my conclusion, offering a solution.

Aerial view of the site and immediate surroundings. Source: Apple Maps. Click image to view aerial in Google Maps.

First, a little history courtesy of Wikipedia:

Construction began on the mall in 1972. Its anchor stores at the time were Sears and Stix Baer & Fuller, a local chain based in nearby St. Louis. The Stix store was converted to Dillard’s in 1984 after Dillard’s acquired the chain. Famous-Barr (now Macy’s) was added as a third anchor in 1994, and two years later, JCPenney relocated to the mall from an existing store in Florissant. A movie theater was also added in the 1990s.

Jacobs Group sold the mall to Carlyle Development Group in 2003. At the time, the complex was approximately 30 percent vacant. In April 2006, Dillard’s Inc. announced the closure of the Jamestown Mall store, and Sears closed two years later.

Carlyle announced redevelopment plans in 2008. Under these plans, the former Dillard’s would be converted to offices, and its wing would be closed to retail. A year later, St. Louis County hired researchers from the Urban Land Institute to analyze the mall’s viability as a retail center. The study found that the center was no longer viable as a shopping mall because it overlapped with existing retailers in the area. These plans were canceled in 2009 when the mall developers lost financial support from the county following an attempt to auction the former Dillard’s store. Further plans in 2010 called for the demolition of everything except the JCPenney and Macy’s stores, with the rest of the complex to be re-developed as a mixed-use center. In June 2011, a furniture store called Central States Liquidation opened in the former Dillard’s. The JCPenney Outlet store, which was renamed JC’s 5 Star Outlet, csed in late 2013.

In late 2012, gas service to the mall was shut off but later restored. The mall’s closure was announced in November 2013 due to the heat being shut off. The closure of the Macy’s store was announced in January 2014, leaving the mall with no anchors. Jamestown Mall finally closed it doors on July 1, 2014.

For a long time one or more anchor stores had different owners than the remainder of the mall, but in 2017 the St. Louis County Port Authority acquired ownership of the mall and parking to make redevelopment easier. The exception is a small outparcel strip between the two driveways connections to Old Jamestown Rd., on the west side of the site. Appropriately, this is owned by a funeral home.

Here are some basics for analysis:

  • Municipality: None, unincorporated St. Louis County
  • School District: Hazelwood
  • Fire Protection District: Black Jack
  • Mall building: 422,533 square feet
  • Main site: 142.42 acres
  • Outlot building: 2,509 square feet
  • Outlot site: 2.09 acres
  • Total area of combined site: 144.51 acres (0.2258 square miles)
  • Site access points: seven total from public streets, five mall drives plus two dead end streets in Fox Manor subdivision. One of the five mall drives includes a signalized intersection. Photos of each below.
  • Surrounding areas include older & newer suburban housing, largely stable middle class. Part of the surroundings become rural very quickly. The area is lacking a major grocery, the nearest is 3.6 miles from the site.
  • Vehicular access is excellent, but pedestrian access is poor. The only pedestrian access is the public sidewalk on the east side of Old Jamestown Rd., this connects to the south. There are numerous MetroBus stops in both directions along Highway 67 (aka Lindbergh Blvd) but no pedestrian infrastructure exists to get to/from the stops.  Photos of some orphaned bus stops below.
  • Topography: Mostly flat where mall sits, otherwise gently sloping downhill to the south. Prior to the mall the area was rural, with ponds and nothing altering the natural flow of rainwater to Coldwater Creek on the south, just beyond the site boundaries. The topography isn’t what it was before the mall, it was changed to create a mostly level spot for the building a parking lots.

By comparison the mixed-use Streets of St. Charles project is 27 acres.  Again, the Jamestown Mall site is 144.51 acres — more than 5 times larger!

The most recent proposal was for the mall site a massive warehouse operation, which was met with local opposition.

The St. Louis County Port Authority, which owns the 145-acre site near Missouri highways 67 and 367, will issue a request for proposals next month for a contractor to abate the property, Chairman John Maupin said, calling it the first step to tearing down the former mall building.

Demolition would be a “very expensive process,” Maupin said, but it is necessary to attract potential buyers, as the building is blighted “beyond any sort of redemption. Pressed for a cost estimate, Maupin said clearing the entire site could cost up to $10 million.

The announcement comes a week after a Kansas City-based developer’s plans to turn the mall into a large warehouse site were scrapped amid opposition by Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, who represents the area. Webb said residents overwhelmingly prefer a mixed retail site or community center. (Post-Dispatch)

I’m very happy the awful warehouse proposal is dead, and glad the old mall will be razed and the site cleaned up. It’s excellent area residents didn’t give into the tired notions that “anything is better than nothing” and “anything is better than what it there now.”

So what are the options:

One option is do nothing after demolition, let nature take over the land again. Another is to reopen it up to bidders for whatever they propose.  A variation is reopen for bidders with some limitations, such as including a mixed-use component. It’s very clear the area residents prefer a mix-use project, not a single use. They also would like a grocery store, which is necessary given how far away the nearest is.

