Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bosnian Born + Brooklyn Bred = St. Louis Success

Pizzeria Tivoli

Located in a splendidly rehabbed historic mixed use property at the corner of Kingsighway and Holly Hills on the same block as Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South St. Louis, the new Pizzeria Tivoli deserves your business.

Chef Sam hails from Brooklyn and owner Yana from Bosnia. The owner lives upstairs after completing an immaculate rehab of the property. Creative pizza selections are baked in an open flame, 600 degree wood burning brick oven, resulting in a delicious smoky-light crispness in the crust and wonderful flavor in the toppings.

All pizzas are the same size (well approximately the same size - they're all hand made so no two are exactly the same size), large enough for two persons (three slices apiece), and surprisingly affordable (ranging from $10-$12). Quality beers on tap and good wine by the glass can be purchased in the $4 range. Don't be surprised if you decide to extend your stay with a second pizza and beverage of your choice. Pictured above is their spinach pizza, a house favorite.

Service is friendly, music is excellent, dine on the sidewalk patio wrapping the building or in the cozy interior. Pizzeria Tivoli is family friendly, a great date spot, and welcome addition to Sorrows Parish and the southside community.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Media Advisory: "Avoid Downtown If You Can"

No way to frame a masterpiece...

Today's multi-vehicle accident between the Arch and the Old Court House, which snarled I-70 traffic in both directions for over an hour, provides stark illustration of the unsightly and dangerous barrier in the middle of downtown created by the depressed and elevated lanes of I-70.

Emergency crews filled the depressed lanes. Let's hope there were no serious injuries. News coverage on all major media outlets is continuing. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the accident, most downtown streets remained undisturbed.

KMOV's coverage including lots of additional photographs of the early scenes of the wreckage along with reader comments.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Elephant in the room

Missouri voters will soon have their say on the Kansas City and St. Louis earnings taxes. Efforts are afoot to abolish the taxes. Some say elimination of the taxes will make both cities more competitive.

Here are a couple of questions for those for and against the earnings tax. To non- city residents and business owners: If the city of St. Louis abolished the earnings tax, would you be more or less likely to move your business or personal residence to the city of St. Louis?

With a 1/3 drop in general revenue to result from a loss of the earnings tax, city services are likely going to be reduced. Due to declining revenues, services in the city are already being cut back. Residents are now paying for trash service once considered "free" (covered by already collected city taxes).

So, here's the second question. To non-city residents and business owners: With a smaller government offering fewer services, would you be more or less likely to move your business or personal residence to the City of St. Louis?

Here's a third question, to current city residents: With fewer city services being provided as a result of a loss of the earnings tax, would you be more or less likely to move out of the City of St. Louis?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Loved by the spirit world

The scene above is a reminder that Halloween night is right around the corner. Time to start planning those yard decorations and scary sound effects!

The scene below is even scarier. With evidence of serious deferred maintenance, the building in the photograph is in precarious condition.

What do these two scenes have in common? One of them is already in the inventory of abandoned city properties and the other is close. Abandoned properties are held in trust by the City's Land Reutilization Authority, or "LRA" for short.

Which one do you think it is? Most would assume the derelict building, but in this case, it's the cemetery that has ended up in city hands.

How could a cemetery end up in the city's LRA? For abandonment by its owners. And what about the building with the rear wall near collapse? The answer will likely be the same.

Once an owner abandons its real estate, taxes and other expenses of ownership aren't paid, and it eventually ends up in the hands of the city. The process takes years. In many cases the buildings deteriorate to the point where they are demolished at the city's expense.

It's a slow, unfortunate process, filled with dread and loss. The subject of property abandonment presents many challenges and there are no easy answers. The problems leading to abandonment were years in the making, and whatever the strategy, will require lots of resource to solve.

Abandoned properties cross over into a sort of nether world. Most people in the real world have turned their backs on them. The properties go unsold at tax sales. We most want for something better, but there is little good expected.

Scary houses on Halloween are with us only one night a year. Unfortunately, the inventory of abandoned properties is with us day after day, month after month, and year after year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Forest Park Side Trail

Recently we were walking in Forest Park and turned down a side trail looking for a short cut across the park. The trail takes you by restored water courses and vegetation, stone water falls, lily gardens, and then, surprisingly, this tiny stone amphitheater.

There's no sign leading to this delightful and romantic spot. You'd never know it was there without venturing off the main road and down the side trail. It makes you wonder how many other hidden treasures there are scattered throughout the remade Forest Park or planned for its future?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Urban Irony

Here is a truck unloading a delivery on Olive Street in the heart of the improving Old Post Office District of downtown St. Louis. The truck is double parked, leaving room for cars to pass in the next lane. The scene is a sign of life and commerce. Trucks are an important part of a vibrant city.

Ten years ago, you'd rarely see a truck unloading in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Today, cars, pedestrians, cyclists and trucks are all learning to share the streets of a healthy urban core.

