Posts Tagged ‘Midtown’

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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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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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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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Metrolink Bridge over Vandeventer appears to be designed for Murals

January 31, 2011

As I have previously written, The Grove (also known as Forest Park Southeast) is home to a growing number of murals that really make a big impact on the perceptions of a visitor to the neighborhood.  Although The Grove has a wonderful start, its collection of murals is still quite small, at least in comparison to the large number of blank walls facing Manchester (and other side streets in the neighborhood).  With the addition of the neon sign at Manchester and Sarah, The Grove is becoming more and more of an attractive place, and I am convinced that this investment will pay off.

New Neon "Welcome to The Grove" Sign

A great way to add to this momentum is with more murals, and what better place to start but at more of the neighborhood’s “thresholds.”  With neighbors like Barnes Jewish, Wash U Med School and St. Louis University, those points of entry that are visible to these significant populations hold lots of potential.  As a SLU student I would often hike over to the Phillips 66 on Vandeventer for their competitively priced tall cans of Budweiser, but was totally unaware of The Grove’s existence just a couple of short blocks away.  In addition, I felt that the dismal walk from Campus was only barely worth the cheap beer.

Now, the Rail Bridge over Vandeventer just south of Highway 40 has been rebuilt, and it has indented arches along both sides of the roadway, and in the support that splits the opposing lanes of traffic.

Train Bridge over Vandeventer – Doesn’t it seem to be asking for Murals?

These spaces seem to be designed for murals, and I really hope that whoever is responsible for this bridge (Metro?) is open to the idea.  I truly believe that SLU students would be more willing to walk to attractions in the Grove if the walk itself were more attractive.  Right now, passing underneath the highway and train tracks is the scariest part of the trip.  Bright and Colorful Murals underneath one of the bridges could not only make the walk more enjoyable right away, they could also encourage the addition of even more artwork to the area, maintaining the momentum that has been building here for several years now.

For more on the Grove’s Murals, see MUMC.Wordpress.com.

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Ellen Clark Sculpture Park Finally has Sculptures

December 15, 2010

While visiting The Best Steak House this past weekend, I noticed some activity on the former site of the Marina Building at Lindell and Grand, a fenced-in grass lot that was recently bestowed with a sign identifying it as the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park.  It was finally getting sculptures!

Ellen Clark Sculpture Garden is Under Construction

This lot has been informally used as a dog park for several years and I am glad to see it made into a more attractive place. Although I am disappointed to see a permanent use for the land that doesn’t add to the density of the neighborhood, the fact that something is happening is a releif.  What I really hope is that the black fence (ubiquitous on SLU’s campus) surrounding the lot is removed.

Not the Entrance - A Fenced in Sculpture Park

This corner is very important in linking SLU’s campus to Grand Center and while it is fenced-in it will remain underused, something that is particularly important to avoid in a place where neither of the two adjacent corners attract much activity.  Midtown is one of the coolest neighborhoods in St. Louis already; with more seamless connectivity between the University’s, Grand Center and Midtown Alley, the neighborhood could truly reach its potential.

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High Ball Alley

October 9, 2010

Grand Center is one of St. Louis’ coolest areas, but has some pretty bad problems.  I would say the that the biggest problem is one shared with Downtown and other city neighborhoods: it can’t keep people around after events.  People drive in to see shows at The Fox, The Sheldon, Powell Hall, The Black Rep etc., and then hop right back into their cars and drive home.

Grand Center from the North

Some do have a bite to eat at Kota Wood Fire Grill, The Best Steak House or the new City Diner @ The Fox before hand, but theater/concert patrons only add business for the hour or two directly preceding their show.  Looking at a map of Grand Center, the explanation for this phenomenon is pretty obvious.

Ample Parking

Although the view from Grand is wonderful, most of Grand Center is made of parking lots.  The only thing to do is park and then leave.  For Grand Center to be the entertainment destination that it could be, the parking lots must be replaced with something!  Clearly parking is necessary, but surface is not the answer.  We need some parking garages with stores, bars, restaurants and clubs on the first floor and we need mixed-use infill everywhere else.  To make this task easier and reduce the amount of land in need of development, I propose adding a North/South street in between Spring and Grand from Olive all the way to Enright.

Grand Center Avenue (or High Ball Alley!)

