Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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North Sarah Update

June 16, 2013

The North Sarah Redevelopment Project‘s second phase has really started to take shape.

Vandeventer, Grand Center, New Construction

North Sarah Phase II on Vandeventer looking north from Bell.

Three 2-3 story mixed use buildings facing Vandeventer Avenue just across the street from Grand Center’s western edge are the most visible signs of progress.  Although I am unaware of the plans here, similar buildings from phase I have live/work spaces facing Sarah.

From a 10/26/2012 Post-Dispatch article:

The front room doubles as a living room and waiting room, and a big sliding door covers half the interior wall. Roll it one way and an office appears off the waiting room, ready for business. Roll it the other, and the office disappears and a kitchen appears off the living room. A bedroom and laundry room are in back.

Driving/walking down Sarah you can see that most of these spaces are now occupied by small businesses (these shots taken on a Sunday evening):

Live/Work, Redevelopment, North St. Louis, Small Business

Diversity Gallery on North Sarah

Health care on North Sarah

Williams and Associates – Addressing Minority Health Disparities

Health care on North Sarah

Call of Duty Home Health Care Services

Many of the storefronts have more subdued signage that is hard to see while driving past, but the fact that almost all are advertising small businesses is very encouraging.  Across the street construction is underway on another portion of Phase II.  Hopefully commercial space of some sort is included in this new building as well.

New construction in the Vandeventer neighborhood

North Sarah Phase II – Mixed use building going up on the west side of Sarah

Now that the live/work spaces have occupants, maybe we’ll hear news about the planned grocery store soon.

Nothing inside, but the sliding door look promising.

Grocery Store on North Sarah

This is an exciting development, and I truly hope that it encourages infill development between Sarah and Vandeventer that allows at least some of the surviving historic homes to stay.

For more photos of this development, see my flickr set: North Sarah Redevelopment

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Near North Riverfront

June 2, 2013

The New Mississippi River Bridge is coming along quickly, and will soon raise the visibility of the Near North Riverfront neighborhood, and its main drag North Broadway.

Mound Street Bridge, Mississippi River, Cass Avenue Bridge

New Mississippi River Bridge from Broadway and Mound

This section of Broadway has a fairly intact built environment and is home to many businesses.  Admittedly it’s in pretty bad shape, but the potential here is humongous.

Near North Riverfront North Broadway Revitalization

Warehouses on North Broadway

Although the thoroughfare is major and many of its buildings are large, the street still has a human scale.  One of my favorite parts of coming here on the weekends is the large number of people out on their motorcycles (presumably many of them are in the area for Shady Jacks).

Motorcycle Tricks Wheelie

North Broadway is already a pretty cool place

Because this area is about to see a lot more traffic, developers will be tempted to build truck stops and drive-thrus with giant billboards and signs to advertise them.  Competitions for who can build the biggest and newest gas stations (or chain drug stores, etc.) have destroyed enough of our great intersections and commercial strips.

Highway Advertising, Urban Blight

Downtown St. Louis Interstate 70 Billboard

I hope the city is working to ensure that development around the new bridge will help knit together the neighborhoods north of downtown, rather than create more barriers in the form of auto-centric development.  670 Million dollars is a big investment that St. Louis needs to take advantage of.

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Ash Pits and Coal Chutes

May 9, 2013

Coal powered the industrial revolution in its beginnings in England, during its American continuation in New England and down the east coast.  Coal facilitated the rust belt’s rise, and remarkably remains the dominant source of energy worldwide today.  St. Louis is currently home to several large coal companies including Peabody, Patriot and Arch, but the heyday of coal usage in St. Louis (and the US) is in the past.

Peabody Coal's Mid-Century-Modern HQ

Peabody Energy’s Former Headquarters on Memorial Drive

At the middle of the 20th century most homes in the area were heated by coal (National use peaked around 1940, St. Louis experienced the worst side effects in late 1939).  I’ve heard stories about horse drawn wagons traversing the alleyways of St. Louis and dispersing various grades of coal to its consumers at least until that time.  Some reminders of this era remain, notably the coal chute doors (often marked by brand names like Banner, Schurk, Manchester, Mechanics or Majestic) that can be spotted on houses in every neighborhood of the city and in many parts of St. Louis County.

