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SLU Claims Ownership of Grand Sidewalk

Scooter at Dubourg HallToday I attended the ULI Competition presentations at Saint Louis University. Being such a nice day (although windy) I decided to take my scooter. Plus, I knew parking would be an issue so why not ease the issue with the compact scooter?

During the lunch break I walked to Nadoz at the Coronado. Finally at nearly 3pm it was time to leave (I’ll tell you the winner in a separate post). What do I find on my scooter? An orange “tow warning” from SLU’s Parking and Card Services which read:

“You have parked on Saint Louis University property and violated the Parking Policies and Procedures Regulation as checked below:”

Within the “other” section they wrote in “parking on sidewalk.”

While inside I had chained my scooter to the sign post at the curb — the only place I could find in the vicinity of Dubourg Hall on Grand. I went inside for hours knowing my scooter was most likely safe from theft as well as not blocking the public sidewalk.

Scooter at Dubourg HallBut is it really a “public” sidewalk. I called the phone number on the card, 314-977-2957. The woman on the end said that the sidwalk along Grand is SLU property and they control it. As such, I was not permitted to park my tiny little 49cc scooter on their sidewalk. instead, I am supposed to get a visitor parking permit and parking in a regular parking space in one of their numerous garages or surface lots.

In reviewing SLU’s parking information online a couple of things become clear:

  • St. Louis’s most “urban” campus focuses on cars. I found no reference to bicycle parking or suggestions to visitors to save on parking hassles by taking the bus and/or MetroLink.
  • They do not distinguish between a tiny moped that is easily carried away and a full-size motorcycle.
  • Bicycle parking is limited, I actually saw none today while I walked through the campus to lunch. I’ll have to go back to see how much they do have.
  • But who exactly has authority over the sidewalk? If I had parked my scooter within the inner campus I’d certainly see where they have control. But the sidewalk along a public street — Grand Blvd?

    Is this sidewalk truly public?

    – Steve


    Target Bike Rack Completely Useless

    Target - Brentwood MORecently I was heading into the fairly new Target Greatland at Brentwood Promenade and noticed the bike rack adjacent to the entry (left of entry in photo).

    I’m always happy to see businesses include a bike rack, however, it is nice when they actually install it in a place where someone might actually be able to use it.

    Target bike rackThe only way this bike rack, a unit designed to hold five (5) bicycles, can actually be used by someone is to lock a single bike parallel to the rack. So the five-bike rack becomes a single bike rack.

    The reason it cannot be used as designed is the rack is mounted too close the back wall. If it were pulled out from the wall a foot or so it would allow the front wheel of a bike to go beyond the rack. This would allow for three bikes — the two outer positions and the center — to be secured. The other two spaces are designed to be approached from the opposite side. But even pulling the rack forward by a foot leaves little room for a cyclist to get around the bike to lock the frame and wheel to the rack.

    This facility was professionally designed and professionally built. Someone thought to include a bike rack, perhaps that was a Target requirement. But the professionals, somewhere along the line, failed to make sure the proper rack was specified for the location. Yet another example where someone knowledgeable of such issues should have been reviewing the drawings, specifications and monitoring the construction process.

    – Steve


    Conrad is Best Team to Redevelop Richmond Height’s Hadley Township

    This post will cover a lot of ground including mass transit, pedestrian connections, politics, historic preservation, suburban sprawl and of course; eminent domain. But I’ve given away the conclusion in the headline. Of the proposals presented at last night’s meeting in Richmond Heights on redeveloping a part of that suburb known as Hadley Township, the Conrad team was by far the best.

    THF, which I despise, actually had a much better proposal than I would have anticipated. The architecture firm of Heine-Croghan, which had a proposal as a developer, showed a lack of experience doing urban planning. Mills Properties, that had submitted a fourth proposal, was not at the meeting because apparently their approach wasn’t comprehensive enough to be compared to the others. Translated that means it didn’t take enough people’s homes to be considered by Richmond Heights.

    From the literature I picked up at the meeting it seems that a fifth proposal, not on Richmond Heights’ website, was received. It was from QuikTrip, the Walgreen’s of gas stations. Maybe they wanted to do the world’s largest gas station comprising all 57 acres? Just imagine the number of pumps? People with Hummers might have to fill up again once they got to the other side of the QuikTrip.

    Before I get into looking at the proposals for the area I want to talk about the area and how it got to this point. To the North is the highway that is about to get rebuilt. To the East a stable neighborhood. To the South the THF Realty monstrosity known as Maplewood Commons and to the West, across Hanley, the most f*cked up collection of strip malls, big boxes and offices that are sadly all relatively new. Among them is a new MetroLink light rail station that will be opening late this year.

    The area in question was, at one time, a very stable and middle class African-American neighborhood. But because of the prime location speculators have been buying up properties for years. One was the aforementioned Mills Properties. The City of Richmond Heights has also acquired a number of properties within the area. The Richmond Heights Public Works department is located within the redevelopment area as are some other offices for the municipality. In short, the area suffers from being too well located to remain a nice middle class neighborhood.

    In other similar areas, say Olivette just North of the tony suburb of Ladue, middle class houses were bought and razed for larger homes. But this didn’t happen here. I’m not sure if the speculators knew the land would be worth more if they could turn it into more strip malls or if it was because of the racial makeup of the neighborhood that they thought they couldn’t sell new in-fill houses to the white masses. Either way it has put these people’s neighborhood in the middle of a real estate game where they are simply the pawns. Yet as more and more speculators have bought property in the area it makes it harder and harder to sell your place to a new owner-occupant. The self-fulfiling downward spiral begins with the remaining home owners left realizing they will be forced to leave their family homes.

