Friday, October 30, 2009

Everybody's doing it

Young son and teen rocker, Matt, and his bandmates in Headfirst, have been working on their first CD, or EP (not sure what the difference is?). The first track is complete, and has been loaded on Youtube. Check it out here:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

China Gold

Having grown up within walking distance of San Francisco's Chinatown, enjoying great Chinese food is a good memory from my childhood, and a continuing quest today.

We've found a place in St. Louis that compares to the best family run San Francisco Chinese restaurants. It's on Olive in the well-established Asian community that connects UCity and Olivette.

The name of the place is Shu Feng, 8435 Olive, tel. 983-0099, and the website is:

Try this place. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NPS releases GMP for Arch grounds

Online version

The plan presents multiple alternatives, including a "Preferred Alternative - Program Expansion". Interesting language is contained in the other alternatives: "Portals" and "Park in the city".

A design competition, possible reworking of the south end of the Memorial (current site of the maintenance facility), lids, decks, or bridges over the depressed lanes and Memorial Drive, and possible closing of Memorial Drive are all suggested.

STL Today has a feature story about the new plan here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

With thanks to "Anonymous"

Anonymous from Nashville (maybe?) was reading the archives of STL Rising and posted an update to a post about dispersing traffic through local street networks. It is an important policy read:

"But where will the traffic go?"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Arch Design Competition

The National Park Service is close to releasing the final General Management Plan for the future of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The plan will govern the management of the site for the next 15-25 years. The plan is the result of year long public process. A design competition has been discussed as part of the management plan.

Current conditions along Memorial Drive:

A volunteer citizens group has emerged during the process know as "City to River". The mission of the group is to improve connections between downtown and the neighborhoods of the central riverfront. One idea that has been suggested is the replacement of the depressed lanes with a new at grade boulevard. This post is a sneak preview of how such a plan might look. The image above shows Memorial Drive and the depressed lanes at Memorial and Spruce.

Soulard resident, city booster, and local designer Jeremy Claget ( prepared the before and after images shown above and below to provide an example for how the new boulevard would look. Below is an illustration of the intersection of Spruce and Memorial with the new boulevard in place of the depressed lanes (click on the images for an expanded view):

Design concept for new "Gateway Boulevard":

The top priorities of the City to River effort are to enhance economic development opportunities, improve quality of life, and to support transformative change to our downtown area, the Arch grounds, and the riverfront.

City to River is an entirely volunteer, citizen-driven effort. The organization receives no public support or outside funding. All efforts are carried out by City to River volunteers. This effort is a work in progress and needs your help. The National Park Service design competition is likely going to take place sometime after the first of the year. Among the top priorities is improving connectivity between downtown, the riverfront, and the Arch grounds.

If you are interested in learning more about the plans for the riverfront or joining our efforts, please contact us via the comments section below or through email at City to River is working on a website which will launched in the coming weeks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Local artist creates music site

Space Junk blog

Would a new Memorial Drive discourage you from coming downtown?

One of the concerns raised about replacing the I-70 depressed lanes with an at grade boulevard in front of the Arch is that it reduces access to downtown. It's an interesting question.

Currently, drivers headed to downtown St. Louis destinations must exit the interstate at either Memorial Drive (from the south) or the Memorial Drive/Pine Street exit (from the north). On the other hand, drivers staying on the interstate are bypassing downtown, possibly headed to North County, St. Charles County, Lambert Field, UMSL, South County, Jefferson County and other points north or south of downtown St. Louis.

If there was a boulevard in place of the depressed lanes, all traffic traveling through the current Memorial Drive/I-70 depressed lanes corridor would be on the city street grid from around Walnut at the Old Cathedral north through Laclede's Landing and the Bottle District area.

On a new boulevard, drivers would have multiple connection points to downtown hotels, restaurants, Laclede's Landing, Lumiere Casino, Washington Avenue, the proposed new Immigration Museum, Market Street, the Edward Jones Dome, the Bottle District, and all other points downtown.

Drivers on the depressed lanes have no connections to downtown, unless they exit the interstate. For those concerned that a new Memorial Drive boulevard in place of the depressed lanes reduces access to downtown, how do you see that happening?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

11/14 Trivia Night to benefit CCBF

Where: Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish
Address: 4092 Blow Street
When: Saturday, November 14th

Doors open at 6:30 PM
Trivia begins at 7:00 PM

Tables of 8, $20 per person.

Includes beer, soda and snacks.

Proceeds benefit community development programs of the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation.

To make a reservation, please call Stephanie at (314)752-6339

Early birds?

There's a new CVS Pharmacy opening at the corner of Gravois and Germania. It's across the street from a Schnuck's store with a pharmacy and a Walgreen's pharmacy. When opened, there will be three major pharmacies in head to head competition at the same intersection.