Historic Coal Chute Doors of Missouri

Coal Chute Doors

Ash pits are slightly harder to notice due to their placement on alleys, but are nonetheless an ever-present reminder of our coal heritage.  The most recognizable and common model of ash pit in the city is P.A. Shorb’s:

P.A. Shorb Ash Pit in a St. Louis City Alley

Ash Pits in-use as planters: P. A. Shorb 1475 Graham

See more photos of these relics below:

Masonic Temple Midtown Albert Groves Grand Center St. Louis University

Coal Chute Door on Masonic Temple on Lindell

Majestic:

Majestic Coal Chute Door

Older in the Gate District:

Coal Chute Door in the Gate District double door swing lock

Adapted to modern usage:

Coal Chute Door in use as a vent in South St. Louis

Ash Pit with Cacti:

Cacti in an Ash Pit in Kingsway East Neighborhood of North St. Louis

For more photos of Coal Chutes and Ash Pits see my flickr set.

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Chesterfield Commons and Downtown St. Louis

January 17, 2013

Chesterfield Commons is a gigantic strip mall that runs along highway 40. If you’ve never been (don’t go), it’s like every single big box store you’ve ever seen strung together in a giant row. From the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce’s website:

A great place for one-stop shopping. Seven large retailers – Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart Super Center, Target, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse – presently anchor this 1.9 million square foot commercial development. When finished it will be over 2 million square feet and 1.5 miles long, making it the largest open-air retail center in the country. Chesterfield Commons currently hosts more than 100 shops and 30 restaurants in this beautifully maintained location. The Galaxy cinema features a 500-seat auditorium with the region’s largest movie screen – measuring more than 5 stories. – Chesterfield, MO Chamber of Commerce

I like that it’s described as an “open-air retail center.” It’s a 1.5 mile strip of big box stores fronted by parking lots. Click the photo below to see the area in Google maps.

1.5 miles is huge. That’s the distance from 4th street to Jefferson.

“In business, it’s all about location. Chesterfield has easy access, a good road system and good demographics,” said Robey Taylor, executive director of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce. – St. Louis Business Journal

Downtown St. Louis (the combined Downtown and Downtown West Neighborhoods), is about 1.5 miles long. A single building, the Railway Exchange, has more than half the interior square footage of THF’s Chesterfield Commons.

However abundant land may seem, it is a finite resource, and its misuse contributes to many types of waste beyond that of square-footage (or acres or square miles). We currently have plenty of vacant land within the boundaries of St. Louis City, as well as available office, residential and retail space in every class. St. Louis needs to wake up to the fact that exclusively auto-centric greenfield development is a poorly considered and shortsighted investment. Maybe after those new outlet malls are completed we’ll have had enough.

Parking Lot that goes on and on for miles

Chesterfield Commons – Summer 2010

Suburban Sprawl Flood Plains St. Louis, MO

Aerial taken 7/11/2013 – Huge Outlet Mall across 64/40 is dwarfed by Chesterfield Commons

 

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North Sarah Redevelopment Moving Past Phase I

November 11, 2012

Phase I of the North Sarah Redevelopment celebrated its grand opening on October 16th.  This is a project that I have written about in the past, and the type of development that we definitely need more of in the City of St. Louis.

North Sarah and West Belle in November 2012

In the press release that followed the grand opening of Phase I, it was revealed that a grocery store would be one of the development’s retail tenants.

The community includes a mix of two and three-story buildings, plus almost 12,000 square feet of commercial, management and community space, which will include a small, locally-owned, fresh food grocery store.

The developers here also demonstrated an extremely encouraging understanding of the community’s 21st century needs.

Vincent R. Bennett, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of McCormack Baron Salazar said, “Sustainability means a lot of things: reducing a building’s impact on the environment is just a piece of this.  The sustainable features at North Sarah also include creating healthy living environments for our residents by reducing toxins and ensuring sufficient air flow. The community is walkable and connected to transit, keeping non-drivers like seniors and the disabled from becoming isolated. And the fresh food grocery will provide healthy living choices that will sustain our residents in the long-term.”

While Phase I is still getting its finishing touches, work continues on Phase II.  This work is apparent on the west side of Sarah between C.D. Banks and Finney, and along Vandeventer between W. Belle and Finney.

North Sarah as seen on Google Maps

I was hoping that this phase would include at least one renovation.  Unfortunately the home pictured below has been demolished.  Several Homes North and West of Turner Park appear to be headed for demolition as well.

Alley Between W. Belle and C.D. Banks near Vandeventer

I truly hope that the urban character of the development is maintained as it expands into Phase II.  Although I have no idea what the next phase will be like (hopefully not like the new strip mall on Vandeventer between Finney and Cook), some clues can be gathered from the newly launched website for the development.  Check out the rendering’s redevelopment of Turner Park.

