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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The St. Louis Arsenal

Quick question: why is the St. Louis Arsenal, with several extant buildings dating to the 1830s and the very reason the state seized control of the Police Department in the 1860s, not a tourist attraction within a landscaped park overlooking the Mississippi River?

Answer: The site, located at Second and Arsenal Streets, is a parking lot.

The squat limestone and brick structures may not look that exciting, but the site is extremely historic and should have seen a more sensitive handling than being surrounded by a sea of cars. It's too bad AB-Inbev is tightening its belt; refurbishing the grounds of the St. Louis Arsenal would have been a great act of public philanthropy.

Here's a view of Building 12, constructed in 1834. The photograph was taken in 1975, from the National Register of Historic Places nomination :

I think we could work with this. The nearby Brewery Tours could lead people to the Arsenal Tour as an option. If Beer and Guns doesn't sell, nothing will.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guess the Neighborhood, Revealed...

Good work to those who guessed the Gate District! (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, click here).

A couple of the photos are in the southern portion of the neighborhood, near or on Lafayette Avenue.

The point was to show off some of the Gate District's extant beauty. It gets a bad rap that I don't find wholly deserved. Sure it's got a couple blocks with almost completely new construction that is pretty disrespectful of what was once on the site, but there are plenty of gems and urban pockets that resist a complete "writing-off" of the neighborhood.

Good eyes, Gate District fans. Thanks to all who participated via the blog and Twitter. The most popular guesses seemed to be JeffVanderLou/St. Louis Place.

You May Now Purchase the Downtown Gift Card Online

In furtherance to a recent post, you can now click here, on the Downtown St. Louis Partnership's website, to purchase a gift card that applies only to one of more than 100 businesses located downtown.

What's the point? To keep holiday spending downtown! The holidays are a make-or-break point for retail stores, especially. This is why "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving, is so-named: it's the first day of the year that retailers jump out of the red and starting making a profit! With that in mind, please remember to patronize local businesses, who must compete against corporate stores often with longer hours and sometimes with lower prices. Our unique local businesses reflect St. Louis and no where else. A good local business will offer a better or different product from the national retailers and will hopefully provide you better service as well.

Now, the Downtown Gift Card applies to a couple chains/non-locals (Macy's is absent, notably), including most of the stores at Union Station. Still, purchasing this gift card allows you to introduce someone to downtown and, with any luck, one of its unique and independent businesses. You just might help a unique piece of St. Louis culture stay afloat! Bravo and good holiday cheer!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Guess the Neighborhood

A couple pictures...strategic information blocked out. Where are these pictures from? (Answer: the city's website, but no peeking now). No, seriously, which neighborhood would you guess hosts this architecture?




Have at it. Which of St. Louis's 79 neighborhoods do these pictures come from?(Yes, they're all from the same neighborhood).

Preservation Board Agenda Now Contains Only One Demolition

As reported on both Vanishing St. Louis and Ecology of Absence, three Old North St. Louis demolitions pursued by the LRA have been removed from the Preservation Board agenda, with one of them having been taken down a few hours ago. The active Old North St. Louis Restoration Group only supports demolitions when the front facade of the structure in question has been heavily damaged and is no longer recognizable as a historic building. The buildings on the agenda previously failed miserably to meet this demolition test. The neighborhood is lucky that they're off the agenda--and that they have such a great and progressive neighborhood organization.

That leaves only a Hyde Park demolition proposal, at 3959 North 11th Street. Luckily, the Cultural Resources Offices has recommended that the Preservation Board uphold staff denial of demolition of this fire-damaged building. The owners stated that they live in Texas and cannot afford to maintain the building at all much less repair it from its fire damage. Rightly, the Cultural Resources Office stated that the owners provided no proof of economic hardship and, furthermore, that Alderman Bosley (D-3rd Ward) is opposed to any demolitions within this sensitive district. Let us hope that the Preservation Boards heeds the decision of the CRO. Click here for the agenda item; the building is pictured below courtesy of Cultural Resources staff:

UPDATE (11/24/09): An UrbanSTL forumer has stated that this demolition has once again been denied. Good news!

