Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Highway Departments Designing Communities

We have two high profile situations in St. Louis where some of the most important planning work in our region is being led by highway departments. The latest is the South County Connector - a joint project of the St. Louis County Highway Department, MODOT, and the Federal Highway Administration. The second is the finalizing of the Arch redesign effort.

In the case of the South County Connector, the County Highway Department is leading the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of a project to connect Mid-County to I-55 via River Des Peres. At the Arch grounds, MODOT is working on highway access to the planned improvements coming to the Arch.

Federal dollars spent on highway projects trigger NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) reviews. The EIS process is the first step in satisfying NEPA requirements. In the EIS, project alternatives are identified, impacts and mitigation are analyzed, and, ultimately, a preferred alternative is chosen.

It's possible that the best alternative is deemed the "no project" alternative. However, you would not expect many highway planning efforts to result in a finding that "no project" is the best alternative. Planning efforts are expensive and they are intended to "pave the way" for new projects.

Planners frame the process. In the case of the South County Connector, the process is being framed to connect the Manchester/Hanley intersection to the Shrewsbury Metrolink station at Lansdowne and River Des Peres. From there, to get to I-55, commuters would travel down River Des Peres boulevard through existing neigborhoods.

In the case of the Arch grounds, planners analyzed the option of closing Memorial Drive in front of the Arch. Closing Memorial Drive is part of the approved environmental review in the new General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

The South County Connector is a project of the County Highway Department. The cities of St. Louis, Webster Groves, and Shrewsbury are not proposing a new federally funded highway connector through their neighborhoods; the planners at the highway department are.

The final version of the plan to improve the Arch grounds will soon be revealed to the general public. It will be the first time the public sees the working drawings for how MODOT and the National Park Service plan to connect downtown, the interstate highway system and the Arch grounds.

At the start of the Arch planning process over two years ago, bad connectivity, largely based on the barrier created by the highway, was identified by the public as the number one problem with the Arch grounds. Soon we will see the results of the public process. At the end of the day, will St. Louis get a widened highway structure between downtown and the Arch grounds?

As the South County Connector project begins its planning process, there is no clear sense of the biggest problems facing the area to be served. County highway planners state that the biggest problem to be solved is to provide faster travel times between South County and the Clayton/Richmond Heights/Brentwood commercial center. Yet many South County residents disagree, saying travel times from their homes to mid-County are less than thirty minutes.

Traffic in the St. Louis region is very light by national standards. Is this because of good highway planning or low demands on the system? The streets of downtown St. Louis are said to have far greater capacity than they need. Tucker Boulevard is 8 lanes wide, and most downtown streets are one-way, higher speed routes. Is our vision as a region to have the fastest travel times for commuters, whether from South County to Mid-County or through the streets of downtown?

Short travel times hardly seem a good indicator of a region's competitiveness or quality of life. In some ways, it suggests the opposite. A little congestion can be a good thing. Slower is not necessarily a bad thing. There are many communities in St. Louis. What does it say about us when we give top priority to the community of commuters?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two St. Louis Area High Schools Win National Video Production Competition

National competition sponsored by Ford Motor Company.

See the videos here: Drive One for Your School

Why not use window stickers?

Missouri's peel and stick license plate renewals are notorious for the way they are so often stolen from your car's plates.

Why not give driver's an option of having a sticker on the inside of your rear window?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Most Dangerous (Sidewalk) City

STL Rising is no fan of "most dangerous city" lists, especially the bogus CQ Press rankings. Yet on this icy morning, we do want to call attention to a list of dangerous sidewalks in downtown St. Louis.

For the past 12 hours or so, light freezing rain has been falling in St. Louis. When it comes to *light* *freezing* *rain*, freezing is the operative word. It only takes a paper thin layer of ice to cause problems. And that's what we have this morning on some sections of downtown's sidewalks - primarily in front of vacant buildings.

Sidewalks in front of rehabbed, occupied and loved buildings of downtown are generally fine. There's plenty of ice melt in front of places like the Old Post Office, Culinaria, and the Railway Exchange Building. But in front of the vacant and disposessed buildings, not so much. So be careful when walking past some buildings, including the Arcade and the Chemical. The sidewalks in front of these two buildings have not been treated and they're dangerous. I almost busted my head slipping on the sidewalk in front the Arcade.

The sidewalk in front of the Paul Brown, loved and occupied is fine. But as soon as you pass the gangway from the Paul Brown to the Arcade, watch out. This warning would be of no use to out of towners. Even if they read the blog, they would likely have no idea the names of places like the Chemical Building and the Arcade.

Since these buildings are very likely delinquent in their CID fees, I wonder if they are not being serviced in the same fashion as other downtown properties? Or maybe the CID does not provide for ice and snow melting/shoveling. Maybe we should organize a collection to ensure snow shoveling and ice melt in front of the few remaining empty buildings in downtown STL?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Huffington Post Article on Reclaiming Urban Spaces


Good article, much applies to St. Louis, but the part about a traditional street grid making it more difficult to reclaim community doesn't make sense to me. Street grids make for lots of places to build connections.

From the article:

Our experience with Michael and City Repair made us realize that our cities are based on the grid plan, and it is much easier for people to feel isolated and sadly be disconnected from their own neighbors. The neighborhood places for communication and gathering that develop naturally in non-grid cities must be specifically planned for in grid cities. Sustainable communities are built when people work together for mutual benefit.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fall Peak

2010 Fall color peaking on our block.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day Remembrance

I remember my good friend Victor H. Victor and I were classmates in high school, graduating in 1977.

In the summer of 1976, Victor, Mark S and I backpacked across the Sierra Nevada. It was a 2 week, 120 mile trek. I remember how, halfway through the hike, we all started hungering for a hot, fresh meal.

All around the trail, there were these plump looking grouses (plural of grouse, anyone?) darting in and out of the scrub. After awhile, we all started seeing them with their feathers off, little dressing caps on the ends of their feet, and roasted. We started carrying rocks the size of billiard balls in our hands.

Whenever a grouse would appear, we'd chase after it, backpacks weighing us down. The grouse would run a zig-zag pattern. We'd fire the rocks just as the grouses would take their short-hop flights in the air, evading all our throws.

It got to be kind of funny. Desperate hikers chasing after these little chicken-like things. I don't know what we would have done if we actually bagged one. I guess we would have found a new use for our Swiss Army knives...

Anyhow, I didn't know it at the time, but Victor was gay. You'd have never guessed it in high school. Victor was one of the most popular guys in the school, especially with the girls. He was funny, handsome, an AAU champion swimmer, and the singer in a rock band we started.

We named the band "The Piss Aaron Band" in tribute to our favorite singer and performer, Todd Rundgren. Victor was the first person to turn me on to the wonders of Todd. I graduated high school never knowing Victor was gay.