In the meantime, below are recent photo of the 7 site access points. Also below are examples of bus stops just on a highway shoulder.

The northern mall entrance off Old Jamestown Rd
Looking north toward Lindbergh Blvd
Bus stop on eastbound Lindbergh Blvd, just east of Old Jamestown Rd. This bus stop wouldn’t work for those of us who use a mobility device.
Contining east on Lindbergh Blvd another auto drive
Next entrance is a signalized intersection
Followed by another bus stop of limited use. As this is a state-controlled highway they should be the ones to install pedestrian infrastructure.
And the final mall entrance…for vehicles
Up next is the Fox Manor subdivision. The only vehicular entrance is this onto four fast lanes of Lindbergh Blvd.
Brown Fox Dr has nice mature trees, but only 9 houses before dead ending at the mall site. The original developer planned to expand this direction.
Fox Chase Dr also has nice mature trees and 10 houses.
It also dead ends at the mall site. The Fox Manor has numerous cultural-de-sac streets that back up to the mall site, but two streets were planned for expansion.
Houses on the cul-de-sac of Silver Fox Dr are the closest to the existing mall structure.

In part 2 I’ll explore my preferred option.

— Steve Patterson

 

Times Beach Summer Resort Fascinates Me From Beginning To End

July 8, 2021 Environment, Featured, History/Preservation, St. Louis County Comments Off on Times Beach Summer Resort Fascinates Me From Beginning To End

To escape the heat & smell of city life  wealthy St. Louisans in the 19th century would take a train out to various resorts along the Meramec River.

In the late 19th century, several popular summer resorts were founded southwest of St. Louis, Missouri on the Meramec River, including Meramec Highlands, Valley Park, Fenton, and Castle Park. As the Frisco Railroad trains started running on a regular basis to the Meramec Highlands and Valley Park train stations, Meramec River attractions became popular for wealthy St Louis families. Unfortunately, for the masses of St. Louisans, the cost of the train ride prohibited frequent visits for the common folk of St Louis.

The Meramec Highlands “Frisco” Railroad Station was constructed in 1891 by the Meramec Highlands Company, the developers of a summer getaway for wealthy Midwesterners. Located on the bluffs overlooking the Meramec River, two miles west of present-day Kirkwood, the station was built in the Romanesque Revival architecture. Once completed, it was deeded to St Louis and San Francisco Railroad for $1 in exchange for regularly scheduled service. (Source)

By 1896 streetcars had reached the area, allowing the masses to afford the trip to cool off in the water for the day.  The area was no longer exclusive, so the wealthy went elsewhere.

This had to be in mind when the owners of the St. Louis Times newspaper decided to sell off lots on property they owned along the Meramec, but further west.

1920s advertisement for lots in a new resort located too far west for streetcars. The Ford Model T had been on sale since 1908, but many households didn’t own cars. The wealthy did have cars.
Much later aerial photo shows the streets followed the curve of the river.

Decades earlier the wealthy could stay in impressive 2-story cottages in the Meramec Highlands area, but now simpler wood structures were built on the tiny lots. By the mid/late 1020s the wealthy were building impressive homes further from downtown, a bunch of frame shacks doesn’t sound very exclusive.  I think the Times target audience wasn’t wealthy folks, but those much better off than they had been. They’ve got a car and want to drive it somewhere to get away from the heat. Newly middle class.

Along Route 66 at the eastern edge of the Meramec a roadhouse opened in 1935 that catered to elegant dining, appropriately named the Bridgehead Inn.  This was after the start of the Great Depression, so perhaps the truly wealthy were among the first to have summer places here.

Lobby of the Route 66 State Park visitor’s center inside the former roadhouse. Click image for state park website.
By 1946 the Bridgehead Inn was closed, the property sold. The wealthy either lost everything in the depression and had to move out to their summer shack or they moved elsewhere.
Until very recently this old Route 66 bridge over the Meramec was still open to traffic, Times Beach was on the right on the west bank of the river.

For decades Times Beach was home to poor whites, in a flood zone. Municipal tax revenue was limited. Roads went unpaved, which created a lot of dust. The solution to the dust is why no structure from Times Beach survives today. A man was hired to spray used oil on the ground to control dust, but that oil had been mixed with toxic dioxin. In 1983 the EPA shut the town down, becoming a large superfund cleanup site. In 1997 it reopened as Missouri’s Route 66 State Park.

The bridge landing on the Times Beach side
This mound is where some material is buried.
This treeless field is there the large incinerator stood for years.
Much of the 419 acre park is covered with trees.
It’s actually quite picturesque.

So much went wrong with Times Beach, from the initial planning to the later tragic poisoning of the entire town. It was already closed by the first time I drove to St. Louis along I-44 in August 1990. I’d love to go back in time to see it in the first 5-10 years.