The proposed demolitions on Southwest Avenue have also been shelved for now. As I mentioned in a previous post, the owner has told me that 5209 Southwest (the building closest to Favazza's restaurant itself) may still be subject to demolition at a later date. Its roof and rear portions are severely damaged from a storm a few years back. Favazza consulted with SPACE Architects, who reportedly recommended demolition of 5209 Southwest. The other structure, at 5211-13 Southwest, will be saved, Favazza informed me, and will be used once more. For what, I am unsure, but was told the plans were now in the works. If I get any more information, I'll be sure to let everyone know.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Would You Do to Improve the Morgan Ford Strip?

The unusually active folks behind the Morgan Ford Strip revitalization in Tower Grove South are soliciting ideas of events to hold on the street that will pull people to its growing repertoire of attractions.

Got any? Send them directly to the Strip via this Facebook link, or comment here.

I suggested a bike-in movie theater. For the cost of a projection screen and some creative signage, this would be a major neighborhood attraction that would get more people biking and walking. No cars allowed! (I yanked this idea from an awesome New Orleans Main Street Program street, O.C. Haley Boulevard in Central City. Great idea, guys!) I think it would work well on Morgan Ford. How about this spot below? I can't think of a better use of an otherwise unused parking lot at night.

View Larger Map

Project on the side of the commercial building; bike parking along the fence or at one of several cool bike racks on the Strip, and, voila, a neighborhood bike-in movie theater!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why Isn't the Hill in a Historic District?

I sent an email to Favazza's restaurant regarding their plans to demolish two structures on Southwest Avenue per the temporary Preservation Board agenda released earlier this month. I received the following response:

Thank you for your letter, the building at 5209 was struck by the tornado 2-3 years ago, it appears fine from the from but there is only half a roof, its full of mold, and is beyond repair (we had SPACE, a local architecture firm look at the building and they recommended tearing it down. We have decided to save the other building and have some plans in the works for it If you would like you can come by any time to see, view, talk or add input about the buildings thank you, Tony Favazza

According to this email, only 5209 Southwest (the white Romanesque structure closer to Favazza's actual restaurant) will see a demolition request now.

I then got to thinking: accepting that it's true that 5209 Southwest is beyond repair, why not save the facade and structurally sound exterior walls?

Then I remembered: there's not a single incentive or directive to do so. The Hill is not located in a historic district of any kind. In fact, almost none of Southwest City is. Yet the Hill seems like a no-brainer. Sure, some might argue that the Hill is full of tiny homes and shops that are technically no architectural wonders. You might also say that, even if they were at one time, so many of them have been badly altered over the years.

But the Hill is culturally significant as one of St. Louis's most preserved early immigrant neighborhoods. The Irish in the Kerry Patch north of downtown ultimately settled the Dogtown area, but even Dogtown fails to retain the level of "Irishness" that the Hill does for "Italian-ness". Soulard's early French Creoles were replaced mostly by Germans. Ditto for Carondelet, which gets little attention for either heritage.

The National Register of Historic Places has a set of criteria for listing, one of which is cultural significance. While I think the Hill could easily pass through on architectural significance alone, it would definitely get by on cultural significance. The Hill needs to be designated historic for several reasons. An obvious one would be to allow buildings such as 5209 Southwest to receive the state historic rehabilitation tax credit.

A local historic district--always more controversial than a federal listing due to more restrictions placed upon homeowners--may be necessary as well. A good economy brought the Hill more than a few "teardown" eyesores. The Hill's deep and narrow lots were subjected to completely out of scale new construction that call all the attention on these unassuming blocks to the new megastructure.