Shortly after high school, Victor got heavy into the gay bath house scene in San Francisco. He spent more and more time in the City. We lost touch, but I heard he died in the early 80s from HIV/AIDS.

Victor has been gone for about 30 years, but he will never be forgotten.

Here's to you my friend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

City Savvy

Alternative source of general revenue?

From an amenity and destination standpoint, the City of St. Louis could be considered a "target rich environment". Lots of people from throughout the region and the entire midwest visit St. Louis for a variety of reasons.

They come here for our restaurants, the interesting neighborhoods, the museums, the schools, to view historic architecture, visit world class hospitals, attend sporting events, enjoy our wonderful parks, neighborhood festivals, and parades.

Year after year, they come by the millions. Tomorrow, tens of thousands will line up on the streets of downtown for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Those visitors support local businesses but they also place a demand on local services in a city starved for general revenue.

How to capture some of that traffic in a way to bolster a flagging city budget? What about creating a program for the savvy city visitor? Those visitors know they get the best of our region's arts and entertainment when they visit St. Louis.

Why not invite them to become "patrons" of the City St. Louis? With modern technology, such a system is possible. Patrons would simply affix a bar code on their vehicles.

The city could then install scanners at the many entry points to St. Louis. Once a month, an electronic transer could be made from the checking accounts of city patrons to the City of St. Louis Collector of Revenue. Only those people actually visiting the city would pay a fee. Those never entering St. Louis would not be assessed any access charges.

Of course, such a program would need to be completely voluntary. It would, however, provide one alternative to the city's earnings tax. If you're a non-city resident, would you support such a program?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vacant Properties Awareness

The image above is from a recent street slip edition of What's Up Magazine. What's Up Magazine is a project of Jay Swoboda that builds awareness and creates income opportunties for the homeless of St. Louis. The street slip edition above delves into the arena of vacant properties and describes the recent "Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference" held in Cleveland, Ohio. For related info, please visit: community

There's no doubt that St. Louis has a vacant properties problem. It's not a new problem. It's been with us since at least the 1970s. Today, the population of St. Louis is roughly 41% of its 1950s peak of approximately 850,000. Back then the city was a network of neighborhoods from north to south, all served by street cars and lots of neighborhood retail.

When those 500,000 or so residents moved away, they left behind empty buildings and a growing base of decay. They took with them a lot of spending power. Some areas were hit much harder than others. Today, you can see those areas in abandoned buildings, poorly maintained buildings, and lots of vacant land. What to do now?

There are lots of ideas. What makes sense for St. Louis? This is an important issue for St. Louis to address, and if done right, could be a source of great economic and community development. Thanks to Jay and others for raising the profile of the issue.

Dog friendly St. Louis

Most dogs need more exercise than they get. Today in my in-box there was an announcement of a new pet service geared toward offering a tailor made exercise routine for your dog. It's run by a young entrepreneur here in St. Louis. Please take note and share the information with people who might need such a service:


Young Entrepreneur is the First to Bring Dog Running to Saint Louis: Pet Services Company, Go Dogs St. Louis, to Offer Dog Running

SAINT LOUIS, Mo – (Nov. 16, 2010) - Recently established pet services company, Go Dogs St. Louis, is the first company in the St. Louis area to offer dog running. Young entrepreneur, Natalie Provost, knew she wanted to start a business in the pet industry and while there are multiple pet service companies in the greater St. Louis area offering daily dog walks and visits, some dogs need more exercise. Natalie recognized a need for the area that fit with her athletic background and love for dogs.

Go Dogs St. Louis is based on the premise that dogs need exercise, and certain breeds need significantly more exercise than their owners have the time or capacity to provide. Running provides dogs with dynamic and mentally stimulating exercise and offers multiple health and behavioral benefits. Adequate amounts of regular, essential exercise increases a canine companion’s quality of life and allows pet parents to enjoy a healthier pet as well as positive behavior in the home. Regular exercise is especially important for energetic, hyperactive and overweight dogs.

“Our goal is to enhance the quality of dog’s life with fun and regular essential exercise,” says Go Dogs St. Louis founder and principal, Natalie Provost. In addition to dog running, Go Dogs St. Louis also offers a variety of pet services, including dog walking, puppy program, pet taxi and pet sitting.

Not all dogs are candidates for running, which is why Go Dogs St. Louis evaluates each dog prior to beginning any endurance program and may recommend an alternative endurance routine, such as brisk or leisurely walking. “The goal is not to log miles, but rather to improve and maintain each dog’s health and general well being through fun and stimulating exercise,” says Natalie Provost.

For more information please visit

Natalie Provost
Phone: (314) 452-3545

Thanks, Natalie, for sending out the press release.

Note from the moderator: Please check out the website. It has lots of practical information about providing a good home and healthy lifestyle for your dog(s).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creating multiple levels of momentum

The City + Arch + River Foundation has set October 2015 for the deadline to complete improvements to the Arch. That's an aggressive timeline for a $300,000,000 project. It's good to have a goal date because it gets everyone working together on a clear objective. Setting the goal gets momentum moving towards the date.

Teams in the Arch design competition described longer range efforts to improve downtown and the Arch beyond the 2015 deadline. One of those is highway removal. Why not set another deadline to remove the downtown lanes of I-70 separating the riverfront and Arch grounds from downtown? Having multiple deadlines creates multiple levels of momentum.

What about setting October 2020 for the goal date to replace the highway with a new boulevard? That leaves five years for building the boulevard after completion of the new I-70 bridge over the Mississippi. More people working on combined efforts, all with common interests and shared values - a better connected, more vibrant downtown, riverfront, and Arch grounds - creates mulitple levels of momentum.

The Arch design program is in its final stages. Design teams and community leaders are looking at construction plans and cost estimates. They are also finalizing crucial connections between downtown and the riverfront neighborhoods of Laclede's Landing, the Arch, and Chouteau's Landing. One option is to build a lid over the depressed lanes. MVVA, the winning team of the Arch design competition, proposed a lid over the depressed lanes, but also left north and south bound lanes of Memorial Drive passing through the lid.

In the image above, City to River suggests how a program of building the lid, removing the highway lanes, and having Memorial Drive pass underneath the lid can all be combined in a downtown/riverfront connectivity strategy. As the drawing indicates, it is possible to build a lid over the depressed lanes designed to have the boulevard ultimately separated from it by passing through an 1-2 block underpass made available through the vacation of the depressed interstate lanes.

Click on the image for a more detailed view - highlighted areas show new commercial frontage created for expansion of existing buildings and new development sites. Much better views of these connections are available through the City to River link above. It's possible to imagine how drivers could access new underground Arch parking through this same lid underpass. In this manner, the underpass and lid become a primary new entry point for drivers visiting the Arch and downtown.

