Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Millenium Rotates More Than Its Dining Room!

Acknowledging the PR-assist from its newest neighbor, Busch III, workers at the Millenium hotel have just finished realigning the letters of the sign on the outside of the building to provide a full view of the word, "M-I-L-L-E-N-I-U-M" from inside the stadium.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Harleys, Busch beer, and the 700 Club

After winding our way through the Illinois country side, we found ourselves in the quaint southwestern Illinois town of Okawville, home to the Original Okawville Springs Hotel and Bath House.

We had heard of this place for years, but had never been. We walked the front steps of the 100 year old hotel, up to the covered wraparound porch, and went inside the lobby.

The friendly staff gave us a guided tour of the place, including the bath house, the massage area, and one of the restored guestrooms in the original hotel. Less than an hour away on Interstate 64, mark this place on the "to-do" list for short getaways from St. Louis.

Having never visited a professional massage studio, or taken a mineral bath, the whole scene was very interesting. I was especially curious about the healing powers of mineral water. My skeptical nature was being tested. The tour guide invited me to dip my hand into the swirling mineral waters.

It didn't feel anything like our fine St. Louis city tap water. Instead, it had a smooth, silky feel. Very soft. No question, it would be a luxurious treat to bathe in these waters. Someday.

We were too early for dinner, and too hungry and thirsty to start driving back to St. Louis, so we walked across the street to a corner bar across from the spa. Outside, a row of Harleys was parked in front.

Inside, the place was spotless clean, friendly, with ice cold beer and bar food. There were two televisions above the bar, one tuned to Cardinal baseball, the other to the "700 Club". We took two seats at the end of the bar, ordered a couple of beers, a chicken tender plate, and a fried shrimp basket. The food was served in generous portions. Total bill, lunch for two (including 2 beers apiece): $14.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Snow Cones Rising

All over town, snow cone stands are rising out of storage from behind old corner gas stations and down in parish hall basements.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, St. Louis ranks 9th on Google Trends for the term "snow cone".

Nike Town STL?

Well, not quite...but with all the multi-story wall posters rising on the sides of downtown STL buildings undergoing loft conversions, it still is pretty impressive!

Does anyone else have the sense that we are quickly becoming a trendy hot spot?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cherokee Rising

Amazing things are happening along Cherokee Street in South City, especially the long dormant stretch between Jefferson and Gravois.

Yesterday, I took a detour from my regular Gravois-route to downtown, taking the trip across the State Streets along the historic Cherokee commercial corridor. The amount of current investment activity is amazing.

A new restaurant is readying for its opening in the long-shuddered Eisele's Black Forest space. The outside seating area of a sidewalk cafe was filled to capacity. Long vacant storefronts are being rehabbed for new tenants.

That familiar presence in a neighborhood in renewal - a Friedman Group real estate sign - stands in front of a glazed brick, one story commercial building. On this beautiful spring day, Cherokee Street showed much of the hustle and bustle you find in many Miami, Florida neighborhoods.

With nearly all of its original, mixed-use, brick buildings still standing (and in solid condition), and the new Jefferson-Gravois Streetcar Suburb Historic District leveraging quality rehab investments, look for Cherokee Street and the neighborhoods around it to be among the big St. Louis success stories for the next five to ten years.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Beautiful 9 Months

As St. Louis enters the late part of May, we haven't had a run of hot weather since last September. In the meantime, we had another winter with no snow shoveling required.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, our annual sweat fete will begin. This year, I'll make the three month stretch of St. Louis heat driving a car without air conditioning. You'll recognize me - I'll be one of those few St. Louis drivers riding in a car with its windows open on a 90 degree day.

But come late August, early September, things will cool back down, and we'll be back to comfortable weather. For a place where weather is often held up as the big barrier to entry, it really is pretty nice.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"E.H. Lyle Academy"

Being the city parents of a 7th grade student, we are interested in educational opportunities, especially the ones that are tuition free. An interesting flier came in yesterday's mail. Here's the information we received.

The slogan:

"Inspiring Excellence, Building Bright Futures".

The copy:

E.H. Lyle Academy
706 N. Jefferson Ave, St. Louis MO 63103

E.H. Lyle Academy will provide a strong focus on preparing middle and high-school students for college and successful careers.

Our program provides a quality tuition-free education along with transportation for city residents, grades 6-10.

Call 314-588-8622 today or pre-enroll online at or

The flip side of the brochure has the heading:

A Brand New School for the Road Ahead...

with a picture of three clean-cut male students, two black, one white, dressed in neat uniforms, working at their desks.

It sounds pretty good, and it's a quality marketing piece. Can anyone recommend the school?

Monday, May 15, 2006

St. Louis: Kingsford's New King

Known as home of the King of Beers, St. Louis has now risen to the top of the barbecue heap, according to top charcoal maker Kingsford.

The city has more than three hundred barbecue restaurants.

And we're not just great for barbecue. St. Louis is becoming a great place for dining out.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Southside Getting in the Game

While much deserved attention is being paid to the amazing progress happening in downtown St. Louis, watch for more and more good news to start coming out of the Dutchtown area of South City.

The historic commercial corridors of South Grand, Cherokee, Meramec and Virginia are places to watch.

