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Readers Split on New Urbanist Village at Nearly Dead Jamestown Mall

ABOVE: Two of four anchors remain open at Jamestown Mall; Macy's & JC Penny

As I expected, there was no consensus among readers on the poll last week:

Q: Thoughts on the Plan to Raze Jamestown Mall and build a New Urbanist Village?

  1. The sooner we rebuild auto-centric suburbs into walkable communities the better 23 [21.7%]
  2. Nice concept but will probably require too much public subsidy 18 [16.98%]
  3. Huge waste of time, money and energy to try to make the suburbs walkable 16 [15.09%]
  4. The mall is privately owned, St. Louis County shouldn’t be involved at all 14 [13.21%]
  5. New Urbanism is artificial urbanism 13 [12.26%]
  6. Other answer… 11 [10.38%]
  7. Government must change the zoning to do anything different with the site. 6 [5.66%]
  8. unsure/no opinion 4 [3.77%]
  9. Jamestown Mall should not be razed 1 [0.94%]

For a while the huge waste of time answer was in the top spot, glad to see it drop to #3.  The reason St. Louis County is involved is the property is located in unincorporated St. Louis County.  The county is taking a proactive step in figuring out what is best for the area so that zoning and other land-use laws can be modified to ensure what happens at the site is what the community wants.

  1. the development area is in a far corner of NoCo, right idea, wrong place
  2. Seems too far removed from major pop. to be worth the money.
  3. The plans formulated today will someday fail just as those of our forefathers.
  4. They should build an Ikea there instead
  5. Return it to greenspace
  6. Wrong location, location, location.
  7. If we don’t redevelope, we’ll soon be a community of empty shopping ce
  8. Turn it into something different.
  9. Downzone to agriculture/mix. Anything but this dumb idea!
  10. Location, location, location!
  11. Work with the active business owners to create a revitalization plan

To me the site is the ideal location for such a retrofit. I visited the mall before my original post, arriving on a MetroBus from the Hanley MetroLink station.  I was impressed how busy the bus was all along Lindbergh. I’ve visited the area again during the poll, this time I drove up 367 from North St. Louis and then south on Lindbergh (67) when I left. Google Maps is a great resource but it is no substitute for seeing a place first hand.

ABOVE: The area north of Lindbergh Rd is still pretty rural

To many living in a new home where they can walk to shops and be surrounded by a green ring is idea, very English.

ABOVE: New home under construction less than 3/4 of a mile west of Jamestown Mall

And new homes are being constructed very close to the mall, mostly along Lindbergh Blvd.  The above example is on Misty Crossing Ct, in the Misty Hollow subdivision.

Pure economics dictate the mall site will never be agriculture or green space ever again, the four concepts for the site included one that was pretty green.

ABOVE: The "Garden Suburb" is one of four concepts for the site. Click image for PDF report

The “Garden Suburb Plan” is the most green of the four, although most leave the SW tip undeveloped. Note the existing houses immediately to the south and west of the site (aerial view). Two dead end streets for the existing Fox Manor subdivision would be connected to the redeveloped site in this plan and two others. Currently the adjacent Fox Manor subdivision has only one way in or out – directly onto Lindbergh Blvd. These existing homes would now be connected to other homes and businesses.

The comments on the post were interesting but often way off base like these poll answers.

– Steve Patterson



Sprawl in South County 20 Years Ago

In 1991 I took these three pictures somewhere in south St. Louis County. The three pics were taken from the same spot rotating from left to right.

At the time it was a new subdivision.  Note that some homes have front-facing garages while others have rear-entry garages and paved backyards.

I just wish I could remember the location so I could return. Maybe it is best I don’t know, I’m sure they lovely rolling hills in the background has now been destroyed by two decades of “progress”.  I’m also pretty sure all those new streets still lack shade trees.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts on the Plan to Raze Jamestown Mall and build a New Urbanist Village?