Creating a phased development plan for downtown and the riverfront with multiple goals on parallel tracks builds momentum for all projects and keeps things building towards greater outcomes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SF Rising

Having spent my first 30 years in the Bay Area, I grew up on Giants' baseball, watching Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Gaylord Perry on the field. But we never saw a World Series winner. Places like St. Louis and Oakland got to experience those thrills.

The years of Candlestick Park baseball were long, cold, and difficult. Since moving out of New York, the Giants have never won a World Series. For all the fans of the Giants in the Bay Area and elsewhere, let's hope this is their year.

The Giants of 2010 are a fun team to cheer. They're built around pitching and youth. Their manager, in classic San Francisco tradition, is a gravelly-voiced Italian named Bruce Bocce. You can imagine seeing him dining at one of the City's North Beach restaurants after a game.

The 2010 team has an inspiring narrative in young catching and hitting star Buster Posey. The team's orange and black color theme is dull for most of the year, but a perfect match for October baseball.

St. Louis has a rooting interest in former Cardinal Edgar Renteria filling in at shortstop for the injured Juan Uribe. Renteria brings multiple post season championships and overall veteran experience to the clubhouse.

After many years of possibly leaving the Bay Area for warmer, friendlier playing confines, at ATT Park, the Giants now play in what is arguably the most beautiful ballpark in the country.

Could 2010 finally be the year for a World Championship parade for the San Francisco Giants down Market Street? Is the new ballpark the difference?

Perhaps ATT Park is an example of how architecture improves our quality of life. Or, can architects help you win a World Series? Maybe in San Francisco!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sitting amongst subsidized millionaires...

...well, not exactly amongst, let's say above.

On Sunday we attended the Rams/Chargers game at the Edward Jones Dome. Our seats were located halfway to the top of the nose bleed section. Corner of the end zone. Great game. The resurgent Rams won by a score of 20-17, evening their record to 3 wins and 3 losses.

These days, professional sports teams get subsidies to build stadiums. I like football and I like baseball, so I don't mind part of my tax dollar going to such things, especially when we have a winning team. If that's what it takes to keep big league sports in town, I'm open to it.

Our society subsidizes lots of things. Highways, military spending, the arts, police and fire protection, libraries and schools. Why not entertainment?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Welcome Sign In "The Grove"

Never mind that old "don't forget to turn out the lights" line people used to say about St. Louis.

From the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation comes word that the Grove/Forest Park Southeast neighborhood will soon be welcoming residents and visitors to the area with a bright new illuminated sign over Manchester Avenue.

Click here for more details and photos.

One block of downtown street grid re-connected

After more than two years of closure, 8th Street between Washington Avenue and Locust has been reopened to cars, cyclists, pedestrians, and truck traffic.

The street connects the main entrance of the Convention Center to the Old Post Office Plaza and the rest of downtown, adjacent to the west side of US Bank and the new Robert's Tower.

With some construction activity still underway on the new tower, for the time being 8th Street is only opened for one lane, but it's amazing what a difference it already makes just having that one street re-connected. It's much easier to get around.

It makes you wonder how many more options for downtown visitors the one re-opening creates, and then makes you really wonder what a fully reconnected downtown street grid would mean for the vitality of St. Louis.

No doubt there is a multiplier effect on many levels.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Arch design competition picked a winning team...

...but many large questions remain.

Chief among those is how to deal with the connection between the Arch grounds and downtown.

The winning MVVA team proposed a lid over the I-70 depressed lanes, with Memorial Drive remaining open in both directions across the lid.

Last week there was a meeting where proponents of the Arch redesign suggested that Memorial Drive be closed at the lid.

MVVA proposed closing Washington Avenue between Memorial Drive and the riverfront. The jury for the competition didn't like that idea, and recommended keeping the street open.

MVVA proposed closing Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard at the foot of the Arch grounds along the riverfront, which to date hasn't generated much public response.

Large questions remain in the reworking of the Arch grounds. A ninety-day fine-tuning period has been established, currently at about day seventeen, to finalize how these questions will be decided.

The biggest questions are the same ones that were being asked at the start of the competition: What to do with the connections between downtown and the Arch grounds and what to do with the I-70 barrier between the city and the riverfront neighborhoods.

The question of how to pay for all of it is equally a part of the conversation. Proponents are mum on cost estimates. The design team is working on a budget at this time as well, but the cost will depend on the design, which is still being finalized.

With so many moving parts, the process is complex and difficult. How do you sell something with so many open questions? In the Show Me State of Missouri, it's not easy.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Refresh Everything Contest

St. Louis's own Operation Brightside is in a national gardening competition. Learn more and support our local team by voting here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

New study: 40% of kids' food "empty calories"

The news reported today on the continuing epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Quoting an MD from the east coast, the story said that 40% of a child's diet between the ages of 2 and 18 is from "empty calories".

Eating foods with empty calories adds to your waistline, but provides no nourishment. Obesity follows.

The story described the types of foods that provide empty calories. Candy, junk food, and pizza. Pizza??

How is pizza an empty calorie food? It's bread, cheese, tomato sauce, and meat or vegetable topping. Those are all healthy foods. What's the problem?

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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mansion House owner on highway removal

From today's Post Dispatch:

"An economic boost"

Five teams have unveiled their visions for revamping the Arch grounds and riverfront, and it's encouraging to see that all five teams support the eventual removal of Interstate 70 through downtown. This plan has been strongly promoted by the volunteer group City to River and will be the key to reconnecting downtown, the Arch and the Mississippi River and spurring downtown economic development.

As an owner of the Mansion House complex on Fourth Street, my New York-based company has invested and re-invested in downtown over the past 21 years. As a father, I have fond memories of traveling to St. Louis from the East Coast with my family to visit the Arch grounds.

Being a New Yorker, I have a unique perspective. I witnessed the elimination of the Westside Highway in Manhattan and the creation of a grand boulevard south of 57th Street, joining the city with the Hudson River and creating a myriad of residential, tourist, recreational and business activities. In St. Louis, I-70 is creating barriers for tourists and residents looking to gather downtown and is hindering future investment by property owners along the eastern edge of downtown.

Should City to River's proposal to replace I-70 with an urban boulevard move forward, the property across from the Arch could be transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly venue, providing a significant economic and tourism boost for the city.

Louis Tallarini • New York

Monday, August 30, 2010

Framing the Question

All five Arch design teams have stated their support for highway removal as the ultimate best solution for reconnecting downtown to the Arch grounds and riverfront. So where do we go from here?

The issue now becomes a challenge to planners and civil engineers. How to frame the question? Is highway removal a "go" or "no-go" proposition? Is the program subject to an "either/or" determination of feasible or infeasible?

