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North Sarah Redevelopment – Phase 3

March 28, 2017

The North Sarah Redevelopment has continued to grow, and its most recent phase appears to be nearing completion.  The project was an early topic for this blog, and has now inspired a follow-up.

To provide a bit of background: McCormack Barron Salazar broke ground on phase 1 of the North Sarah Redevelopment Project in 2011 centered around Sarah and CD Banks.  They completed phase 2 on Vandeventer in 2013.  The current phase included a re-working of Turner Park, and extends new construction west to Whittier.

Turner Park from Above.jpg

Looking Northeast towards the corner of Sarah and CD Banks

The new Turner Park is attractive, and retains two structures from the previously existing park.  A new landscaped walking path with benches and gardens wraps the park that was previously dominated by a softball field.  Gone is the chain link fence that once lined its perimeter, and the addition of a playground appears to be quite popular.

Turner Park

Turner Park looking South from Sarah and CD Banks

Unfortunately, three historic homes have been demolished as part of this phase, in addition to the few that were previous casualties of the project.  The most recent set were documented by VanishingSTL back in July of 2014.  Since the development includes dwellings for as few as four families, working around existing building stock should have been a great problem.

North Sarah Construction.jpg

Finney Avenue looking east towards Sarah

A stroll through more in-tact nearby blocks of the neighborhood presents an argument for preservation.  The home pictured below is directly across the street from the three residences referenced by vanishingstl in the link above.

Vandeventer Neighborhood Residence.jpg

A few blocks to the west (and just a block east of Ranken Tech) is a great collection of commercial/industrial buildings that are awaiting a new use.  Enright Avenue immediately to the south has few “missing teeth” (at least west of Sarah), and showcases the very best of St. Louis residential architecture.  Buildings along this corridor are in various states of repair, but the success of North Sarah along with a steady stream of infill/rehabs on Delmar and to the immediate south elicits optimism.

Enright.jpg

Enright Avenue in the Vandeventer Neighborhood

North Sarah feels nice to visit.  At least one of the live/work spaces includes a useful and interesting retail store.  Turner Park looks great.  Hundreds of new residents have moved in within the last five or so years.  The North City Food Hub is set to open this summer in the never-really-occupied anchor retail space at Sarah and CD Banks.

North Sarah.jpg

Looking North on Sarah

This project has done a lot of good things, and in terms of form and materials it sets a great example for urban development in “less-desirable” (i.e., North of Delmar) portions of the city.  The problem is that it’s repetitive in a way that’s visually boring.  It’s a poor match for the smaller scale, incremental development that makes up much of the surrounding area.  It’s too big because it has to be in our “economy of scale” age.

Enright Avenue.jpg

It’s the little things.

I don’t have the answers here, but we must find a way to attract investment from a variety of developers that can tackle one to five lots rather than 50 to 500.  The North Sarah project has done a good job in its three phases, but whatever phase 4 is it needs to try something different.  It’s the little things that make a neighborhood great.

Further Reading:

Slyvester Brown’s STL American Column on the North City Food Hub: http://www.stlamerican.com/business/business_opinion/a-new-model-for-developing-north-st-louis/article_519f6618-a6ca-11e6-ae49-334af5ff88f0.html

 

 

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Top of the Parking Garage

March 16, 2015

Downtown St. Louis has far too many parking garages that deaden the streetscape and ugly-up our beautiful built environment.  In the spirit of optimism, these garages are definitely good for one thing – providing public access to breathtaking views otherwise reserved for the occupants of corner offices.  Below are some of my favorite Downtown St. Louis parking garage rooftop photographs.

Terra Cotta Detail

Olive from Garage Mahal

Met Square

Union Trust Lions (and Pidgeon)

I-64

17th and Washington

Union Station

Railway Exchange

Locust Street

Looking Southwest

Purina

Car Park Village

Wainwright, etc.

Looking East

9th and Olive

PET Building

Old Post Office Roof

SLU Law and Courthouses

Tucker

Pine Street View of the Soldier’s Memorial and Plaza Square

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Cementland in 2015

January 21, 2015

I first wrote about Cementland in early 2010.  Now, just over three years after the tragic death of Bob Cassilly, the site is slowly becoming another St. Louis landmark forgotten by all but Graffiti Artists and Urban Explorers.  The following are photos of this incredible place in its current state.  I still maintain hope that an individual or group will attempt to fulfill Cassilly’s grand vision, but it’s a long shot.

Cementland in 2015

Northwest Corner

Train Tracks

Reeds

Reflections

Bench and Sculpture(s)

Bridges

Edge of a Bridge

Near the Entrance

Cementland

Downstairs

We need to save this place.

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The Telephone Company

December 14, 2014

The telephone is possibly the most rapidly advancing technology of our time.  Flip phones alone could have killed the landline, and smartphones compete with almost every other device in our lives.  Public Payphones, once ubiquitous and imperative, are now an endangered species (I’ve been documenting the survivors on my Flickr stream).

Payphone outside of the abandoned Bell Telephone Company at Locust and Beaumont

As fast as the technology changes, one physical reminder of the old days remains in many communities: The telephone company’s local exchange/switching office.