Google Streetview caught the construction of one such home on Daggett, just east of Macklind:

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The Hill is such a unique cultural treasure for St. Louis. Every time I visit, I feel as if I've stepped back into the 1940s, the decade from which some of the signage and just the general "happy small town" aura seem to derive from in my own mind. At the same time, it's quintessentially urban: highly walkable, mostly intact, visually interesting. It should remain that way. Hopefully, on Monday, the Preservation Board will recommend a creative solution to the structural problems of 5209 Southwest Avenue rather than outright demolition.

Again, if you'd like to voice your opinion on the matter, the Board meets Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4pm. The location is 1015 Locust, Suite 1200.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Infill...Atop a Parking Lot? Am I Dreaming?

The Lawrence Group has released plans for Phase II of their South Side Station redevelopment. Phase I was the rehabilitation of the South Side National Bank building into residential units, saving the building from the Walgreens wrecking ball.

Phase II, the subject of this post, involves new construction on Grand at Tholozan (just south of Gravois). (Actually, the always-on-top-of-things Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association posted about this development on November 6, but this is the first time I've seen it or heard of it, so it's news to me).

Two things stand out. First, the proposed infill is, I think, quite nice. It's a clearly traditionally-styled building, yet not so much that anyone would assume the design was meant to fool you into thinking this is a turn-of-the-century work. The added density and massing should help make this section of Grand more aesthetically-pleasing and pedestrian-friendly, better matching the mostly intact Grand South Grand district to the north. Check the designs out for yourself.

The site plan:

The Grand elevation:

The Tholozan elevation:

Thanks again to Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association (DWNA) for running such an excellent and often-updated blog!

The second thing that stood out: this will subsume a large parking lot! In the same city where the San Luis Apartments, a fine structure worthy of rehabilitation, was recently torn down for a parking lot, it's great news to observe the reverse!

Make sure you bookmark DWNA's site for ongoing information about the western portion of the large Dutchtown neighborhood.

Finish Your Holiday Shopping in Mere Minutes: Downtown St. Louis Gift Cards

Downtown St. Louis is debuting "Downtown St. Louis Gift Cards" this Monday, November 23, 2009.

You may purchase one between the amounts of $5 and $500 and finish your holiday shopping in as long as it takes to order the gift card. The card will be accepted at at least 100 establishments downtown right out of the gate with more to come soon after. The card can only be used downtown and will keep money circulating downtown. This list of 100 includes restaurants, shops, and services all alike. See the bottom of this post for current participants.

If you're interested in a Downtown Gift Card, contact Matt Schindler at or 314-436-6500 ext. 223. It is unclear right now whether the cards will be available for purchase at some or all of the participating retailers and restaurants (or whether you'll have to order one directly from Mr. Schindler). I guess we will find out when the card debuts on November 23, 2009.

I think this idea is excellent. While it might be even better to include only downtown-specific businesses or non-chains, the effect could still be great. Imagine giving the downtown gift card to a relative of yours that has given up on downtown. Suggest that they take a stroll around UMA or Salt of the Earth, or buy some lunch at Flannery's. They just might be surprised at the progress of downtown--and might come back and spend more, with or without a card.

I applaud this effort of the Downtown St. Louis Partnership. It would be great to see a local business-specific gift card arise for St. Louis City and perhaps the County as well. Maybe next year...

Here are the presently participating businesses:

6 North Coffee Company
12th Street Animal Hospital & Boutique
12th Street Diner
American Institute of Architects (AIA) Store
Beverly’s Hill
Bridge & Tunnel Pizza (B&T)
Bubba Tea
Café Cioccolato
Capri Restaurant
Carmine's Steak House
Charlie Gitto's
Charm Boutique
City Gourmet
City Museum
Clark Street Grill
Culinaria - A Schnucks Market
Downtown Urgent Care
Edible Arrangements
Einstein's Bagels - St. Louis Union Station Marriott
El Borracho
Executive Salon
Flamingo Bowl
Flannery’s Irish Pub
Geechi's Florist
Gelateria Tavolini
Great Cuts
J. Buck’s
Kenary Park Florist & Gifts
Kitchen K
La Buena Salud
Lee J
Left Bank Books
Lombardo's Trattoria
Lucas Park Grille
Mama Figlia
MacroSun International
Marriott - St. Louis Union Station
McMurphy’s Grill
Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood
Renaissance Grand Hotel & Suites
Roberts Mayfair Hotel
Roberts Orpheum Theater
St. Louis Fitness Factory
Salt of the Earth
Starbucks - Hyatt Regency
Starbucks - Renaissance Hotel
Station Grille - St. Louis Union Station Marriott
Washington Avenue Bistro
Westin Hotel
UPS Store
St. Louis Union Station
- Bud Shop
- The Candy Shop
- Cardinal Clubhouse
- Cardinal Rookie Clubhouse
- Charley's Steakery
- Culture Vibes
- Dog On It
- Edy's Grand Ice Cream
- Fat Sassy's
- The Fudgery
- Gateway News
- Gold & Diamonds
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Houlihan's
- Imani's
- Inspirations
- Key West Cafe
- Landry’s Seafood House
- The Lark
- Lids
- Marquess Gallery
- Missouri Threads
- Nestle Toll House Cookies
- Panda Express
- Photo Shop
- Pita King
- Play and Learn
- Quiznos
- Sbarro
- Shoes Etc.
- Sports Avenue
- St. Louis Jewelry
- St. Louis Taco & Grill
- St. Louis Union Station Parking (west or south lot)
- Subway
- Treasures
- Xtreme Game Play

More merchants still being added!

St. Louis Transit Ridership Grows at the 7th Fastest Rate in the Nation

Check out this graphic from Nate Berg's article "Transit Use is Growing, But Not Where You Think":

According to the article and graphic, the St. Louis region was the 7th fastest growing region for transit use from 2006 to 2008, showing a 16 percent increase in transit ridership between the two years.

Most comments about the reason for the jump in some seemingly unlikely cities (Charlotte, Detroit, Riverside, etc.) center around rising gas prices and a sinking national economy.

Transit use will continue to increase in St. Louis if the costs of driving increase. Another thing that will help decrease the rate of driving vs. transit is the growth of "road diet" streetscape improvement projects in the region and especially in the city. With Manchester and South Grand as the highest profile re-dos, these streets could demonstrate the importance of privileging pedestrians' safety and convenience over that of drivers. The usual saying "you can get anywhere in 15 minutes" should apply to hopping on a train or a bus and not so much to driving. Let's capitalize on the growth of transit ridership by continuing to cut subsidies to private automobile users.

Who says St. Louis never gets positive accolades?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gate District Hodgepodge

The Gate District, while sometimes maligned by the urbanist set for its decidedly suburban new construction, has plenty of surprises befitting of the most urban of neighborhoods. I am not sure if I have ever witnessed a neighborhood so randomly interspersed with new homes, vacant lots, and historic ones as the Gate District.

Check out this block of Caroline Street in the Gate District.

From the scene below, and with more judicious cropping, one might assume the block is characterized by smallish classic red brick homes with some nice, if faded brick sidewalks to match.

The next lot to the west, though, is vacant and lacks any sidewalk.

Moving to the west just one more lot and we have one of those "suburban" intruders, with its tidy new concrete sidewalk.

In just three urban lots, we have urban, rural, and suburban settings. We have historic buildings, new construction, and no construction.

Say what you will about the Gate District, but it's full of interesting bits and pieces. If you're unfamiliar with the area, check out Floral Row, Diner's Delight, the SLU Medical Campus Urban Prairie, the Barr Block of historic Second Empire rowhouses, the Christian coffee shop in a rehabilitated circa 1867 Lutheran Church, the Theresa School, and much, much more.