Or, do we take the can-do approach of how do we make this work? Problems and challenges need solutions, which is the whole point of the Arch competition: to find solutions to problems and challenges, especially challenges of reestablishing lost connections.

Traffic people speak of "levels of service" (LOS). They strive for acceptable levels of service (ease of traffic flow), with an understanding that the LOS will fluctuate according to various times of day and demands on the system.

Ultimately, our course on highway removal will depend on the will of the community. The design teams have all said highway removal is the best solution. So now will St. Louis support or call for such a change?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Arch Redesign - More than Just Building Stuff

Architects as community developers

As the details begin to emerge in the Arch design competition, and the jury carries out its role, it's becoming clear that this effort to reconnect the city, the Arch, and the river is about more than cool new designs and structures on or about the Arch, it's ultimately about the life of a city, the region, and its people.

The jury is asking questions about markets, sustainability, phasing, and feasibility. The teams are talking about budgets, community participation, and public support. The builders of the Arch created a great structure and landmark. Today's designers are trying to create community.

The teams, the jury, and ultimately St. Louis is challenged to build community back into our riverfront, the east bank, and downtown. It's a huge challenge that rivals any in this region's history. It's about building a sustainable future for St. Louis. Creating connections and leveraging of effort will be a key factor of success.

This project is as much more about us as a community as it is the Arch grounds as a physical environment. What an exciting challenge indeed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Front and Center in St. Louis

Today at the America's Center in downtown St. Louis, the five finalist teams in the Arch design competition will make their case before a jury of national community design leaders. The jury is charged with choosing the winning team design that will lead the remake the Arch grounds and reconnection of downtown St. Louis.

Front and center in St. Louis is the Arch. The Arch is both a national monument and the international icon of St. Louis. The Arch stands between the Mississippi River and downtown. However, running down the middle of the three is an obtrusive interstate highway. As the highway has long been identified as the number one barrier dividing downtown from the Arch grounds and riverfront, this blog, along with many other writers in St. Louis, have pushed for planning the removal of the downtown lanes of the interstate as a key part of the conversation in the reworking of downtown connections.

Meanwhile, planning for highway removals, as part of an overall economic and community development strategy for downtown areas, has become a national movement. STL Rising has identified over fifteen other completed or concurrent highway efforts. With the Arch design competition the catalyst, and a nationally seated jury deciding the course, St. Louis could lay a further foundation for possibilities of highway removal efforts around the country.

Proponents of highway removal suggest that these highways through the hearts of our nation's cities were mistakes in the first place. As they now are surpassing their useful lives, cities are revisiting ways to reimagine their downtowns. St. Louis is in the forefront of this effort with the Arch design competition and efforts to reorient the city to face its riverfront.

The design teams will be front and center before the Arch design competition jury today. The jury is front and center in setting policies for how St. Louis will work for the next century. And the St. Louis community stands at the threshold of making all this happen. The Arch stands for discovery. Today St. Louis is on an historic odyssey of discovery. The outcome is sure to be outstanding. These are great times to be part of St. Louis.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STL has lots of company in quest for highway removal...

Nationwide Downtown Highway Removal Projects - Completed or Proposed:

I-64 along the Ohio River - Louisville

I-84 Aetna Viaduct - Hartford

Alaskan Way Viaduct -Seattle

Sheridan Expwy - Bronx NY

The Skyway and Route 5 - Buffalo

Route 34 -New Haven CT

Claiborn Expwy - New Orleans

Interstate 81 - Syracuse

Route 29 - Trenton

Gardiner Expwy -Toronto

11th Street Bridges and Southeast Fwy - Washington DC

Downtown lanes of I-70 - St.Louis

Milwaukee Park East Freeway (complete)

Portland waterfront (complete)

Embarcadero - San Francisco (complete)

Central Freeway - Octavia Boulevard
San Francisco (complete)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arch Competition Public Comment Period Closes Today

Commenting is easy. Click here and post your comment today.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Time for a riverfront traffic study?

If you've ever driven the surface streets of downtown St. Louis which connect to the central riverfront and Arch grounds, then you know first hand the barriers created by the elevated and depressed lanes of I-70. Streets are confusing; there are few good connections; and, routes are frequently cut off, sending unwitting drivers over bridges they didn't intend to take.

With Arch Competition finalists joining City to River in the call for downtown highway removal, and as we ready for major improvements to the Arch grounds and east bank, it's time for St. Louis to examine traffic issues of our downtown, Arch, and riverfront areas. In so doing we can identify traffic solutions, including possible highway removal, so that we will fully enjoy and connect with the benefits of our revitalized riverfront and Arch grounds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Phasing in the new boulevard

Support is growing for City to River's vision for removing the downtown lanes of I-70 between the riverfront and downtown after the opening of the new I-70 bridge.

The challenge of solving logistics is high on the priority list of planning this project. How would you like to see construction of the new boulevard phased? Here are some ideas.

Opening of the new I-70 bridge is scheduled for 2014. With the slow economy, it's possible the project will be completed ahead of schedule.

Starting in the Fall of 2010, planning and engineering for the new boulevard and highway removal begins. City to River works to engage interested parties in keeping project on track.

Upon opening of the new bridge, close the former I-70 downtown elevated lanes between the new I-70 bridge and the Poplar Street Bridge. I-55 traffic is directed onto Memorial Drive or across Poplar Street Bridge. I-70 traffic is rerouted across the new bridge or onto city surface streets.

Demolish the old elevated lanes and grind the rubble for clean fill. Recycle structural steel from the elevated lanes. According to engineered plans, begin process of filling in the depressed lanes. Bring the void of the depressed lanes up to grade. During this time, Memorial Drive remains open.

Once depressed lanes are brought to grade, demolish the transition between the old walls of the trench and Memorial Drive. According to engineered plans, compact the entire area creating the roadbed for construction of the lanes of the new Memorial Drive, on-street parking, and landscape medians and other amenities.

Schedule all work to be completed within one year of completion of opening of the new I-70 bridge. With this schedule, the new boulevard is open nearly on the same schedule as the new improvements to the Arch grounds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arch Design Competition Public Comment Window Open

Competition comment period open this week. To celebrate the ongoing effort, City to River is hosting a community event tonight at the Schlafly Tap Room

Yesterday, five exciting visions were revealed that point toward a bright future for the Arch Grounds and downtown St. Louis.

The proposals unveiled make clear that the teams agree with City to River’s supporters that highway removal is the ultimate solution to fully reconnecting the city with the Arch and riverfront.

From four of the five finalist teams:

“City to River articulates an enormous number of benefits arising from such a scheme…”

- SOM Team

“..the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear...”

- MVVA Team

“Full Circle’s grand loop of transportation facilities could be easily integrated into its [City to River’s] design."