The historic Virginia Mansion, once slated for demolition, has a condo conversion plan. Cherokee is turning into a burgeoning new arts district. And the state's largest histoic district is attracting developers.

Urban scale infill projects are happening through community-based initiatives. And its all happening in a historic, affordable, diverse city neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Busting a Vein

There are times when getting out of the downtown parking garage I'm in is a major pain. Sometimes the cars are backed up the corkscrew ramp all the way to the top of the garage. Normally, it's no big deal. Today it was a real problem since I had to make it to a Heine Meine manager's rescheduling meeting before 6:15PM, and it was already 5:30. These garage-exiting delays have taken up to one hour.

Getting out of the garage could get so bad that sometimes frustrated drivers would drive down the building in the wrong directon. But since they've upgraded the entrance and exits gates, that doesn't work anymore. Today, we're all at the mercy of the automated system.

It took a half hour to make it out of the garage. That left fifteen minutes to make it to the Weber Road exit on Highway 55. Remembering back to those "line coach" recommendations at Florida amusement parks, I headed left instead of right. Everything was going great until I drove by the old ballpark site, headed toward the Old Cathedral, aiming to make a right turn on southbound 4th Street.

Which brings me to my near-name for this post: "It's Illinois' Fault". It's 6:00PM now. Every car around me has an Illinois plate and is trying to load onto the Poplar Street Bridge.

Light after light, the traffic sits. Then I notice a blocked off right turn lane, closed with those super-sized plastic MoDot-issue barrels. Other than the plastic barrels, the lane is completely passable, and there were no workers in sight.

I'm thinking, "good thing those barrels are so light". I arrived at the manager's meeting with about 5 minutes to spare...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Writing Class

A flier came home with Matt from the league organizers of one of his sports teams. It was announcing the opportunity to purchase tickets to a game at the new Busch. However, it also noted that ticket availability for the annual youth promotion would be reduced this year by a yet undetermined amount.

"Reduced ticket availability at the new Busch for youth group promotional dates."

If there's a story here, how would you present it? The Cardinals might write about the continuation of their youth day promotions. The Post might run another angle. I wonder what they'd teach you in writing class. There are lots of possibilities.

Speaking of possibilities, the choices for St. Louis baseball fans are increasing as summer approaches.

With high school leagues winding down, American Legion ball is getting ready to start. The Gateway Grizzlies and the River City Rascals are about to open their minor league seasons. And weekends to Memphis or Springfield to see the players coming up through the Cardinals minor league system are an option.

For more minor league baseball outings, you can check out:

At The Yard.Com


Minor League Baseball.Com

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mississippians Returning?

Has anyone noticed the huge earthen mound which has recently appeared across from Carondelet Park? It's on the northern edge of the new Loughborough Commons development.

Talk about STL Rising!

ESPN Zone and Borders to Anchor Ballpark Village?

St. Louis Business Journal has the story

Cordish Co. developed the old power plant site on the east side of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, across from Camden Yards. It's a spectacular project, drawing over 10,000,000 visitors each year to downtown Baltimore.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hole In the Wall Pizza

One of the best things about St. Louis are all of the out of the way places, some of which turn out to be right under your nose. One such place is just across the city line, on a back street in Lemay, at the entrance to the old Stupp Brothers steel mill (similar to the place in the image above).

Weber Road is the northernmost South County interchange on Highway 55, just south of the city proper. Weber runs diagonally from Highway 55 to the River Des Peres at Carondelet Boulevard. The old Stupp Brothers plant is the largest landholding in the area. For decades, the Stupp Brothers forged steel bridge components at the mill.

Closer to Highway 55, the Stupp property has a large green space and newer warehouse buildings. But down in a low-lying area, near the intersection of Bridge Street and Weber at the eastern end of the site, you find the original entrance to the old steel mill. A familiar, US Steel sign hangs from the outside of one of the rusted mill buildings. The scene is reminiscent of something you'd see in the mountains of western Pennsylvania.

Up at the corner of Weber and Bridge, you're in a time warp. Some buildings date back eighty to ninety years. One appears to be an old tavern in the front part of an old home. It's easy to imagine a crew of grimy steel workers at the bar, knocking down a few cold ones just after the sounding of the 5:00 o'clock steam whistle. And at 3662 Weber, there's Monte Bello Pizza.

As a casual observer, it's hard to tell whether the place is still open for business. It is. The owners live above the restaurant. A peek through the window gives the impression the dining room might be in the basement.

Back at the intersection of Weber and I-55, standing in the gap of a possible eminent domain challenge, a homeowner has posted a "House Not For Sale" sign on the front porch. Developers are looking at the area for a large scale commercial project.

Whether new development comes to the area remains to be seen. However, for the time being, you can still explore a tiny corner of St. Louis County that hasn't changed much in over fifty years.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Who's Not Creative?

With all the talk about the rise of the creative class, it begs the question: who's not creative?

For the past few years, there have been lots of articles written about the so-called "creative class". Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, has created buzz around the idea, and cities around the country are vying to be the next breeding ground for the creative class.

But suggesting that there's a "creative class" must mean there is also an "uncreative class". We can't all be creative, can we?

Who is this "uncreative class", and, more importantly, are we doing everything we can to attract it?