Further Reading:

I’m glad we made the trip out there recently to see the visitors center, route 66 bridge (remains), and park.

— Steve Patterson

 

Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

November 28, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Retail, St. Charles County, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

Early this week the KMOV News (CBS/4.1) had a story on the Jefferson County Health Department approving a mask mandate — and the upset group protesting outside. The very next story was the St. Louis Area Task Force saying hospital beds, including ICU, beds were filling up with COVID-19 patients.

People were protesting wearing masks in public while area hospitals are announcing they’re filling up quickly. There’s a term for this: cognitive dissonance.

The mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves. The concept was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger and became a major point of discussion and research. (Britannica)

Metro requires riders to wear masks on buses and trains. Metro doesn’t serve Jefferson or St. Charles counties.

How does this relate to masks?

Because of the intense polarization in our country, a great many Americans now see the life-and-death decisions of the coronavirus as political choices rather than medical ones. In the absence of a unifying narrative and competent national leadership, Americans have to choose whom to believe as they make decisions about how to live: the scientists and the public-health experts, whose advice will necessarily change as they learn more about the virus, treatment, and risks? Or President Donald Trump and his acolytes, who suggest that masks and social distancing are unnecessary or “optional”? (The Atlantic)

I don’t like wearing masks, but it’s the right thing to do around anyone other than my husband. The worst days are when I have treatment at Siteman Cancer Center, my mask is on for hours.

Then on Wednesday I saw a news story at Lambert airport on holiday. An airport spokesperson was explaining how everyone inside the terminal had to wear a mask — except she was inside the terminal and not wearing a mask! Two different travelers inside the terminal, both with masks, said they weren’t concerned because they were taking precautions — but their nostrils were visible!

My mom was a waitress for many years, so I feel for food service employees and restaurant owners. A recent story showed an owner upset at recent St. County restrictions prohibiting indoor dining. They argued it was unfair, if people could go into Target & shop they should be able to dine in. Uh, except that shoppers have to keep their masks on in retail stores — inside bars & restaurants the masks come off after being seated. Apples to oranges.

As I was writing this yesterday I saw a story on dine in supporters in St. Louis County. I wish as much effort was put into improving the carryout experience (ordering & packaging).

We’re back to limits on items because some placed their own important over that of the community.

A lot of this cognitive dissonance is due to the vastly different pandemic policies in different jurisdictions in the region. At least the Illinois side of the region has one uniform policy imposed by Governor Pritzker.  Here in Missourah Gov Parson has taken a hands-off approach, resulting in an infection rate double that of Illinois.   As a result each county has to go at it alone even though residents frequently cross over borders. Other than the hospital’s pandemic task force we have no regional leadership.

Our hospitals are full and their workers are exhausted. All because people aren’t willing to wear a mask in public or eat their restaurant dinner at home.

– Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

September 10, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

Buttons used to activate pedestrian signals are derisively called “beg buttons.”

These buttons have long been decried and criticized by advocates for walking, anyway. The buttons’ purpose is less to keep people safe than to reinforce the primacy of cars on the street by forcing people who want to cross a street to “beg” for a walk signal. (California Streetsblog)

In the City of St. Louis many buttons don’t do anything, a walk signal is displayed even if you don’t press it. In June I encountered an intersection in St. Louis County where it was mandatory to press a button to get a walk signal across one street, but not the perpendicular street from the same corner.

On June 3rd I was at the southeast corner of Hanley & Dale Ave, wanting to cross Hanley — but using a wheelchair I couldn’t get to the button.
Looking west across Hanley.

Crossing Dale Ave doesn’t require pressing the beg button, it activates the walk signal in conjunction with the traffic lights. However, if you don’t press the button you’ll never get a walk signal to cross Hanley. Even when Dale traffic gets a green light you’ve got a don’t walk unless you pressed the beg button. Without a walk signal westbound Dale motorists turning left onto southbound Hanley wouldn’t expect to see any pedestrians crossing the street. On June 3rd I had to cross, in my power wheelchair, even though I didn’t have a walk signal.

Thankfully left-turning motorists yielded to me.  I later shared my frustration on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A friend & reader suggested I call St. Louis County. Though this is in the municipality of Richmond Heights, Hanley is maintained by St. Louis County — a fact she knew. I’m not a fan of making voice calls but I did find a compliant form on their Department of Transportation website. A day or 2 later I got a phone call from a county engineer. I emailed him the photos I took rather than call him back. A few weeks later I got an email saying it had been moved.

Yesterday I went out to the nearby  Trader Joe’s  and another store so I went to this intersection to see the change. I’d suggested the button(s) not be used, just switch to a walk signal timed with the light. So I figured the beg button would still be mandatory, I just wanted to see if I could reach it.

A pole was added to hold the two beg buttons — one mandatory and the other completely useless.
Now looking west across Hanley.

No telling how many years this was like this. It amazes me how often I see situations where someone wasn’t thinking about disabled pedestrians. There are likely many more examples out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

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