ABOVE: A customer leaving Jamestown Mall yesterday

Jamestown Mall (map link) isn’t even 40 years old but St. Louis County officials are ready to put it out of it’s misery:

Jamestown Mall opened in 1973 offering regional commercial merchandise on the suburban fringe of St. Louis, in anticipation of residential development moving into the area. The anticipated residential units never materialized and unfortunately, in recent years, new regional shopping destinations that are located closer to larger populations of shoppers have degraded the effective trade area of Jamestown Mall, causing a decline in sales and foot traffic. Over time, the quality of merchandise offered has declined and is now misaligned with the needs of the North County community. Today, although two of the mall’s anchor buildings are occupied, its other two anchor buildings are vacant and portions of the mall have been walled off to reduce the appearance of vacant space. (Executive Summary PDF)

The idea is to raze most of the mall and build a New Urbanist village following one of four concepts: The traditional neighborhood development plan, the garden suburb plan, the central common plan, or the park & village plan:

The Traditional Neighborhood Development Plan features a block and street network creating a complete village. A diverse village center is focused on the northwest parcel and could extend to the plaza at the center of the neighborhood. This scenario develops the site fully including the southern parcel by Coldwater Creek. The operating anchor stores remain as the village center and neighborhoods develop around them. If the existing anchor stores close, the parcels can be redeveloped to create a more complete neighborhood. As with the other scenarios, a diversity of housing is offered including townhomes, live/ work units, duplexes, multi-family buildings and small homes on private lots.

The Garden Suburb Plan features curvilinear streets, center median boulevards, and larger parks and retention areas throughout the village. Neighborhoods are planned around a network of enhanced natural systems that connect throughout the site and to the natural flowways of Coldwater Creek through the open space systems of neighboring subdivisions. Retail is contained within the northwest parcel, resulting in a focused amount of neighborhood retail. The plan identifies a potential location for a sports complex prominently on Lindbergh Boulevard. The southern portion of the site is illustrated with an amphitheater and a large park that would connect to the Great Rivers Greenway trail system.

The Central Common Plan starts with the premise that all of the mall property comes under single ownership of a master developer. This scenario allows the property to be developed in a manner irrespective of the existing property lines, roadways, underlying infrastructure, and buildings. With more freedom to form plan geometries, a larger central gathering space surrounded by shops and townhomes, similar to Lafayette Square in St. Louis, could be possible. It should be stated that any of the four scenarios would benefit from and could be implemented under single ownership and a master developer.

The Park & Village Plan is one in which portions of the site are transformed into a regional park while others are cleared of their existing conditions to reduce blight, but are held until economic conditions are more favorable to development. The northwest parcel could develop with a small village center with a neighborhood serving retail and expand in the future. Farming may continue on the eastern outparcels. This scenario could be considered an interim stage to the other development scenarios.

The St. Louis County Economic Council has detailed information on the proposal here.

ABOVE: Most of the food court is closed, only four stalls still operate

Alex Ihnen writing at NextSTL has advocated a “no build” option, taking a hands-off approach:

Reinventing suburbia is sexy somehow. I guess we have a general idea that something’s wrong with it. But this reinvisioning never really touches on roads or cul-de-sac neighborhoods, no, when we talk of a new suburbia we’re speaking of rebuilding retail. Add in a couple apartments and voila, it’s a Live-Work-Play (maybe even Pray) community. It’s also a ridiculous and wasteful idea.

No where is this absurdity highlighted more than with the current effort to build a new development on the 142-acre Jamestown Mall site.  (THE NO BUILD ALTERNATIVE FOR JAMESTOWN MALL)

The Post-Dispatch touching on doubt for the proposal:

Jamestown Mall, after all, is still open. It has a Macy’s and a J.C. Penney outlet, a movie theater and perhaps two dozen stores along its cavernous concourses. County leaders say they want to involve those businesses in whatever comes next. The site itself is owned by five different entities, in nine chunks. Assembling the land under one owner would make redevelopment easier but will cost money. And the development itself could cost $300 million, according to a rough estimate attached to the plan. (STLToday: Makeover for Jamestown Mall is unveiled)

The reality is 142 acres is a very large site and five ownership entities isn’t that many. The land has been developed for nearly 40 years but the five owners couldn’t do anything different with the site without significant changes to the outdated Euclidean zoning in the region, and that site specifically.

The proposed replacement of this dead mall is the topic of the poll this week.  To vote see the upper right of the site.  On June 8th I will post the poll results and give my reasons for supporting the New Urbanist village concept.