I don't hear it referenced very often, but the Gate District is the product of the planning of superstar New Urbanist Andres Duany. Read more on that here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Conflicting Goals on Southwest Avenue

In the October 2009 Communicator Newsletter, the Southwest Garden Neighborhood detailed plans to re-do the streetscape along Vandeventer and Southwest Avenues.

Components of the project include upgrades to the pedestrian signals, crosswalk, and traffic signal timing at the intersection of Kingshighway and Vandeventer, implementation of a road diet along Vandeventer (reducing traffic lanes from 4 to 3, excep at the main intersections), installing new street lights with cut-off fixtures (which will reduce light pollution and increase lighting for the pedestrian), increased plantings of low maintenance ground cover and hardy tree species, reduced curb-cuts, and ADA-compliance.
Sounds great--and very necessary, right?

While I'm unsure of the boundaries of the project, it's nevertheless disheartening to see that a portion of Southwest Avenue may soon lose its urban charm and become less friendly to pedestrians even as another section of the road sees an upgrade.

Favazza's restaurant, located at 5201 Southwest, is seeking demolition permits for two neighborhood commercial/mixed use buildings, at 5209 and 5211-13 Southwest according to the latest preliminary Preservation Board Agenda.

These are the buildings in question:

View Larger Map

The full report is not yet online, so the reasons for the requested demolitions are not yet available (anyone want to call Favazza's and ask?). The best guess is, of course, a nice and spacious adjacent parking lot.

Unless the ultimate proposal is new construction on site, which I doubt, Favazza's plans to tear down two pedestrian-oriented buildings on a stretch of road soon to be improved just doesn't make sense. Again assuming a parking lot is coming, the result will be a less walkable, uglier street.

The Hill and adjacent Southwest Garden are thriving St. Louis neighborhoods. Especially in the case of the former, the record has shown that small, storefront retail with limited parking leads to a more walkable and walked neighborhood. The Hill's commercial rows are interesting--and lively for St. Louis, which is mostly starved of the brisk pedestrian traffic of denser cities in the Northeast.

Tearing down two buildings on a strip with major potential is an all around bad idea. Yet it's even less bearable when you consider the waste of public investment in making roads pedestrian friendly and then removing all the reasons pedestrians would ever want to walk them.

I think to Martin Luther King Blvd. from Jefferson to Grand as an example of a pure waste of money whose improvements only brought more attention to the sorry state of buildings along the stretch. The city and some private owners have worked together to strip most of the refurbished street and its sidewalks of any urban buildings that make walking interesting and comfortable, that give small business owners a chance to invite the pedestrians to the stretch in the first place. See what I mean?

View Larger Map
Here, new streetlights and sidewalks only cast light on the emptiness of the surrounding blocks.

My argument is not that disinvested places or streets with few urban buildings do not deserve to have better sidewalks; it's just that there should be a special effort to justify such investment. In other words, keep these roads as urban-formatted and pedestrian friendly as possible! Keep the remaining buildings in place; assign an urban design overlay zone that is very restrictive with regard to parking lots! Simple as that.

The Preservation Board should deny the ridiculous demolition proposals on Southwest Avenue. You may voice the same opinion at the monthly meeting, to be held:

Monday, November 23, 2009
4 p.m.
1015 Locust
Suite 1200

Please show up and protest bad, if typical land use planning in the City of St. Louis. See to it that our commercial corridors are ripe for reinvestment and pedestrians, not drivers and visual blight.

(My apologies in advance if Favazza's is experimenting with radically amazing new construction on site of these two fine buildings and is not, as I suspect, shooting for a parking lot).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Southampton Neighborhood's Macklind Business District Gets Cool Metal Banners

Via the September 2009 Southampton Newsletter, these babies will soon be appearing on Macklind:

Great! I love to see such great evidence of St. Louis's unending neighborhood pride.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The History of Parking

The National Building Museum in Washington D.C. is playing host to a fascinating exhibit: the history of parking in the United States.