-Weiss-Manfredi Team

"We predict fanfare should the elevated highway that cuts off Laclede’s Landing be removed."

- The Behnisch Team

Come to the Schlafly Tap Room Club Room tonight (7:30 p.m., 2100 Locust Street) to show your support for highway removal! Have your voice heard on this pivotal regional issue. The event is FREE.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Invasion from the north

Saturday night the Minnesota Vikings paid a visit to St. Louis. They played the St. Louis Rams in the first pre-season game of the 2010 season. The Vikings won the game handily, giving rookie Rams QB Sam Bradford a dose of NFL medicine. With the holes in the Rams offensive line, this might be a long season for Bradford and the Rams. But the real question is whether the Rams are long for St. Louis? Can St. Louis compete in the NFL game?

The Rams are for sale and the top bidder is minority owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke has been cagey in his responses about his commitment to keep the team in St. Louis. Meanwhile, in 2014, the Rams have an escape clause in their lease for the Edward Jones Dome. If the Dome is not considered in the upper eschelon of NFL stadiums, the Rams are free to move. A lot has to happen in order to meet that requirement.

For this pre-season matchup, the Rams played in a stadium that was only about 70% filled. Of those in attendance, a large number had driven down from Minnesota to watch the game. Given the lack of a sellout, the game was not broadcast live in St. Louis. Last year, many regular season Rams games did not sell out, preventing the game from live television broadcast in St. Louis. Low attendance at games combined with a lack of local live broadcasts feeds on itself in a downward spiral of dwindling fan interest.

Meanwhile, out in LA, plans are in the works and financing is coming together for a brand new $1 billion dollar football mecca, replete with all the luxuries desired to put LA on the dance card to be a regular Super Bowl host city. Can St. Louis compete with that? Not likely.

St. Louis is a metro of 2.5 million. The greater LA area has 15 million. Whether for filling the stadium with fans or setting ad rates for televised games, LA has huge market demand to offer the new Rams ownership.

LA is the sentimental hometown of the Rams. The playing years of many of their Hall of Fame legends are based in LA. The Warner, Bruce, Holt years in St. Louis made great history. But with the soon to be voided stadium lease in St. Louis and tempting conditions shaping up in LA, does St. Louis have a prayer in keeping the Rams? If we lose the team to another market, will St. Louis ever be home city to an NFL team again?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illinois Gems

Illinois is a state filled with rare treasures. The small towns and farms, and beautiful court houses hold many wonderful surprises.

Adorning a small conference room in a central Illinois municipal office, is a work of art completed as part of the Public Works of Art Project, also known as the Federal Art Project.

It's interesting to note that over 70 years ago, at a time of economic stress, the federal government intervened not only in providing public works projects but also public art projects.

The work pictured above was completed in 1934. A brass plaque at the bottom of the frame reads, "Public Works of Art". The painting is signed "John Stephen 34". I wonder what the subject is? The mood is an awesome reflection of the times.

Beers for a Boulevard

No, we're not talking about Boulevard Ale, it's City to River along with STL Style sponsoring an event at the headquarters of St. Louis' largest locally owned brewer, Schlafly, to celebrate the culmination of the Arch design competition.

Join friends and neighbors for a fun evening in a beautiful setting in support of efforts to reconnect the City, the Arch and the River. For more information, check out the Facebook invitation here:

Facebook Invite

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Riverfront, Arch poised to be downtown's next hot spot?

Washington Avenue led the way through the late 90s and early - mid 2000s. Will the riverfront area and Arch grounds be the center of excitement for the next big wave of downtown renewal?

Check out the list of downtown stakeholders supporting City to River's proposal to open up the downtown/riverfront area through highway removal and creation of a new Memorial Drive:

City to River releases it's expanded list of supporters

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Gateway to a new legacy"

That's the title of a recent City to River blog entry. The Arch design competition is reaching its final stage.

Soon the five finalist design teams will unveil their proposals and St. Louis will face a decision that will redefine her downtown and the region for the next fifty to one hundred years.

Much has been written about the planning mistakes of the past. Actions now will lay new foundations for our future. Not since the passing of the riverboat era has St. Louis had such importance placed on its riverfront.

The projected budget for the total program (low estimate, for Missouri and Illinois) is over $300,000,000. When it was first built (1960s dollars) the cost of the Arch was about $13 million.

Will you work to make dreams reality? We are on a community odyssey setting course for a new future. Will hope and vision prevail over cynicism and naysaying?

It's up to each of us to make a difference. We can do this. Let's watch and work for great things.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Outpouring of support for highway removal at Arch design competition website

From the City + Arch + River Design Competition website "Community Connections" page, there is a huge outpouring of support for City to River's vision of removing the highway between the Arch and downtown and replacing it with an at-grade, urban boulevard. Below is a sample of the comments. Click on the highlighted text to read them all and add your own.

"I support removing the section of I-70 between Cass Ave and Poplar Street and replacing it with a boulevard. I support the City to River plan."

- Jill M.

“I would like to voice my support of City to River’s concept of removing Interstate 70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to Cass Avenue and replacing it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. I believe that a new Memorial Drive would reopen the front door for St. Louis and connect the city, the Arch and the river more completely. As citizens of Saint Louis, we have an unique opportunity to revitalize our Mississippi riverfront during the renovation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the construction of the new Mississippi river bridge. Let us use this opportunity to create a more vital connection with our city’s grand lifestream. Please incorporate this concept into your design! ”

- Mark C

"I grew up in St. Louis and am among those that have always considered the I-70 crossing through downtown as a near fatal gash through the heart of the city. For a city that boasts a history with the river, we have isolated ourselves and our downtown from that source of so much rich history. This is an opportunity that I did not think would come in my life time; the chance to remove the highway from blocking access to the river, and the Arch, from downtown. I implore the designers to incorporate a new Memorial Drive and removal of I-70 from downtown as part of rejuvenating St. Louis and giving us back our river. Without direct access to the Arch and the River, I’m sorry but we are not a river city and should refrain from calling ourselves as such. Thank you for the chance to voice my opinion."

- Dennis N

"I like this plan and since I moved here 9 years ago I have wondered why it hasn’t already been done."

- James W

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Go Dog, Go!

The growing numbers of scooters on the streets of downtown is a telling sign of downtown's continuing rebirth. Scooters are cool, and their riders make downtown feel more alive.

Just the other day, though, I saw a strange sight. A businessman riding a high powered, fast scooter, was racing down Olive. That was cool, but he was also running red light after red light. Hey, keep up that pace, and you'll run head long into the river! Well, okay, he'd be blocked by the depressed lanes of I-70...

Now sure, it's common to see bicyclists run red lights, and pedestrians walking against a light or jaywalking, but motorized scooters? Dude! You're taking things too far!