The CVS is nearly complete. The lighted signage went up last week and the parking lot is paved and striped. Workers appear to be stocking the store right now. Unexpectedly, this morning, all the signage was covered over with white plastic.

My guess is that with the parking lot finished and the signs up and lit, customers from the area figured the store was open so they were trying to get in for a look.

Some might loath the idea of a third pharmacist at the corner, especially one surrounded by surface parking that took down four or five existing houses to build. Others might like the competition or just having a new store in the area.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Hope springs eternal...

...pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 15th" *

* As seen on a sign Sunday night outside a church along Big Bend in Webster Groves.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Old house window options

Our house was built in 1932 with large, wooden windows. Over the years, the windows have been well maintained, but they are now 77 years old. They are "six over six" windows, measuring approximately 3 feet wide and 5 feet tall.

The house is a solid brick, neo-colonial designed home. The historic windows add a lot to the aesthetics. They work well, but are showing some wear. A few panes have cracks, one fell victim to a random slap shot, and they need exterior painting. They are made of single pane glass, with triple track storm windows and screens. We've gone round and round about whether to replace them.

A historic replacement window would cost in the $800-$1000 range installed. To replace them all would cost close to $25,000. That's a lot of cash. And the existing windows are not in bad shape. So we have decided to keep and maintain.

This month, we are having them painted and repaired by a professional painting company. The cost is running about $80 per window. We are also having the basement windows painted. The total cost of the window painting and repair will come to something under $2,000. Or less than 1/10 the cost of full window replacement.

For less than half the cost of historic replacement windows, we could install vinyl windows, but they would severely lessen the charm of the home. Weighing the options, we are maintaining the original windows in place.

In another 5-7 years, it will likely be time to paint again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

South Grand, Delor traffic improvements looking good

South Grand traffic calming experiment from Arsenal to Utah:

Drove it, liked it, hope they extend it. I especially like the way they used massive concrete barriers and sections of concrete pipe to erect temporary barriers. The concrete barriers and restriping create an immediate, noticeable change.

I like the "brutalist" look of it. It makes a statement: "We're gonna do something to clam traffic around here, and we're gonna do it now. We're not waiting for millions of dollars from somewhere else, we can do this now." Traffic was calmer and pedestrians looked more comfortable crossing the street.

Maybe we should consider other opportunties for doing similar projects with these heavy concrete, movable street barriers and lane restriping? South Broadway through Carondelet seems a natural, as does N. Broadway through Baden. There must be many others. Natural Bridge on the north side is a street many say is way over capacity.

Delor street widening from Ridgewood to Morganford:

It is impressive the way new sidewalks and pavement can brighten the whole area. The tiny front yards look appropriate given the small lots, compact houses, and narrow gangways. The charm of the area looks to be improved. Another plus will be improved views of historic Bevo Mill from the west.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A million small things

Working to make things happen usually isn't rocket science. It's often the opposite. Very simple little things done over and over and over again. Maybe a thousand little things. The challenge is getting away from pointing out errors or weaknesses and moving to action and results.

There are lots of issues in St. Louis deserving attention. The challenge is, how to make an impactful difference? Having meetings, talking about issues, making points about what needs to happen often leads to suggestions that these things require the actual work of someone...else. That's not effective.

If you want to see something happen, then you have to be part of making it happen. This subject reminds me of the criticism of volunteer groups. It always strikes me as extremely ironic when people are critical of volunteer organizations. Why would people criticize volunteer efforts?

Rather than criticize, how about joining, offering funds, or partnering in some other way? There certainly is plenty of work to do and not enough money, time or people to make it all happen. When people volunteer, they give of themselves, and they are trying to make a positive difference. They need help and support, not criticism. We get more done working together and leveraging our efforts.

A point was made at a recent meeting about helping to improve educational outcomes in city schools. The person made the statement that each one of us needs to become personally invovled. He was right. How does that happen? We hear lots of complaining about the city public schools. Other than complaining, what are people doing to make a difference in improving them?

I read online recently about the idea of targeting historic buildings for preservation. The idea is appealing. How will it happen? It will take a million, or maybe a thousand, small steps. People have to work together. Get on the same page. Share a vision and a passion. Overcome differences, find common ground, and move forward toward making things happen. That means alot work for a lot of someones. And usually it's on top of our normal 8-5 jobs, family and home commitments, walking the dog, and everything else that demands of our time.

Let's explore the things that we've done to make good things happen. A couple of best examples in St. Louis include the creation of Metrolink and the restoration of Forest Park. Getting those projects done took a million small things and years of work. What are some of the other big challenges we face? Zoning reform? Improving educational outcomes? Dealing with vacant and abandoned buildings? What should happen, but more importantly, how do we get things to happen?