This short Avenue also creates much more walkable blocks that improve the friendliness of the pedestrian experience.  Looking at the map I became curious if there was once a similar street in place breaking up these long blocks, but according to the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1907, no such street existed.  What did exist, however, was a short street connecting the back of the St. Louis Club to the Olive streetcar.  On the map it is labeled “High Ball Alley.”

A little bit of Google investigation yielded more about the drink than the alley, but proved quite interesting nonetheless.  Apparently the Highball had been invented in Grand Center at the University Club during the late 1800s, and had become a very popular drink at the area clubs.  Somehow, over time, the streetcar conductors changed the name of their stop along this stretch of Olive, from the St. Louis Club stop to Highball Alley.  This spot, that was once popular enough to have its own name and streetcar stop, is now a pair of surface parking lots.

High Ball Alley Today

I think that Grand Center’s revitalization would get a huge boost from the creation of an extended High Ball Alley.  Doesn’t it sound like a great place to meet for a drink?

References to High Ball Alley/The St. Louis Highball:

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0101a&L=ads-l&P=10786

http://www.oldandsold.com/articles16/american-travel-18.shtml

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More and More Good News for Midtown (Alley and Grand Center)

September 27, 2010

I am walking around (or at least driving through) Midtown Alley every chance I get.  This is one of the most swiftly changing neighborhoods in the entire city and it’s evolution is exciting to witness.

Progress @ MotoEuropa

I took the above picture in excitement that the motorcycle dealership would be opening soon, and just a couple hours later when I was back in the area I noticed that a sign had been added.  It actually happens that fast.

New Sign for MotoEuropa!

After taking a few pictures of progress at MotoEuropa, I decided to do a little online reading and found a Business Journal article about the neighborhood via Threshold Investment Properties.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - Coming Soon

Besides what I know from “Coming Soon” signs, learned that an independent restaurant called Field House Sports Bar & Grill is apparently opening up on Theresa in the P.W. Shoe Lofts Building.  Two chain restaurants are also planning to open up locations in the already crowded section of Olive East of Compton (home to Pappy’s, The U and The Good Pie just to name a few).

South Side of Olive, just East of Compton - The Loft, Buffalo Brewing Co

One of these restaurants, Pita Pit, is a personal favorite of mine when I am traveling and forced to eat fast food.  This is one rare occasion in which I’m happy to hear about a new chain restaurant coming town.  The choice of Midtown Alley is awesome because it demonstrates that more people are noticing the neighborhoods potential.  The fact that chain restaurants are eying Midtown Alley also brings up another key to its success: multiple investors.  Renaissance Development Associates, The Lawrence Group, SLU, and others (such as Maebelle Reed, owner of the soon to open Plush in the Cadillac Building on Locust) have all worked together to make the neighborhood what it is today and what it will be in the future.

Future Home of KDHX

Meanwhile, in nearby Grand Center, the situation sees to be improving as well, with neighborhood newcomer City Diner @ The Fox appearing to attract customers on theater off-days (without hurting business at the always delicious Best Steak House).  Class has started at the Grand Center Arts Academy, temporarily housed in the Third Baptist Church.  Also, a recent announcement that community radio station KDHX is moving into the former home of the Creepy Crawl is great news as well.  A nice article on this appeared in the September issue of St. Louis Magazine and is worth the read.  Midtown is the center of our city, and hopefully it is finally getting the attention it deserves.

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Activity in Grand Center

March 30, 2010

The Intersection of Art and Life has been off to a great start this year.  Kota Fire Grill is open and with the same ownership as Triumph Grill I have faith that it will outlast its location’s recently previous tenants.  Around the corner at 3526 Washington, a new hair salon, Salon Edge Hair and Tanning is open, with a Jewelry Store, Grand Center Jewelers, and a Computer Repair shop, Virtual Technologies.

3526 Washington

This retail space is a great addition to Grand Center and I wish these businesses success.  Luckily they will be able to take advantage of added traffic from the City Diner @ The Fox which although behind schedule (what isn’t) appears to be well on it’s way to opening.  Today I saw this public announcement about a neon sign for the new diner.

Extremely exciting.  Another recent move to Grand Center was made by the Veterans Affiars Dermitology Clinic to the retail space in the Continental Life Building on Olive.  Today when I went to take a picture of this new office I found an even better picture @ Grand and Olive.

Cobblestones and Streetcar Track peeking through the street on Grand and Olive

The history of Grand Center is its greatest asset in my opinion and I think this is one pothole the city should not repair.