Okay, so I suppose there's a sense of anarchy and coolness associated with scooters. They're a rebel ride. But blowing red lights around the Old Post Office? Is that cool?

Granted, there are some blocks in the city and even one way streets, where there are so few cars - or people - or even houses - that the writer of this blog has been known to take some "liberties". It's sort of one of those tree falling in the forest things - would anyone even know?

But in the heart of downtown, dressed in a suit and tie, in the middle of the morning-arrive-to-work-hour? We are a real city after all, and there have to be some rules, right?

Maybe we need cops on scooters!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"This block under 24 hour video surveillance"

At STL Rising, we trail far behind the trends in new technology. The rest of the world is far ahead of us. In fact, most people reading this site probably own smart phones and flat screen TVs. So, in these times of expanding technology in our daily lives, today we raise the subject of neighborhood watch using low cost digital video surveillance.

Common complaints heard on the neighborhood watch scene are car cloutings and garage break-ins. Technology exists to easily and at minimal cost set up hidden digital video cameras around your neighborhood.

Software triggers the camera to operate based on motion. If there is movement in the pixels, the camera starts shooting. Sensitivity is adjustable so that a falling leaf or chasing squirrel doesn't trigger the camera, but something larger, like a person on foot does.

These systems are becoming more common on private property. Owners can install these systems in the fronts of their homes, back yards, or in alleys. Multiple owners can create networks to cover entire blocks. Big brother watching you? Maybe.

Yet, if you're a would be car clouter, drug dealer, garage thief or grafitti tagger, and you see a sign at the entrance to a neighborhood street announcing the presence of 24 hour digital surveillance, are you less likely to attempt a crime on the block? And if a crime occurs, and the act is caught via digital recorder, does law enforcement have a way to apprehend criminals?

Would you want to expand systems like these in your neighborhood? Should we push for these in areas of increased criminal activity? Is a future with expanded video surveillance likely for St. Louis? Is there a downside?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freeway Jam

"Freeway" is a word I grew up with. Living in California, people say "freeway". Freeways are supposed to zip you from point A to point B, with little thought of what happens in between.

It's not about the journey; it's about the destination. Unfortunately, you don't always zip. You often sit. And in California, most of the time, there are no alternatives for the freeway. So you can sit a looong time.

This week, drivers in St. Louis got a taste of what it's like to get stuck on a freeway. Bad weather caused accidents and flooding, stranding drivers on local "freeways" for hours.

Downtown is no different. There are times when cars are stacked up on the freeways around downtown. For these drivers, just like in California, it's not about the journey, it's about the destination. And sitting in a traffic jam is no fun when you're trying to get somewhere.

All of this talk of freeway jams brings us to the final stage of the Arch design competition. If one of the main goals of the competition is to weave connections, then what should we expect from the design teams?

Is it possible that some of the teams are thinking that those connections mean improved highway access to the Arch? More freeway connections? More on and off ramps to serve the Arch grounds?

Are designers envisioning access to the Arch for drivers more interested in the destination than the journey? Do those visitors want an unimpeded freeway connection straight from the freeway into the Arch garage? Are we encouraging an experience for them that begins and ends at the Arch?

Or do we want to create an experience where people enter our city and then arrive at the Arch and the riverfront at the heart of it all? What do connections like that look like? We will soon see. Or will we?

Is it possible that the teams will punt on the connectivity issue, and focus instead on proposing more attractions for the Arch grounds?

In a competition that promotes the goal of reweaving connections, this is our one big chance to make bold plans. Plans that restore the natural connections between downtown, the Arch, and the riverfront. After all, that's what this process is supposed to be all about.

Support the Old North food coop

The store is well stocked with fresh foods at good prices:

The coop supports local farmers from around St. Louis:

The store is open to the public with no membership required. They are located on St. Louis Avenue, just a block east of the new Crown Square development and Crown Candy Kitchen. Hours are convenient for a stop on your way home before dinner.

It's a neighborhood and community-based project and part of the continuing work to improve St. Louis one step at a time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The case for lowering neighborhood speed limits

For years, this website has promoted the organizaton, "Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25". In fact, the creator of this website served as one of the St. Louis area contacts for the program. Keep Kids Alive is a fine program, and STL Rising will continue to serve as a local representative. However, for the city of St. Louis, we believe an even further reduction in speed limits on neighborhood streets is worth a look.

STL Rising proposes reducing the maximum legal speed on neighborhood streets to 18 miles per hour. We propose 18 mph as a universal, city-wide standard for neighborhood streets. If this seems extreme, let's examine some of the thinking behind the idea.

The city of St. Louis is endowed with thousands of miles of streets layed out on a fine urban street grid. When it snows, most neighborhood streets are not plowed. Besides the cost, the reason neighborhood streets are not plowed is that they are too narrow. Snow would be piled over the cars. So instead, drivers must navigate the ruts of snow and ice out of their neighborhood. The consolation of this situation is that no driver is never more than two blocks from a plowed street. This same situation would apply to a program of reduced speed limits.

If speed limits on neighborhood streets were reduced to 18 miles per hour, no driver would be more than two blocks away from a wider, busier, street with speed limits of 25-35 miles per hour. The net result of the change awould be a negligible delay in people's drive times, but a huge increase in neighborhood quality of life.

Slower travelling cars on neighborhood streets means quieter streets. It means safer streets, and it means more peaceful neighborhoods. A universal speed limit would be easy to understand - it applies to all neighborhood streets.

An ordinance could be passed that unless otherwise posted, all streets in the city limits of St. Louis have a maximum allowable speed of 18 miles per hour. This approach makes it possible to avoid the cost of changing posted speed limit signs. If a block wanted to install their own 18 mph speed limit sign, they would have the option of paying for the cost on their block.

St. Louis has a fantastic street grid, great for walking, lined with beautiful matures tree lined streets, and which presents our wonderful historic neighborhoods. Why not take advantage of this natural asset by making our streets even more friendly and safe by lowering speed limits on neighborhood streets to a max of 18 miles per hour?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Power Play tonight

My new favorite R and B show band, "Power Play", is performing at CJ Muggs in Webster from 9-1 tonight. If you go, I'll be there wearing the #4, Molina jersey. Stop by to say "hi" and hear some great live music. You will be glad you did!

"St. Louis' downtown 'light years' ahead of other major cities"

Last night we attended a ballgame at Busch Stadium. Over 41,000 fans were there. After the game, around 10:15 pm, fans exiting the stadium flooded the surrounding streets. I wondered how successful new restaurants and bars would be in the area, facing the Metro Station, or lining 7th street on the vacant Ballpark Village site? Sidewalk cafes would be packed on a beautiful night like this. A 7-1 Cards win doesn't hurt either.