Meanwhile, a few blocks east, long range plans are in the works to reconnect downtown to the riverfront and Arch grounds. City to River is promoting the concept of highway removal and the creation of a new urban street in its place.

In the planning process leading up to the Arch design competition, there was widespread agreement that the biggest problem facing the Arch was a lack of connectivity to downtown and that the biggest barrier to those connections is the existence of I-70.

All five finalist design teams acknowledge the problem with the highway barrier and many of them stated that highway removal is the ultimate solution to reconnecting downtown to the riverfront and Arch grounds.

Replacing a highway with a boulevard means that truck traffic will be using the city street grid. It also means there will be more traffic on the streets of downtown. This means more people and commerce in the city instead of bypassing it.

A plan to replace a highway with an urban street is going to create questions and opposition. The two main objections to the plan for highway removal have been: 1) increasing truck traffic on city streets and, 2) increasing traffic congestion on city streets, causing delays.

Isn't it ironic that the ultimate urban design solution to reconnecting downtown to the riverfront is opposed due to reasons of increasing urban vitality?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ballpark Village or Grand Opportunity

by Megan Beebe

We’ve all heard about that area by the Cardinals stadium, you know the one deemed “Ballpark Village,” the place that’s going to change all our lives. But after years of ups and downs shouldn’t we finally decide what to put there? Clearly the original idea has taken some beatings, so maybe we ought to think of something else, something even more useful that will put St. Louis back on the map.

Ballpark Village is a great idea. The thought of glittering restaurants and shops, complete with scenic lofts on top sounds perfect. And to builders and real estate agents it’s simply mouthwatering. But maybe not now; not during a recession when no one is willing to take risks. So what can we do instead? Lots of things! It’s the land of opportunity!

To be innovative is to be green these days. So why not be the first to build vertical farms? A vertical farm is just that: an indoor greenhouse that can be built on several levels, towering 30 stories into the sky. This new idea created by Dickson Despommier, an environmental professor, would eventually lead to new employment opportunities, fewer abandoned lots, cleaner air and much more. And if its aesthetic s you’re worried about, don’t be. Because the buildings need to let sunlight in, they will be just as shiny and brilliant as we had hoped the original BPV would have been. Plus, Japan has already successfully integrated farms into their urban cities, so let’s jump on the bandwagon and start a new craze in the US!

Or we could take sustainable living to the extreme. The site could be turned into self-sustainable restaurants. Sort of strange for something in the center of downtown, but several other cities have already had a go at it, and it works. Sustainable restaurants grown their own food and try to rely on nothing but what is around them. Of course, sometimes they’ll bring in food from other local farms, but mostly they support themselves. It’s hard to do but it’s something we’ll be seeing more of.

On the other hand, maybe we should take a look at the local universities. Are there any that seem to be overflowing? Why not build a center at the proposed Ballpark Village site where students can flock to during the day. Downtown university buildings are great for cities. They bring in loads of students who are bound to provide lots of business. They’re going to want food, entertainment and space. Perfect!

If nothing else, why can’t we at least make it a little less desolate for the time being? The softball field is a definite step up from the tiring brown dirt. And it’s nice enough to have a brand new parking lot, but when you look to the side and find an empty space, it leaves you wondering what could have been. In the words of Tim Gunn, make it work St. Louis!

About the author -

Megan Beebe is a recent graduate and has recently accepted the position of webmaster for Hermann London Real Estate. Megan researches all about St. Louis restaurants, communities and services and writes about them. Thanks to Megan for submitting her article.

Interested in writing a guest post for STL Rising? Submissions welcome. Please contact the moderator at

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

8th Street Countdown

8th Street between Washington Avenue and Locust has been closed for over two years with the construction of Roberts Tower. Now the Tower is looking complete, although there is surely much more work to do on the inside.

8th Street is an important downtown artery, connecting the Convention Center to the Gateway Mall and Old Post Office district. Is there an estimate for when the street reopens? If crane work is complete on the skyscraper, does that mean the street can be reopened?

Waterfront redevelopment and highway removal

Rx for regional competitiveness?

Trenton makes the case.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Next steps in highway removal

With 5 of the 5 teams supporting highway removal as the ultimate solution for fixing downtown's connectivity problems, efforts to remove the downtown lanes of I-70 separating the city from the riverfront will be shifting from the conceptual to the practical. What would a pragmatist do?

Cart Security

A shopper at the downtown Culinaria had some pastry boxes and shopping bags loaded into her shopping cart. As she was rolling the cart out the front door of the store, the cart lurched to a stop.

What to do? Flummoxed, the shopper loaded all her purchases into her arms, left the cart at the door, and labored out to her parked car.

Apparently, Schnucks has a security system on its carts which prevents people from leaving the store with their shopping carts. That's a good idea, but makes things tricky for shoppers.

STL Rising Trivia Tip Of The Day: When taking your Culinaria purchases to a car parked on the street, be sure to ask the Culinaria staff for a courtesy assist.