A Washington Post article on the exhibit pulls out a few interesting, if not altogether surprising points: parking lots used to be rare and parking structures were once given design consideration.

Yet the modern era that emphasized architectural honesty and a bold break from classicism admired the repetitive geometry of the concrete garage. It emboldened architects to highlight, rather than hide, increasingly large structures dedicated to that ultimate symbol of American progress and freedom--the automobile.

From the article:

There was an era, says Sarah Leavitt, curator of the National Building Museum show, when cities took pride in these structures. But that pride, based on the sense that a modern city couldn't progress without adequate parking, hid a darker indifference to the historical fabric of the city. The exhibition also includes before-and-after shots of a block of F Street NW, showing the loss of two historic buildings to a hideous parking garage built next to the Hotel Washington. It also includes an image of one of the most notorious parking garages in the world, the Michigan Theater in Detroit, made by slamming concrete decks into the shell of a classic and beautifully ornamented movie house. To this day, people still park there surrounded by the ghostly architectural shadow of a building once meant to please and delight.

In St. Louis, many of us are well aware of the history of parking. Parking garages--and other autocentric uses such as automobile showrooms--used to be housed in urban, street-fronting buildings. We saw this in the old Livery Stable on Locust in Automobile Row--demolished by SLU in 2007 for, ironically, a surface parking lot.

Livery Stable in the foreground. Photograph courtesy of VanishingSTL, which ran an excellent piece on the Livery Stable demolition here. Note how the Stable contributes to the urban streetscape; now it's a parking superblock.

The modern era in St. Louis was much as described above in the Washington Post article: architects boldly ripped out the historic built environment for oversized concrete garages. Of all the buildings that have been demolished in downtown St. Louis since the 1950s, parking garages are rarely among those targeted (if ever?). Some of downtown's dreariest and most life-sucking uses remain modern-era garages that must come down to create lively streetscapes.

Public Enemy Number One, in my opinion, is the outright hideous and, frankly, embarrassing presence of the Busch Stadium garages.

Who doesn't feel sorry for the pedestrian that has to walk a whole block beneath the hulking presence of one of the Busch Stadium garages? To think that they bookend the proposed Ballpark Village development, too! Clearly, in order to have an active "village-like" atmosphere, these horrific garages should go. Likewise, urbanists often lampoon Kiener Plaza for its supposed lifelessness; yet it's the hideous Kiener garages that flank the civic plaza that lend the space so much drear and droll.

In another urban planning and design disaster, the 1896 Century Building was destroyed to create a parking garage that mocked the original piece of architectural splendor. Detractors rightfully called it "Garage Mahal". This 2004 garage clearly retreated from the attention-grabbing antics of its modern predecessors (if for no other reason than the controversy over the Century demolition). Yet, somehow, its presence is only slightly more "welcoming" than Busch or Keiner.

No, by the way, street-level retail does not always mitigate parking garages ugliness. Something about the permeable nature of garages makes them uncomfortable for the pedestrian; they're open; the wind blows through, as if they were vacant, windowless buildings. Their concrete structures are usually heavy and foreboding; their nightime orange glow menacing.

The saga continues in St. Louis. Instead of getting Pyramid's "Mercantile Exchange" retail district with a restyled St. Louis Centre, we're now getting a parking garage with street level retail. While this deal may be preferable to a standalone, completely ugly and unadorned parking garage at the old Ambassador site as was originally proposed to placate downtown lawfirm Thompson Coburn--it's a far cry from good planning. Downtown has too much parking; each garage makes downtown a little less interesting and less walkable.

The history of parking in St. Louis, especially downtown, could have supplied the National Building Museum with plenty of material. Recall that the site of the Gateway Arch sat as a huge surface parking lot for decades (from the early 1940s all the way to the early 1960s), marring the riverfront and totally disrespecting the original site of the colonial city of St. Louis.