    … Continue Reading


    THF’s Bornstein Blames Tenants for Lack of Bike Parking

    At a public meeting in Richmond Heights tonight I had a chance to talk with THF Realty’s Alan Bornstein. I waited until after all the residents got through trying to find out what they will be paid for their family homes before I took my turn.

    I am biased. I like good urban design and despise the dreck that THF builds throughout our region and others. I especially hate the recently completed big box development in Maplewood that lacks any bike parking even though it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. As a kid I would often bike to nearby stores (often to buy model cars — oh the irony).

    Mr. Bornstein is an avid cyclist.

    He and/or THF actually give thousands of dollars every year to cycling causes. However, when it comes to providing physical environments that encourage bicycling or walking we see nothing but accommodations for cars. In their Maplewood project you’ll see a sidewalk here and there but they don’t connect the dots. Two new restaurants are opening this week yet you can’t walk there unless you are willing to walk through the project’s drives and parking lots. So sad that lots of people lost their homes in the interest of the public good and yet we can’t even walk from place to place on a sidewalk or lock a bike to a bike rack while dining or shopping. It is sad that this is what passes for development now and even sadder that we don’t demand better.

    I asked Mr. Bornstein why the Maplewood project had no bike parking and he said it wasn’t in the tenant’s program. The project wasn’t mixed use and the tenants didn’t call for parking therefore it was not a consideration. That was the best he could do? I gave him a condensed lecture on why they need to learn about connecting places and how they should perhaps read a book on New Urbanism or check out the Project for Public Spaces. He wasn’t interested. It felt good to give him a piece of my mind.

    I’m sure I could have approached him differently and had a pleasant conversation that would have ended with a brush off. He makes millions doing what they do, working for Wal-Mart heir Stan Kronke building sprawling parking lots next to obsolete big boxes. I’m not going to change his mind with a rational argument about good urban design. He knows better designs exists. His firm caters to the big tenants. It is what they do.

    THF Realty shouldn’t be allowed to put up a pup tent anywhere much less be given redevelopment rights that include the power of eminent domain.

    – Steve


    Upsetting the Bike Community By Speaking Up About Sprawl Makers

    Last night I resigned my position on the board of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. At issue was THF Realty, the builder of sprawling big box projects such as Maplewood Commons on Hanley.

    Why would a developer be an issue to a bike group?

    Simple, someone over at THF Realty likes bicycling so they give money each year to various local groups, including the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. Because of this I’m supposed to show good judgement by not speaking out against them.

    In a recent interview for Point to Point Cycling News I was asked the following question:

    Resolve this conundrum: THF Realty is responsible for some of the most anti-pedestrian developments in St. Louis and elsewhere. Yet, they are also the biggest financial supporter, by far, of cycling events and teams in the area. Is this just a big PR stunt. Should cyclists be a bit more critical of this support?

    Here was my response:

    Thank you for asking this question. I’d love to see the entire cycling community refuse money from THF. THF is wreaking havoc on the planet and accepting their money is an endorsement of how they gained the money. While we are working to make the built environment more connected and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists they are profiting while creating anti-bike and anti-pedestrian sprawl.

    For the full interview click here (PDF, see page 18).

    THF Realty’s chairman is Stan Kroenke, #164 of the Forbes list of 400 Richest Americans with a net worth of $1.8 Billion. Kroenke’s wife is an heir to the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame.

    A few thousand dollars is sofa change to them yet it manages to keep otherwise vocal transportation advocates silent. This is hush money in my book. It seems to be effective. You get a group used to some money and pretty soon they come to expect it. Once they expect it they become dependent on it and fear the loss of the money. Wait, we’ve heard this before haven’t we? From the Post-Dispatch:

    If Belleville turned down the tax incentives, would Wal-Mart look for a site elsewhere? “Oh yes, I’m sure we would,” Bornstein [of THF Realty] said.

    And that lies at the center of the debate over TIFs. Cities feel as though they must give them. The existing Wal-Mart, about a mile away, is the largest producer of sales tax revenue in Belleville. That store, by the way, was expanded in 1993 with another TIF.

    If Belleville won’t play ball, THF could buy land a half-mile away in Shiloh. Belleville would be left with nothing.

    So the local bike community is in the same boat as Belleville; dependent upon on money from the big box and afraid to do anything about it. It really is sad that an organization that purports to improve the region for bicyclists is afraid to speak out against a company that is arguably one of the worst offenders in the St. Louis region — topping even Desco. Any individual, group or municipality that is in such a position is compromised beyond the point of being impartial. They’ve been bought. Credibility goes in the trash once you’ve been bought. Just ask Metropolis. [Note: see the comment below on Metropolis & my reply; 11/9 @ 4:20pm]

    I will continue to push for bike racks throughout the city and a downtown bike station, just not as a board member of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation.

    – Steve

    [UPDATE 11/9 @ 9:15am – I want to make it clear that I fully support the mission and work of the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. I have been friends with a number of board members for years. For me personally I cannot sit quiet while the THF’s of the world run amuck. I will support programs of the Bike Fed (such as pushing for more bike parking), just not as a board member. I wish them all the best of luck. – SLP]