Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall Green Up

With cooler weather in the air, STL lawns (the non-Zoysia varieties) get a chance to recover from summer heat. The next month or so is an ideal time to aerate, overseed, and fertilize.

If you're interested in improving your yard and the look of your block, STL Rising has the people to call: W and H Lawns. We don't do a lot of company recommendations on the blog, but W and H Lawns is a good small business deserving a mention and your business.

Warren Holloway runs the company and does all the work himself. Well, this spring, his daughter helped too. Warren brings a commercial lawn aerator to your property, carefully core aerates the lawn, overseeds by hand, and fertilizes. Prices are very reasonable. If you want to improve the health of your lawn, you will be pleased with the results.

Here's the contact info:

Warren Holloway
W and H Lawns

Share this info with your friends, family, and neighbors. STL Rising and its owner is not affiliated with the company and accepts no compensation for this endorsement.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Rebuilding Connections

St. Louis is working on connections. It's exploring reconnecting with St. Louis County. It's improving connections with Illinois over a new Mississippi River Bridge and high speed rail to Chicago. It's pursuing worldwide connections with a new China Hub. And it's building a light rail connection between University City and St. Louis City along Delmar Boulevard, our region's traditional dividing line.

Connections happen though partnership and collaboration. They are key to creating a successful 21st century regional economy. They happen through the removal of barriers and take time to structure. They are often more doable when taken on in small pieces rather than huge chunks; and, they always require finding shared benefits and common ground. For example, it's much more likely that STL City and County will collaborate on sharing services than making the big step of a full city-county merger.

While regional connections are on the increase, there is a big disconnection in downtown St. Louis. The biggest disconnection is between downtown and the riverfront. The barrier is the interstate highway and it extends all the way from the Koskiousko neighborhood to Cass Avenue.

It's more than just the riverfront that is cut off by highway infrastructure. Fully one-half of downtown St. Louis is carved up by the presence of highways, creating barriers of many different shapes and sizes. An entire post could be written just on the subject of highway barriers in downtown St. Louis. The barriers created by highways 55, 64, 70 and 44 form a broom ushering people out of the downtown area.

As a result, many of the region's most important destinations and investments are cut off from each other, creating a downtown that is difficult to navigate and unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists and confusing to motorists. In contrast, if downtown's many destination spots were connected, we wouldn't think of them as unique destinations.

If those destinations were part of one unified and connected downtown, it would be a lot easier finding your way around the downtown neighborhood. Downtown STL has invested hundreds of millions in disconnected downtown assets, creating untold opportunity costs. Pulling them together with renewed connections helps build a stronger network for sustainable economic growth.

A damaging side effect of the highway network entangling downtown is the evolution of a dispersed array of cheap parking lots. Today's downtown St. Louis offers an abundance of low grade, surface parking lots. Some of these lots, located within just a block or two from downtown highrise office buildings, offer daily parking at rates less than $5 per day. The current situation devalues downtown real estate and prioritizes highway access over a connected downtown neighborhood.

Work is being done to repair the damage. Efforts are underway to reconnect the Arch grounds to downtown. A plan to bridge the highway with a pedestrian lid will restore the connection between the Gateway Mall and the Old Court House to the Arch grounds and the riverfront. This one step will make a huge positive difference, and is scheduled to happen by October, 2015, as part of the revitalization of the Arch grounds.

There are more opportunities to rebuild connections. Those connections can take the form of physical improvements and community connections. In a region famous for fractured government, there are opportunities where strengthening government connections can lead to improved productivity and community services.

Rebuilding physical connections helps create the infrastructure for regional sustainability. Improving these connections brings multiple benefits to St. Louis. Economic growth, a more vibrant downtown and an improved quality of life for our region are all possible when we work together to bring down barriers and reconnect our city and people.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

More Money Than Mystery

Arch project could be in line for federal infrastructure funding, but is it “shovel ready”?

One week from today, President Obama will outline his jobs plan for the country, and it is expected that the centerpiece of the plan will be major investments in the nation’s infrastructure.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that for every billion dollars in infrastructure spending, 35,000 US jobs are created. St. Louis could use some of that funding.

Meanwhile, as Congress debates federal domestic spending, the news is reporting that the Iraq war has seen between $35 and 60 billion in US tax dollars completely wasted as a result of fraud, waste, poor planning, and abuse. That doesn't count any of the actual costs of fighting the war.

Here in St. Louis, we have one huge potential infrastructure project right under our noses: the remaking of the Arch grounds and its connections to downtown, the riverfront, and the Illinois bank. The project is intended to have a transformative effect on the region and promises to create thousands of St. Louis area jobs.

Cost estimates for the project have ranged from $350,000,000 - $700,000,000, a tiny sum compared to the waste going on in the war in Iraq. But will St. Louis get the funding? Is the Arch project ready? How do we make sure we take advantage of this rare opportunity where funding, local and national priorities, and planning are all converging?

The National Park Service is completing the planning process for the Arch project. Public comments on the environmental review closed Tuesday. Meanwhile, MODOT is completing its own planning work on possible highway changes surrounding the Arch, including the possibility of closing Memorial Drive, adding new north and south bound highway ramps in the depressed lanes, and building a new lid to connect the Old Court House to the Arch.

The lid plan has been studied for a long time. The Danforth Foundation spent over $2,000,000 and determined the lid as originally conceived would not be feasible without major changes to the management of the Arch. The Danforth study was the catalyst triggering the National Park Service's update to the General Management Plan (GMP) for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

That GMP update was completed in 2010, with the preferred alternative calling for an international design competition to update the management and improvements of the park. The cost of the new General Management Plan and the Arch design competition was over $1,000,000.

Recently it was announced that federal funding will be provided to complete the studies and plans for the long awaited Lid project. While the final programming for the Arch project is still unclear, one thing does seem certain: the Lid over the depressed lanes is something most people want to happen.

The cost of the Lid is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $60,000,000. That number is likely to increase by the time of final design and construction to possibly in excess of $100,000,000.

Ultimately, a list will be created. That list will be for a Congressional appropriation and have a budget. St. Louis will be working to get projects on the list. The list will have a lot of big ticket items from all around the country.

What should St. Louis work to get on the list? If the big push in a federal jobs program is infrastructure spending, the door may be opening for St. Louis to go big on its plans. Liberals are encouraging President Obama to go big on his jobs plan, and maybe its time for St. Louis to think big on its effort to reconnect downtown to the Arch and riverfront.

While the lid provides a one to three block connection between the Arch and the Old Court House area, why not bury the highway, build a boulevard over the buried highway, and really restore the connections of the downtown street grid leading to the Arch and the riverfront?

With just a billion or two of all the money being wasted in Iraq, we could really transform downtown St. Louis.