Turner Park at W. Belle and N. Sarah

I hope that the developers are working with the neighborhood’s existing residents on this.  It would be a shame to remake the park into something that nobody would use.  See my photos tracking this development’s construction here.

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Carriage Blocks and Hitching Posts

November 7, 2012

While strolling around Layfayette Square a few weeks ago, I noticed for the first time that several homes around the square have stone blocks out near the curb in front of them.

A carriage step is a block of stone placed near the edge of the street usually in line with the front doorway of a home, it served as a stepping stone to help passengers as they climbed in and out of carriages. Popular back in the horse and buggy days of the 19th century carriage steps could be seen in towns and cities all over the United States. They are rarely seen in the present day as most carriage steps have been destroyed because they became obsolete when cars took over as primary transportation. – Carriage Steps in the United States

Just in case you didn’t click the link, that quote is the description of a youtube video.  I must not be using the right search terms.

Dr. Luytie’s Home on Lafayette Square

Despite an apparent lack of interest on the internet, I personally find these relics of our horse-drawn past fascinating.  In the photo above, a carriage stone advertises the mansion’s owner.  Dr. Luytie’s company is still in operation today as 1-800-HOMEOPATHY.

Carriage Stone on St. Louis Avenue in North St. Louis

These reminders of a seemingly distant past can be found in many part of the city.  Below is a concrete carriage block and hitching post near the intersection of Utah and Texas in Benton Park West.

Dr. A. S. in BPW

See more photos of carriage blocks and hitching posts that I’ve noticed around St. Louis here.

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Cast Iron Storefronts

August 30, 2012

Ubiquitous in almost every neighborhood in the City of St. Louis (and most inner-ring suburbs as well), cast iron storefronts offer a glimpse into St. Louis’ once booming architectural iron industry.  Ranging from purely functional to elaborately ornamented, and from lovingly cared for to all but forgotten, these architectural elements reflect the diversity and character of  St. Louis and its neighborhoods.

Union Iron & Foundry Co. Cast Iron Storefront on S. 4th Street Downtown

In the peak of their production, from the 1890s to the 1910s, St. Louis exported cast iron storefronts all around the region and out to the boom towns of the west.  Most well known and prolific were the Mesker Brothers (a company that doesn’t have a single storefront in town that I know of) and George L. Mesker & Co (brother to the Mesker Brothers) based out of Evansville, Indiana.  Because there is a wealth of information about these companies already available on the web (start here), and because there are so few of them that have been identified in the City of St. Louis, this acknowledgement is as far as I’m going to take the topic of the Mesker Brothers.

Mesker Brothers Side by Side in Wickliffe, KY

Luckily, although the Mesker Brothers’ signature was not left very apparently (at least to me) on their work in the City of St. Louis, their local competition made sure that their names would be remembered.  Below is a photographic inventory of all of the local Iron Works, Foundries and Manufacturing companies that produced cast iron storefronts in St. Louis, for St. Louis (as far as I know – I’m sure there are more out there and I’d love to hear about them).  So here it is, Cast Iron Storefronts, B through V.

Banner Iron Works

Banner Iron Works

Chester Iron & Foundry Co. (On right)

Chester Iron & Fdy Co.

Christopher and Simpson (J. Christopher & Co)

Christopher & Simpson

Gerst Bros Mfg. Co.

Gerst Bros

Globe Iron and Foundry Company

Globe Iron & Foundry Company

Kilpatrick & Gray

Kilpatrick & Gray

Koken Iron Works (Scherpe & Koken, Scherpe, Koken & Graydon)

Scherpe & Koken

Meyerpeter & LeLaurin

Meyerpeter & LeLaurin – South St. Louis, MO

Pullis Bro’s (T.R. Pullis & Sons, T.R. Pullis & Bro, Pullis Brothers)

Pullis Bro’s

South St. Louis Foundry (S. STL. F)

South St. Louis Foundry

Standard Foundry

Standary Foundry Co

St. Louis Architectural Iron Co.

St. Louis Architectural Iron Co – One of the more distinctive nameplates

The Union Iron and Foundry Co.

Union Iron and Foundry Co

Victor Iron Works

Victor Iron Works

For more photographs of cast iron storefronts around St. Louis and elsewhere, visit my Flickr photo set Cast Iron Storefronts.

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Projects in Grand Center Advancing as Promised

June 25, 2012

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Grand Center, and since then a lot has happened.  The neighborhood has been improving at a remarkable pace, with a lot more investment than we’re used to seeing around the city.  KWMU’s new home, UMSL at Grand Center just opened, and the building is a great addition to Olive Street.  I haven’t seen any signs of work on the proposed plaza behind this new building  but hopefully it’s still in the pipeline.