Back at the game, next to us at sat two lawyers. One was a recent transplant to St. Louis, having moved here from New York City just eight months ago. Previous to New York, he lived in LA for about eight years. Now, through a job opportunity, he's a downtown STL resident and he couldn't say enough positive things about living downtown.

He bought a loft, which he loves, is twice as big as his New York place, and cost half the price. He describes a lifestyle where he walks to Blues games, walks to his downtown law office, walks to Cardinal games, walks to the grocery store, and even walks to a casino. He walks to City Garden, the library, and soon, he'll be able to walk to a much improved Arch grounds.

Earlier this week, on WGNU radio, two ladies visiting St. Louis for a convention of a womens' sororiety group were being interviewed about their visit here. One was from Chicago, the other Philadelphia. They were both thoroughly enjoying their stay and the one thing they kept repeating was how clean our downtown is. The lady from Philly was really impressed, and was describing how filled with trash Philadelphia's streets are.

So after listening to the show, I took a walk outside to look around. They were right. It's hard to find a single piece of trash lying anywhere around in downtown STL. Someone is paying attention to the little stuff. Part of that effort happens thanks to the work of the Downtown Partnership.

By now, hopefully you've had a chance to listen to Steve Patterson's interview of Downtown Partnership president, Maggie Campbell. Maggie is one of those few people who are a real joy to listen to. She gets into the finer grain of things while keeping things interesting. Anyone who can make overflowing trash cans and dog poop mines on the sidewalk sound like a measure of downtown's growing success is worth an investment of your time.

Halfway through the Campbell interview, Patterson's call drops and Maggie is left wondering if the interview's over. "Hello? Hello?" She waits on the line. After a minute or two, Patterson overcomes the technical problem, and the call continues for the remainder of the hour.

Being techno-challenged, I'm still trying to figure out how that's possible? They're each in separate locations, presumably talking over smart phones. Patterson's call drops; Maggie stays on the line, continuing to be heard over the internet; and then, Patterson gets back on the air, all without missing a beat. Ahh, more technology I will never understand.

Be sure to give the interview a listen. It's hard to think of another venue where you get to hear a full hour of uninterrupted, intelligent discussion with one of our region's top leaders.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sign up for City to River email updates

City to River, the organization promoting the reconnection of the City to the Arch grounds and riverfront by the removal of the downtown lanes of Interstate 70, has created an easy way for members of the general public to support this growing movement.

Through its website, City to River is offering automatic email updates on the highway removal effort. If you are interested in supporting the efforts of City to River, please sign up for email updates at the lower right hand corner of this page.

Excellent interview with President of Partnership for Downtown St. Louis

Maggie Campbell interviewed by Urban Review's Steve Patterson.

Click to hear a great discussion (without commercial interruptions) covering a wide range of topics.

Campbell is impressive with her insights, experience, energy, and vision for improving downtown St. Louis. Patterson shows his interviewing skills.

Friday, July 09, 2010

STL Rising is not on twitter... we repost good posts!

Like this (from the website "Gateway Streets"):

Much ado about Interstate 70 traffic

Cool post from Seoul

The internet brings people together from all around the world. Daron Dierkes, a writer stationed in Seoul, blogs at stlelsewhere with his attention focused on St. Louis.

Mr. Dierkes has some good ideas for how the intersection of Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive might be redesigned. Visit the site and view the concept here:

stlelsewhere on a new plan for the intersection of Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Blowing up things

MODOT is demolishing old bridges over I-70 to make way for the new Mississippi River Bridge.

It's quick work, starting around 7:00 pm on a Friday, and being all wrapped up by 5:00 am Monday morning.

Any idea how much these drop and haul off operations typically cost? What happens to all the rubble and old steel?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Vote for Gateway Greening Today

Gateway Greening is a finalist in a national contest to win a $100,000 grant.

Voting closes tonight at 9:00 PM EST.

Click here for more info and be sure to vote for Gateway Greening:

link to MSNBC contest page


Everybody wins! Gateway Greening and the two other non-top-prize-winning-finalists each received $50,000 grants for their efforts.

The Bay Area Food Bank won the $100,000 top prize.

Congratulations all around!

Is that something?

With the main stage behind them, citizens sit on concrete steps at the riverfront to see something:

In a scene reminiscent of old St. Louis, these citizens are gathered under trees and view something:

With the main stage off in the distance, possibly 300,000 gather to watch something under the Arch:

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, the streets and alleys of Laclede's Landing are mostly empty:

Yet the people at Laclede's Landing gather to watch something:

Performing in the shadow of the Eads Bridge, in front of a couple hundred people, local R and B group, Power Play, knocks out hit after hit of Motown and soul classics.

Power Play has performed around St. Louis for almost 20 years.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Long Lines at Culinaria

Culinaria's lines get longer every time you visit the store.

Here is a view of a mid-day line. All the cashiers are helping customers, and the line is backed up beyond the regular waiting area.

The success of the store appears to be increasing. I wonder how many other Schnuck's in the St. Louis market have mid-day lines like this?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Seattle officially begins waterfront highway removal project

Goal is to create a great central waterfront.

Track the project here, and at the permanent link on the right side of this page.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Challenge to St. Louis

St. Louis is famous for cool traditions but also for our resistance to change. Soon we will be asked to overcome that resistance and pull together as a community to carry out a transformation of our downtown's riverfront area.

We are in the midst of an historic design competition. The work of world class design teams will soon build a vision to transform our downtown, the Arch grounds, and riverfront. The results offer the potential to be the crowning achievement of more that 25 years of downtown revitalization. The elusive dream of a riverfront and Arch grounds which are connected to downtown and active with people is on the brink of coming true.

It has taken a lot of work to get us here. Civic leaders pushed for years to make this happen. They convinced the National Park Service and the City of St. Louis to sponsor an international design competition to reinvigorate the Arch grounds. That competition has drawn the brightest talent from around the world to focus on our downtown, riverfront and the Arch - and the too long neglected east bank of the river. Soon the five teams will be releasing their plans to the public and the jury will be tasked with making the decision to select the winning design.

Then the challenge will be on St. Louis and the region to follow through to make it happen. It will take all of us working together as a region to raise the money and will to get this done. St. Louis is famous for completing plans that are never carried out. We can't let that happen this time.

This time we need to follow through on the hard work that got us here to make the dream a reality for the future of St. Louis. Everyone has to be in the boat and pulling in the same direction. We need to ask ourselves, our neighbors, and our community organizations what we are willing to do to make it happen?

The program to transform the Arch grounds and riverfront is an opportunity to bring the St. Louis region together in many new partnerships. These are exciting times and we are on the brink of doing something very special. This project has the potential to not only transform the built environment and experience of the downtown and east bank area but ultimately to make us better people as well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Free Ballpark Village!