– Steve Patterson


The Density Needed For Walkability Myth

Continuing the walkability theme from yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to explore the assertion that walkability requires density. So I decided to look at 1st tier suburb Kirkwood MO and 2nd tier suburb Ballwin MO to see if this is the case.   If you buy into the theory that walkability requires density then you probably think  Kirkwood is more walkable because it has greater density than Ballwin.

As you will see, walkability has less to do with density and everything to do with how the land is used, a reflection of the era in which they were created.

Kirkwood, MO:

Ballwin, MO:

ABOVE: Map of Ballwin, click to view larger version
ABOVE: Map of Ballwin, click to view larger version

For the Walk Score of both suburbs I just put in the city name, it determined the address it must consider the center point.

So the older, less dense, suburb is more walkable than the newer, more dense, suburb.  How can this be?  Ballwin was planned at a time when people thought nothing of getting in the car for every trip.  The lady of the house had her own car now so she could drive the kids to school, do some shopping and get groceries on the way home. Kirkwood, on the other hand, was laid out long before the car.  Being near the train station was important for reaching St. Louis.

Residential lots in Kirkwood are about the same size as those in Ballwin, the big difference is the Kirkwood lots are narrow & deep whereas the Ballwin lots are wide & shallow.  Commercial districts are vastly different between the two.  Kirkwood has too much newer auto-dependent retail but it also has a nice 19th century downtown.

Fortunately, Ballwin is not a lost cause.  It, and many other 2nd tier suburbs of the same era can be retrofitted to be more walkable.    The existing residential neighborhoods of single-family detached homes can remain unchanged, except for the addition of sidewalks internally and leading out to the commercial areas. Manchester Rd in Ballwin running through Kirkwood and into the City of St. Louis is an ideal corridor to be retrofitted. New structures can be built to infill the massive parking lots.  I can picture enhanced bus service or even a streetcar line the entire distance.

– Steve Patterson


These McMansions Will Be Hard To Give Away A Decade From Now

About 8 years ago I had a client on a quiet & respectable street in the suburb of Chesterfield. What struck me at the time was the number of houses all with a single road to get out of the subdivision. One visit I stopped to reset my trip odometer just to see how long it was from the main road to their house, it was over a mile and a half!

ABOVE: 1.7 miles between the subdivision entrance & the street with the client's house
ABOVE: 1.7 miles between the subdivision entrance & the street with the client’s house. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I remembered this area as I read an article about a recent study:

People who live in walkable communities are more socially engaged and trusting than those who live in less walkable areas, says a new study from the University of New Hampshire.

The study buttresses other research that has linked a neighborhood’s walkability to its residents’ quality of life, notably improved physical and mental health.

The McMansion on the large lot & 3-car garage was once desirable by many, but those days are fading. This subdivision has sidewalks, but no direct connection to each front door!

ABOVE: 4.1 mile route to "nearby" shopping
ABOVE: 4.1 mile route to “nearby” shopping. Click image to view in Google Maps

Out of curiosity I decided to run the Walk Score for this street. No surprise it got a 2 out of 100 and the label “auto-dependant”

ABOVE: A score of 2 compared to an average of 41 for Chesterfield

Half a century ago you couldn’t give away mansions in the city. They were big, drafty, and “functionally obsolete.” They lacked modern plumbing, wiring and air conditioning. A decade from now these McMansions will be obsolete. The cost to heat & cool these houses alone is enough to make them undesirable but it will be the lack of walkability that will do them in.

In contrast, my downtown address got a score of 95 – walker’s paradise. My first apartment in St. Louis (CWE) has a score of 91. My first apartment in Old North St. Louis has a “very walkable” 77. The two properties I owned in Dutchtown have a “somewhat walkable: score of 52. Must someone live in a downtown loft to have a high Walk Score? Hardly. My former office was in Kirkwood where the residential units where the former Target store was located get a 91 “walker’s paradise” score. Inner-ring suburbs often score high because they originate in days of streetcars. Ferguson MO gets an 80 and Maplewood 75, both “very walkable.” On the Illinois side of the region you have places like Belleville (80) and Edwardsville (86).

Here is how they define the levels.

walkscorelevelsAs gas prices & public transit ridership go up homes in car-deopendent areas will have little appeal. Areas that are somewhat & very walkable will be retrofitted to become more walkable. I’ve set up a calendar reminder for December 23, 2020 to revisit this issue, and this street in Chesterfield.

– Steve Patterson