KWMU Grand Center

KWMU’s new Location on Olive Street

Just across Grand, the Metropolitan building renovation is a big project that will dramatically improve the look and feel of Grand Center’s center.  The Metropolitan Artist Lofts, as the project is being called, are scheduled to open September 1st and I’m getting excited.  As one of the largest buildings in the neighborhood, and one that has had a few failed attempts at rehab, the reopening of the Metropolitan Building will be a major psychological boost to Grand Center.  The activation of this building should also help to link Grand Center with SLU and Midtown Alley given its placement at the intersection of these three districts.

Metropolitan Artist Lofts

Just a couple blocks up Grand is another new sight.  The Grand Center Public Art area finally has its third installation.  Entitled “A Chromatic Confluence,” this colorful, interactive sculpture is quite unique and worth checking out.

A Chromatic Confluence

Particularly fitting is that this art installation is right across the street from the Grand Center Arts Academy.  Already home to Cardinal Ritter High School and Clyde C. Miller Career Academy (not to mention SLU), Grand Center is really establishing itself as a neighborhood that values education.

Grand Center Arts Academy

Another new addition to the neighborhood that this blog has reported on in the past is Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust.  Located on Delmar about halfway between Grand and Spring, the restaurant is a little bit isolated by parking lots and an abandoned building or two, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging any business.  Riding off the success of the TV show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” (which really shines a positive light on the city of St. Louis in my opinion), as well as their delicious food, this new location looks like it’s going to be an attraction of its own.

Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust

Grand Center has had an ambitious list of projects queued up, but after seeing so much recent success  I am confident that we will see many of them come to fruition.

Just for fun, here are some more photos I’ve snapped around the neighborhood in recent weeks:

NPR UMSL St. Louis Grand Center

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New Substation at Prospect and Scott – TOD?

December 13, 2011

Last year I wrote about the demolition of some old industrial buildings in the block bounded by Prospect Ave, Bernard St, Spring Ave, and the railroad tracks.

Site of New Substation Before Demolition

At the time I originally noticed the demolition I was unsure of its purpose, but speculated that this had something to do with work on the Grand viaduct and Metrolink station.  However disappointed I was about the clearing of this site, the buildings were ill-suited to reuse.  The old May Company warehouse at Market and Spring was freshly renovated, and I was hoping that The Armory would be next.  The idea that a new and improved Metrolink station could attract transit oriented development there was too exciting to ignore.

Work on the New Substation

Unfortunately, upon returning to the site a couple of weeks ago, I found that a tall, permanent fence, topped with barbed wire was being installed all around the block.   Workers on the site then confirmed to me that they were constructing an electrical substation.  Even to those who considered the block’s previous occupant an eyesore, a substation will almost certainly be uglier.

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North Sarah Project is a Good Role Model

September 15, 2011

Construction on an exciting new development is underway in North St. Louis.  On the east side of North Sarah, between Belle and Cook, what was recently urban prairie is now being transformed by St. Louis based McCormack Baron Salazar Development.

North Sarah Redevelopment

The area in question here was once the Sarah-Finney Business district.  In Ain’t But a Place, Miles Davis reminisces about the area.

Luckily the area is going to have some business activity returned to it.  Unlike almost every new project that I have seen in North St. Louis, this one includes mixed uses: both residential and commercial spaces.

Homes under construction along Finney

The project also makes use of green technologies such as permeable pavement for the sidewalks.

Permeable Pavement

Building setbacks are pretty much non-existent on the buildings to contain commercial space, and quite small on the residential buildings.  Density appears to be relatively high, and parking looks like it will be hidden behind the residences, but also allowed on-street.  Each intersection has eight curb-cuts and well marked crosswalks.  The pedestrian experience has not been overlooked here.

New Commercial Space on North Sarah

Directly across Sarah from the southern half of the development is Turner Park, home to a softball field and playground.  Along the southern edge of development on Belle is an in-tact block of the kind of homes that make St. Louis what it is proud to be.

Belle Avenue

Sarah is a key connector to the north side, and activating this corridor is a great step toward inviting St. Louisans into the north half of their city.  With the success of the Gaslight Square redevelopment to the south and close proximity to everything in the city, I am extremely optimistic about this project.  Even without these advantages, however, the good urban planning involved makes this development a great asset to the city, and will hopefully set a good precedent for future ideas.

For more information about the project and the history of the area, please see the links below:

History of the Sarah Finney Business District

Comet Theater on Finney

NextStl Forum Topic

Construction Details

Flickr Photos


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