There's a green in the heart of downtown St. Louis.

It's a place where over 3,000,000 people gather each year.

Yet it's fenced off from the public and sits empty.

Since the original plans for the site have gone on indefinite hold, maybe it's time to find alternative uses for the green?

As an interim use, it could be opened as a festival ground for use by downtown residents, workers and ballpark visitors.

It might be a soccer field or rugby pitch. Or perhaps the site of a new downtown charter school?

Has anyone heard if there's anything going on at Ballpark Village? If there's nothing, then why not open it up for alternative uses?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Federal Island

Repeat these words: "there's nothing wrong with the Arch...there's nothing wrong with the Arch..."

At the historic front door of St. Louis, our riverfront, a strange convergence happens. We have our historic riverfront and one of the world's most recognized monuments, the Arch. Unfortunately, the Arch and riverfront are separated from the rest of the city as if on an island.

The City + Arch + River design competition is intended to overcome the island effect and reconnect the Arch and riverfront to the city. Restablishing connectivity is the common theme of the new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial General Management Plan and the Arch design competition.

What we don't want to see happen is an expansion of the federal island. If the competition program is about reweaving connections between the riverfront, downtown, and the Arch, then the boundaries of the competition are where the design is most important.

If the St. Louis Art Museum, History Museum, and Science Center were all moved to the Arch grounds, would that increase visits to downtown? The Jefferson National Expansion Museum already has two museums, one under the Arch and one in the Old Court House. But if you ask visitors to the Arch, what drew them to the site, would they tell you it was the Arch or the museums? Most would say it was the Arch. "There's nothing wrong with the Arch; there's nothing wrong with the Arch".

Would a restaurant on the grounds of the Statue of Liberty draw more visitors to the Statue of Liberty? Would a museum alongside the Eifel Tower draw more visitors to the Eifel Tower? Like these two iconic landmarks, people come to see the icon.

Another goal of the design compeition is to catalyze the Arch grounds as a way to enliven downtown. Hence, downtown should be the destination for services, not the landmark. Looking at the possible downside, if there were a new restaurant or other services offered on the Arch grounds, they might siphon off customers who would otherwise patronize downtown restaurants and local businesses.

How do new attractions on the Arch grounds or the East St. Louis riverfront improve the connection between the riverfront, downtown and the Arch grounds? It is hard to see how they do.

If reestablishing connectivity is the biggest goal of the design competition, then the number one goal of the program should be to solve the connection problem and secure funding to make it happen before planning new attractions.

What St. Louis does not need is a nicer island in the heart of downtown. What people are calling for is a City that is reconnected to the River.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Arch" plan scuttled; feasible, low risk plan chosen for riverfront

From the what if file...

Friday rewind

Summer is Farmer's Market season in St. Louis, and downtown is in on the action:

Washington Avenue gets lots of attention and is home to cool places on every block, but Olive Street has a real urban canyon feel too, and is seeing a big increases in pedestrian traffic:

I vote for Olive to be the place to host downtown's next parade. Narrow city streets make the best parade venues.

Ecology of Absence has moved

It is now part of Michael Allen's Preservation Research Office website. Links have been updated.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A sustainable future for the Mississippi watershed?

That's what river interests are considering this week in St. Louis. The timing of their meeting could not be better as it comes just before the second round of mid- course reviews for the teams competing in the Arch design competition.

Early plans to reinvigorate the downtown St. Louis riverfront included such ideas as manmade, floating islands. But those were ruled out due to the frequent flooding and fast currents of the river at St. Louis.

The Mississippi watershed is one of the largest in the world, and having its future planned in St. Louis is a great opportunity. Weaving these efforts together with the future of the Arch grounds provides further opportunities for connecting St. Louis with its historic riverfront, creating sustainable futures for the river and the riverfront.

There is more reading to do. What defines a "sustainable watershed"? With all the water the Mississippi River carries, what distinguishes it from being a sustainable or non-sustainable watershed? The answer probably has something to do with such things as flood plains, flooding, dams, river travel, and farmlands...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trust for Public Land covers City to River, DOT shared interests...

Is the City to River downtown St. Louis boulevard plan aligned with new US Department of Transportation urban infrastructure strategies?

The boulevard can brighten your day!

Does driving the depressed lanes or on the top of an elevated highway lift your spirits? Does the experience improve your daily routine? Does it make you happy?

What about driving through Forest Park? Do you ever plan your trips through the park when connecting between Point A and Point B? I know I do. There are lots of ways to go, but the beauty of the drive through the park makes for a better day. I like seeing the green of the park rather than the grey of concrete.

Do you think a landscaped boulevard, possibly with a fountain or two, and views of the Eads Bridge, the Arch and Old Court House might have the same effect? Would it be a nicer way to make your way through town than on a buried highway or elevated interstate?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What he said...

Guest PD Columnist, Brad Fratello, writes about the proposed downtown boulevard plan:

City to River says lose "The Lid", back "The Boulevard"

The print edition has four color before and after photos. Pick up a copy to share with friends!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Arch boulevard to catalyze $1.2 billion in new downtown investments?

City to River cites Development Strategies statistics on the development potential created by a new boulevard next to the Arch.

Post Dispatch reports on the possibility of a new Memorial Drive.

Lots of updates and questions answered at the City to River website...

For those wondering about the development of downtown, remember that over the last ten years, downtown growth has exceeded by many multiples goals as set forth in the Downtown Now plan.

The formula calls for a public/private partnership whereby updated infrastructure brings about economic growth. We have done it before and we can do it again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Active streets in downtown - what works?

The view above is taken around 5:15 pm from northbound 7th Street about two hours before game time. Over the next two hours, cars and pedestrians crowd the streets and sidewalks in front of Busch Stadium.

Around the corner, on the south side of Busch, there is the elevated structure of Interstate 64. It casts a shadow over the area, creates a foreboding presence, and there are few pedestrians and little streetlife. The condition is not unlike the area along the riverfront, Laclede's Landing, and the Arch grounds created by the presence of Interstate 70.

The boulevard plan proposed by City to River creates a connection between activity generators (the Arch, riverfront, and downtown neighborhoods) encouraging street life. Currently, the area instead is dominated by the presence of an interstate, which acts to deaden the area and discourage street life, just as we see along the south side of Busch Stadium.

The riverfront, Arch grounds, and downtown neighborhoods are already good activity generators or "assets". But generally, all of these areas have minimal street life, especially around the Arch and riverfront. So, the question is, which draws street life, good streets or activity generators?

City to River has created a "What You Can Do" page at the City to River website. If you want to see a pedestrian friendly boulevard in place of the soon-to-be-former downtown lanes of Interstate 70, consider taking these steps in support of the City to River effort.