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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.


New Target Store Includes Bike Racks, Access Blocked by Shopping Carts

Big box retailer Target just opened a new store in the suburban St. Louis municipality of Dardenne Prairie in a center called, oddly enough, ‘Dardenne Town Center.’  Like most suburban centers this one has some good and bad elements.

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View of Target approaching from sidewalk off Henke Road — Yes, a continuous sidewalk from a public street to a big box front door.  Landscaping, seen in the left of the above image, helps soften an otherwise harsh facade.  This type of greening can easily be included in strip/big box centers without blocking that all important visibility from major roads.  Note the extra shopping carts in the image.

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Above we see a lone cart in the way of one side of bike rack intended for two bikes (one each side, parallel with the carts).  Someone arriving from the adjacent neighborhoods via bike could easily move this single car and secure their bike.  But what if more carts were here?

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You see, Target made the effort to include a total of four such bike racks for a total of eight bike parking spaces.  Unfortunatetly, store staff uses these racks to help align their extra carts outside the store entrance.  The availability of bike parking depends upon the location/use of extra shopping carts.  This is a common, but avoidable, problem if only the planners, architects and engineeres on these projects gave more thought to shopping cart storage and bike parking.  With lots of extra room along the front of the store, bike parking could have easily been located elsewhere and have avoided conflicts with the carts.  Again, this is a brand new store — only open for a few months now.

The Dardenne Town Center was developed by Opus Northwest, the same developers at the Park East tower in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. Thankfully, Dardenne Prairie is working with urban planners from the firm DPZ on a real town center.  Designers from DPZ already have suggestions on how to improve this newly built retail “power center” which includes a JC Penny, Shop-N-Save and numerous smaller stores and a few restaurants.


New Orleans Group Fighting Big Box Development like Loughborough Commons

Citizens in New Orleans are fighting to retain that city’s character as generic suburban developers seek to bring “cookie-cutter” projects to their city. By way of example, the website Think New Orleans used an image of just such a project — Loughborough Commons. Yes, St. Louis is providing yet another example of what others are trying to avoid — even in the wake of a major natural disaster.

Loughborough Commons as a bad example
Click here to see the full post.

I suppose we should be thanking Ald. Matt Villa for helping bring this mostly tree-less “project” to St. Louis. A project that doesn’t connect to numerous adjacent streets and still doesn’t welcome pedestrians. We are now at over seven months since the Schnuck’s grocery store opened and still no federally mandated ADA-compliant accessible route is in place. Seven months! Even a simple accessible route between the Schnuck’s and Lowe’s store is not in place, again a violation of federal civil rights law. Clearly the developers have little regard for the civil rights of those not in cars.

More power to the good folks in New Orleans fighting to keep St. Louis-style big box development out of their urban city.


14th Street Pedestrian Mall, Thirty Years Ago Today

The first day of the grand opening of the 14th Street Pedestrian Mall was thirty years ago today, March 21, 1977. The big
official dedication followed on the 26th:


Three decades ago someone thought it a good idea to close off two blocks of a commercial street, intending to compete with then “open air” suburban malls. However, by 1977 the city had already experienced significant population losses, making it more challenging for the retailers, which included a JC Penny department store, harder to stay in business. Interestingly, a classmate of mine mentioned her family visited the new mall — once. They came to see what it was all about because it was new. After seeing the new mall they resumed their shopping at Northwest Plaza.

By 1977 the “pedestrian mall” movement was pretty well over, except in St. Louis obviously. By this point new suburban malls were enclosed. Thus, while 14th Street was intended to compete with the suburbs it was dated by the time it was opened. In the 1980s formerly open suburban malls, such as Northwest Plaza & Crestwood Plaza, were often enclosed.

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Today the mall is nearly vacant, with a few holes where buildings have been razed and as you can see, another is in the process of collapsing.  A long debate in the area is about the wisdom of the mall at the time.  Some suggest the mall helped preserve these buildings — that they would have fallen to the wrecker like so many others immediately around the area.  Others, myself included, counter that we would have seen abandonment and destruction in the area anyway but that the mall prevented revitalization efforts from taking hold in this former commercial district — that without the mall efforts to revitalize the neighborhood over the last 30 years might have gone further.

The neighborhood is on a role, finally.  Many of the remaining old buildings on the surrounding residential streets have been rehabbed or are in process.  New homes are being constructed on in-fill lots and of late organizations working together have purchased many of the buildings along the mall.  Plans are in the works to rip up the “mall” and return this to a street once again.  The only debate I am hearing at the moment is if the single cross street, Montgomery St, should be opened as well or remain closed.

The new 14th Street will most likely never be the major shopping destination it once was.  This would be the case regardless of the ‘malling’ or not.  The question is can it hold its own as an interesting commercial street anchored by the outstanding and popular Crown Candy Kitchen on one end?


Loughbrough Commons – No Accessible Entrance After Six Months

Next week marks the six month anniversary of the opening of the Schnuck’s grocery store at the auto-centric Loughborough Commons big box/strip center (see post from opening day). To date, developer DESCO has failed to provide an ADA-compliant accessible entrance from the public street to either of the open businesses. The Americans with Disabilities Act, you may recall, is not building code but is in fact federal civil rights legislation.

Part of the public sidewalk along Loughborough was removed and has remained open and muddy alll winter — forcing pedestrians along Loughborough into the street. Heading into the center is a minimal sidewalk which does not appear to comply with the maximum slope requirements for an accessible route. Now that I have my new digital level, I will be able to verify the slope of the sidewalk and how compliant or not it may be.
Ald. Matt Villa took exception with my comments at the time that Loughborough Commons didn’t welcome pedestrians, stating that it was not finished yet. Well Matt, do you have a timeline from DESCO on when we will see an ADA-compliant accessible route from the public street and from building to building? A year? Two years? Five years?