Home » Suburban Sprawl » Recent Articles:

Holly Hills Neighborhood Seeking a St. Louis Bread Company at Loughborough Commons

It appears the neighborhood group in the Holly Hills area near Loughborough Commons is campaigning for a St. Louis Bread Company (aka Panera Bread to the rest of the country). I can’t blame them, the food is great and affordable. They have wi-fi too which is needed in the area. My investment club also happens to be a long-time shareholder of Panera (PNRA).

The following is an email sent out to neighbors:

Dear Neighbor,The Holly Hills Improvement Association Board has been working for the last year to suggest and attain the right type of businesses for the Loughborough Commons development that are a good fit for the neighborhood. I think we can all agree that Saint Louis Bread Company would be a welcome addition to the development. However, Panera Bread (who owns SLBC) is on the fence and we’ve been told directly by the Schnuck family that community support in favor this store locating at this development could possibly sway their decision.

Some of you might recall that this is the same scenerio that happened in St. Louis Hills several years ago. However, the neighborhood rallied in favor and they are currently enjoying coffee and sandwiches at their own Saint Louis Bread Company on Chippewea.

So, here is what we’ve been told to do…write letters…lots of them. They are asking us to bombard the office with support letters to convince them to locate in Loughborough Commons. I’ve put together a sample letter below that you can cut/paste, modify, or of course, you can create your own version. But the address and contact person are who you should keep consistent.

As with most things these days…time is of the essence. If we can get these letters sent by September 8th…that would be most ideal. I’m also interested in keeping track of the number of letters sent for the Schnuck Family. If emailing me to let me know you sent or will send a letter isn’t too inconvenient, I would appreciate that. Also, send this to all of your friends and neighbors and let’s see what we can do.


Mr. Ronald M. Shaich
Chairman and CEO
Panera Bread
6710 Clayton Road
Richmond Heights, MO 63117

Dear Mr. Shaich,

I live in the Holly Hills neighborhood in South St. Louis City. Our neighborhood sits adjacent to the new Loughborough Commons currently under development. I am writing to you in support of building a Saint Louis Bread Company in that development. I pledge to frequent your restaurant and encourage my neighbors to do so as well. We are a community that prides itself on city living and supporting Saint Louis businesses, such as yours. We would be overjoyed to have you as our

Thank you,

Your name here
Your address

As you might guess, I love grassroots campaigns. Yes, I would agree with these residents that a St. Louis Bread Co. would be a very welcomed addition to the local restaurant scene and the fact it is a local firm makes it all the better. I have one slight caveat: I want to be able to walk to the Bread Co. from Loughborough or the Schnucks on a sidewalk.

Panera has proven they are very willing to locate in more urban storefront locations — I’ve seen them here and in other cities. They also have a standard suburban free-standing prototype complete with drive-thru. For a stand alone building with a drive-thru their prototype is really quite attractive and exudes a higher quality feel than most such “buildings.” But, it is what it is —- a small detached structure with a drive-thru window.

The Holly Hills residents are wise to take a pro-active stand on the types of uses in the development. Yet issues such as accessibility and bike parking often escapes most local organizations. They are all volunteer and can only do so much. Their main concern is often making sure such projects are not filled with check cashing places or rent to own furniture stores. Some organizations will have a planner or architect among the group that will also inject some physical design issues into the discussion.

I have to wonder if they are getting a Big Lots store at Loughborough Commons because the one on Broadway at Osceola now has a for lease sign on it. The leasing agent? Desco (the developer of LC). I personally like Big Lots as a concept — they have some really good items at excellent prices. The store on Broadway near me is looking a bit tired but some new ceiling tiles, paint and new flooring would do wonders for that building. But stores are seldom interested in such improvements to freshen an old store when they can move to a newer development. So, it appears that I may be staring at an empty Big Lots, the building itself a former grocery store.

The planning issues around pedestrian connections and bike parking remain the same regardless of the types of retailers and restaurants that open at Loughborough Commons.

– Steve


Oh the “Mayor’s” Sense of Irony

Mayor Slay’s website has an interesting post tonight:

Urban-esque Planning

There are two stories in today’s newspaper that should be read together.

The first is a report that the owners of Mid-Rivers Mall in St. Charles County, built in 1987 as a suburban mall, are planning a multi-million dollar 120,000 square foot addition to revive the tired property, including “a 70,000 square foot village with the feel of an urban shopping and dining experience.”

The second is a report that Spinnaker Real Estate Partners and Pyramid Cos. have closed on the purchase of St. Louis Centre, built in 1985 and pummeled for years by suburban malls, in order to transform the former urban shopping mall into a new mix of condominiums, shops, offices, and restaurants.

It might be less expensive – and less ironic — to direct St. Peters residents with an appetite for contemporary urban living to downtown St. Louis

Perhaps the mayor’s staff can spend a little less time making fun of St. Charles County’s recent attempts at urbanism and focus some of that energy on our own development patterns?

– Steve


Urban Economic Development

Last night was my class in Urban Economic Development. We did a quick overview of what we will look at this semester but the professor did touch on TIFs and Eminent Domain. He also talked about job creation. He encouraged us to consider a career in economic development, indicating one of the key areas that has been lacking is a review of wether or not various incentives actually work. Do they bring in the dollars and jobs claimed?

Well, the St. Louis Business Journal had a story Monday on my favorite new development, Loughborough Commons, talking about economic development:

The $40 million Loughborough Commons retail development by The DESCO Group is expected to bring more money to St. Louis city coffers and create 300 permanent jobs when completed in 2007.

Clayton-based DESCO Group has worked with the city of St. Louis to create a retail center that is expected to generate more than $2 million in annual sales tax revenue, up from an approximate $425,000 generated by businesses located at the site prior to the redevelopment, according to DESCO, which is the real estate arm of Schnuck Markets.