Despite lessons learned since then, St. Louis is still building parking garages for each new development, reducing their urban appeal. There's a recently completed garage at Tucker and Clark; look for new ones to rise with the Kiel Opera House redevelopment as well as the Municipal Courts Building. And those are all contiguous blocks.

As I've argued many times on this site, St. Louis needs a parking plan for its downtown and a zoning code that emphasizes the importance of pedestrian activity and safety over that of vehicular ease of access. With sound planning, the "future of parking" should be a much less lengthy story than its past.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beautiful Block in Gravois Park

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While Gravois Park may be more known for its early 20th century, mostly preserved streetscapes, the eastern portion of the neighborhood closest to Jefferson retains some late 19th Century charm. The above block--3700 Texas--contains quite a varied and interesting collection of vernacular St. Louis architecture dating as far back as the 1860s, perhaps.

It has several Second Empire micromansions, some vernacular Creole cottages, some simple red-brick Italianate structures, and more. Scroll the block to check it out; it's a charmer.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Would Bus Ridership Increase...

...if the bus stops looked like this?

Source: Planetizen, via The Design Blog

Instead of rusting in a junkyard, these decommissioned school busses contribute to the urban streetscape and busrider comfort.

Metro's Arts in Transit program's director should consider contacting the artist.

Speaking of Arts in Transit, the Poetry in Motion program seems intriguing. I'm assuming (it's not explained on the website) that these poems and the graphics that accompany them adorn the sides of busses and possibly Metrolink cars as well.

This poem, by Mary Ruth Donnelly, was my favorite:

Bringing art and life to transit will only endear people to it. Well done on both accounts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Downtown St. Louis Needs a Parking Study

A parking study and plan for downtown St. Louis, backed by an ordinance that would adopt the findings and enforce them as law, could have prevented the demolition of the Ambassador Theater, the Century Building, and more.

A friend of mine from Providence, Rhode Island who now lives in St. Louis recently commented to me that he could not believe what downtown St. Louis had demolished for parking lots and garages, even since the 1990s. "Providence would have never done this," he said of the woefully misguided razing of the Title-Guaranty Building on the Gateway Mall. As many others have observed, vibrant cities hold onto human scale buildings and architectural diversity because they contribute to urban life. Supplying more spaces for cars creates convenience for drivers alone--not the route to urban revitalization.

A recent planning-related article I read put it simply: if you plan for cars, you'll get traffic; if you plan for people, you'll get people.

Without offering up a potshot at Culinaria--recently under fire for reportedly leading to the closure of several businesses downtown--the Century Building fiasco should have been the city's final wake-up call. Losing human scale, mixed-use buildings--or foregoing the opportunity to erect these buildings--should no longer be an option for downtown St. Louis. I'm confident that a parking study would reveal downtown is oversupplied. A complementary downtown parking plan could target city-owned garages for removal, or city-owned surface lots downtown (are there any?) that could be used for development.

A consulting firm well versed in urban planning and transportation planning would call for a ban on the construction of any parking-only building until the study was next updated (10 years?). We all know, and yet I feel compelled to repeat, that each parking lot and garage is an incentive to drive. For those that feel downtown parking is a pain and feel that parking garage rates are inflated given the oversupply of spaces downtown, it's an incentive to avoid downtown altogether. A sound parking plan would be, conversely, an incentive for public transportation ridership, for biking, and for walking. This translates to a more active, walkable, and walked city.

(See my St. Louis Beacon piece from last year for more thoughts on how parking-abundance hurts livable cities.)

Cary, North Carolina (outside of Raleigh) has a parking study that I stumbled across while doing research for work. While I've not delved into it too deeply, it intrigues me that a suburban community would look into determining parking deficit/surplus. When city government pledges to help each downtown law firm, etc. build its own adjacent parking garage, does it even ask this basic question?

Cary Parking Study Analysis

To see more of the Cary Study's documents, click here.

When will downtown St. Louis have a strategic parking plan? The answer is, almost assuredly, when "we" write it.

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