Also underway is work on the new location of Sweetie Pie’s on Delmar.  I’m very glad to see that the ugly facade is being removed to expose the brick building.

New Sweetie Pie's

Seeing the work here actually started is really great, particularly so soon after the initial announcement.  I hope we see the same kind of swift action getting work started on renovating the Beaux Arts Building (Carter Carburetor Corporation @ 711 N. Grand) to be the home of Grand Center’s new Arts oriented Charter School (the Grand Center Arts Academy)

I am very happy to hear about this new Grand Center Development and think that another school in the area (there are already at least 2 in Grand Center) will be great.  2010 is looking pretty nice for Grand Center and I can’t wait to see these latest projects reach completion.

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The Armory

February 21, 2010

The Armory is a special place for me because it was my first major urban discovery.  Although I had seen the building many times driving past it on highway 40 over the years, walking around the massive structure was an entirely new experience.

View of The Armory from Westbound 40

The building is both in use and horribly blighted.  Most of the exterior windows are broken and rooms appear to simply be filled with trash, but a peek inside the basement parking area yields luxury cars and lights.  In this UrbanSTL thread, ecoabscence says it was being used as parking for Famous Barr employees (in January 2005), but I have been back this year and despite the fact that the Macy’s warehouse next door is closed, the garage continues to have just enough cars in it to let me know that something is going on there.  Also, St. Louis Patina has a great piece on the Armory,  but many questions remain.  Basically, I’m still very curious about the Armory.

Armory from across Eastbound 40

So much must have happened here, I’m not sure why google hasn’t told me more.  I know that a proposed sale of the Armory in 1981 almost led to a fistfight outside of the state legislature.  I know that Tennis greats honed their game here and that the Fox Associates got a contract to try to help the Armory expand as a concert venue but I don’t know much else.  Luckily this research led to another interesting finding.  This particular National Guard Armory is one of many armories we used to have around the city.  It is also not unique in its housing of athletics.  Another Armory (the Battery A), once located close by at 1221 South Grand, was for a short period of time home to the St. Louis Gunners, an NFL team we had in the 1930s.  The same Armory also hosted boxing matches during the same time period.

I still have lots of questions about the Armory (and the others around the city), and would love to see the inside of it, but I am actually satisfied with the fact that I was able to discover it at all.  Maybe there’s still more going on there than it looks like.

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The Best Steak House

February 5, 2010

The Best Steak House, with its prime location (on Grand “across from the Fox“), delicious food, reasonable prices (shown after tax on the menu boards) and otherwise wonderful experience, is my favorite place to eat.

St. Louis Restaurants

Best Steak House in Grand Center

As a SLU student I would sometimes eat lunch at the steak house and then return for dinner.  When I discovered the Chicken Gyro, I met one of my best friends.  At my most recent job, I had a Monday, Wednesday and Friday Best Steak House Lunch set up that ran for months.  My coworkers and I would play a game where we would try to finish an entire steak dinner and then stay awake for the rest of the shift.

Steak and Chicken Plate - 10 dollars after tax

I accidentally covered up my steak with the Texas toast for this picture but there really is a six ounce rib-eye under there and the meal did actually cost just ten dollars.  More commonly I get the chicken sandwich baked potato daily special which comes out to 5.85 with tax – Incredible.  If possible, save room for dessert.  German Chocolate cake, Carrot cake and Baklava are my favorites here but if you’re too full after eating one of those steak dinners, I’d recommend simply looking around the room at the excellent collection of historical photographs of the neighborhood.  This history lesson is expanded upon a little more by Living St. Louis:

According to the small ammount of additional information I have been able to find online, The Best Steak House on Grand is a remnant of what was once a larger trend in the United States.  Luckily, from what I have read, we are left with the Best of the Best Steak Houses.  A reviewer of The Best Steak House on Broadway in Chicago gave a brief history of the business model:

Once upon a time, “Best Steak Houses” littered big cities and small towns across America. They weren’t part of a chain or a franchise — they were just cheap places to get a steak, baked potato, and the ubiquitous Texas toast.

This reviewer “John B.” went on to give the Chicago eatery a terrible review demonstrating to me that what our Best Steak House has to offer is truly unique in the year 2010.  In many ways, Grand Center owes the increasing stability it now has more to the Steak House than to the Fox Theatre or Powell Hall.

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