“This is a very good example of a public-private partnership,” Sachtleben said. The company began discussing the redevelopment plans with the city in 2004 and will receive an assistance package of $14 million. The deal consists of an $11 million sales tax and real estate tax incentives package, and a $3 million community improvement district package, he said. The assistance will be generated by the new tax dollars from the development and will not be taken from the city’s taxing districts, he said. Sachtleben said the company has been thrilled with the cooperation of the city, noting that “without this kind of assistance, this kind of urban redevelopment could not happen.”

The development is expected to create 100 to 120 construction jobs during the building period and at least 300 permanent jobs.

The reporter clarifies the sales tax revenue increase; from $425,000 to “more than $2 million.” What is not clarified in the story is if this is before or after the tax incentives. What will the net increase in sales taxes be after the incentives and for how many years? Also, is this $2 million based on other stores being open besides the Schnuck’s and Lowe’s?

And we get to one of the favorites in economic development, job creation. “At least 300 permanent jobs.” Is that 300 in addition to the number from the old Schnuck’s on the site? Doubtful. Most likely it is a total of old jobs plus new. How is this figure calculated? How will we be able to measure the success of the project in say five years to determine if we need to continue with such incentives? We can look to past suburban style shopping center failures such as St. Louis Marketplace for answers. Loughborough Commons in less than 20 years will be the tired old stepchild of South City. Hopefully by then we can get the MetroLink expansion to come through on the adjacent tracks and take another crack at a true urban project that brings long-term economic stability, not just short term developer profits.

– Steve


Understanding the Needs of Pedestrians

This week I’ve hit Loughborough Commons pretty hard with my criticisms over their lack of any pedestrian accommodations from the public street to the front door of Schnuck’s, Lowe’s and most likely the rest of the retail spaces. The City, including Ald. Matt Villa, is also at fault here for not having higher standards. It is not about the aesthetics of the building(s) but how people get to and from them. I wanted to share some information to help understand some of these issues, the needs of pedestrians.

The following is brief list of some online sources for more reading on the subject of pedestrian friendly/walkable communities. [Note: If you are a member of the Board of Aldermen or with Desco you probably need to read each of these so you can get caught up]
Walkable Communities
Smart Growth Online: Creating Walkable Communities
Sierra Club: Livable Communities
Walking Info: How to Develop a Pedestrian Action Safety Plan

And finally the Project for Public Spaces. Fred Kent and his staff are simply amazing at communicating why spaces should be built for people and how to get there. This non-profit is probably the leading group in the world working to improve public space (and streets are public space). They also work to improve private spaces such as corporate plazas and shopping areas.

The Project for Public Spaces got their start as research assistants with the legendary William H. Whyte:

In 1969 Whyte assisted the New York City Planning Commission in drafting a comprehensive plan for the city. Having been critically involved in the planning of new city spaces, he came to wonder how these spaces were actually working out. No one had researched this before. He applied for and received a grant to study the street life in New York and other cities in what became known as the Street Life Project. With a group of young research assistants, and camera and notebook in hand, he conducted pioneering studies on pedestrian behavior and breakthrough research on city dynamics.All told, Whyte walked the city streets for more than 16 years. As unobtrusively as possible, he watched people and used time-lapse photography to chart the meanderings of pedestrians. What emerged through his intuitive analysis is an extremely human, often amusing view of what is staggeringly obvious about people’s behavior in public spaces, but seemingly invisible to the inobservant.

Whyte’s last book before his death in 1999, City: Rediscovering the Center, is a classic. First published in 1989 I bought it just as I was leaving architecture school. The insights this man discovers through years of painstaking research is so enlightening. The sad reality is he is not required reading for most architects, planners, civil engineers or aldermen. Our built environment continues to be lacking as a result.

But one not need read Whyte’s detailed research to know much of what needs to be done to make St. Louis more livable. All you need to do is walk places yourself — what streets do you like walking on and which do you not? My guess is you’ll take say Euclid in the West End over Hampton at I-44. And when you walk do you follow the path or do you take the shortest route even if that means walking on grass? Look around and you’ll see worn grass around City Hall, Gravois Plaza and other places where sidewalks are either in the wrong places or lacking altogether.

None of this is new information. None of it is anything I’ve dreamed up on my own. None of this is rocket science. In fact, it is largely simple common sense. Yet, we are failing miserably to recognize basic human behavior.

I can look at many developments from the 1950s and newer and see failings. I don’t talk about past projects much as they were a product of their era when we first fell in love with the automobile, pedestrians be damned. But over time we’ve learned society went too far and ruined spaces for people. We have the knowledge of how to balance seemingly conflicting criteria — make spaces interesting for people and still accept the reality of the car but our elected officials and developers simply don’t get it.

My expectations for a brand new project that included some public financing, took 18 homes and moved a mountain of dirt is indeed high. In the case of Loughborough Commons, they didn’t even meet my lowest expectation of connectedness to the city. Our city will not grow and prosper based on such shoddy planning and development practices.

– Steve


Pedestrians Walking to Loughborough Commons Despite Lack of Internal Sidewalks

IMG_4742.jpgLook, pedestrians from adjacent areas walking from the store! See, not everyone drives a car for every errand they must do.

But look close at the image, the silver Grand Am pulling into Loughborough Commons is in the left turn exit to avoid hitting the pedestrians who are walking in the entrance lane. What would have happened if a car leaving L.C. intended to turn left? Would these cars have hit head on? Would the silver Pontiac swerve and risk hitting the pedestrians? A brand new $40 million project should not have elementary design flaws such as this.

This couple walked westbound along Loughborough.

… Continue Reading