Bell Telephone Company on Natural Bridge at the St. Louis City Limits

These are in addition to the more high-profile downtown headquarters that are a part of every major American City’s skyline.

Old Bell Telephone Building in Downtown St. Louis

AT&T on the Skyline in St. Louis

Below are some of my favorite neighborhood/community telephone company offices in St. Louis.  My full collection of these photos are in this album on Flickr.

Detail on the Natural Bridge Building

Telephone Company in Kirkwood

AT&T

Detail on the Building at Washington and Spring in Grand Center

Kinloch Telephone Exchange in McKinley Heights

Webster Groves AT&T Building

Downtown East Boogie

East St. Louis Telephone Company

Switching Office on Delmar in the Academy Neighborhood

AT&T Building on South Grand

Detail on the Bell Telephone Company in Maplewood

I have yet to visit a number of other telephone company offices in the region, but hope to stumble upon more.  Happy exploring!

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129 Year Old Home Demolished – Gas Station Rumored Replacement

July 29, 2014

A few weeks ago I noticed a heartbreaking demolition just north of Downtown.  On one of the most active blocks in the vital transition between the heart of Downtown/Washington Avenue Loft District and neighborhoods to the north (part of Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration), a rare reminder of contiguous urban form connecting these areas has been erased.  Built in 1885, the home pictured below was purchased for $135,000.00 just over a year ago, only to be demolished a couple of months ago at a cost of $6,000.00.

Home on N. 13th before demolition

1414 N. 13th Street – June 2013

This last weekend I found the time to photograph the lot, and speak with the neighbors at Kunkel’s Auto.  Apparently the little shop’s days are numbered as well.

Soon to be demolished

Kunkel’s Auto – November 2013

The rumor is that a gas station will be going into this prime lot near the new Stan Span/Downtown interchange, and is part of Northside Regeneration’s plans for the area.

Tucker/N. 13th between Downtown and Stan Span Access

Tucker/N. 13th between Downtown and Stan Span Access

In the image above, the red circle identifies the demolished home, blue circles point out existing gas stations, and the green circle is the only other surviving home on this important stretch.  Note that much of the Tucker frontage is devoted to surface parking and inappropriate infill like the straight-out-of-suburbia McDonald’s at 1119 N. Tucker.  Single use modern housing developments barricaded from walkable downtown by superblocks and fences dominate areas to the east and west, leaving Tucker as the only feasible way that McKee’s plan can connect livable urban places to the north and south.

1414 N. 13th – Gone

By squandering what little is left of this area’s built environment for another gas station/convenience store, Northside Regeneration is proving that it’s unfit for the job of remaking this part of our city, choosing instead to double-down on the failed strategies of the last few decades.  I hope that the rumors are wrong, but can’t help but believe them.

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McRee Town Today

May 17, 2014

The McRee Town neighborhood (recently rebranded Botanical Heights) has seen an incredible transformation over the last couple of years.  Its positive trajectory has a lot of momentum thanks to the pioneering local design/build firm UIC.  Their redevelopment provides an excellent example for other areas of the city.

McRee and Tower Grove

The above intersection, virtually abandoned just a few years ago, is now seeing new life and gaining popularity thanks largely to sister establishments Olio and Elaia (I haven’t tried the restaurant but Olio’s cocktails are top-notch).  Situated in between Shaw’s Garden and the rapidly gentrifying Forest Park Southeast neighborhood (Tower Grove Ave is still rough there), McRee Town’s new-found spotlight improves outlook for the Tower Grove Avenue Corridor and adjacent areas.

Bar and Restaurant in McRee Town - Tower Grove Avenue

Olio and Elaia

New housing and commercial space in the form of ground up and rehab construction is coming online in the immediate vicinity of this intersection.  Union Studio, SLAM! Agency, La Patisserie Chouquette, DTLS, and City Garden Montessori have all moved into the neighborhood over the past couple of years, and residential demand is increasing.

SLAM!

Relatively rare in the City of St. Louis, single family home construction by UIC has been completed at an aggressive pace.

UIC Infill Housing in McRee Town

Multi-Family residential has also been recently developed at the Tower Grove Mews.

Tower Grove Mews

St. Louis’ lack of connectivity between its destination neighborhoods is possibly our biggest hurdle to overcome.  The interstates, stroads, superblocks and Schoemehl pots that isolate us will not disappear overnight, but evidence of progress in areas like McRee Town both inspire and motivate the entire region.

For more photos of McRee Town over the past few years see my flickr photo set here.

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Snowpocalypse 2014 – Forest Park Southeast

January 11, 2014

I weathered out the entirety of this past week’s winter storms in the comfort of my neighborhood, Forest Park Southeast (also known as The Grove).  Getting behind the wheel from Sunday to Tuesday was about as appealing as a visit to Chesterfield.  Hopefully this will be the worst of the season.  The photos below demonstrate just how small of an area I found myself willing to brave during these (relatively) extreme conditions:

Ped Xing

Domino’s Delivers in any Weather

Walking in the Snow

Pedestrians

I switched to black & white after my first brief outing:

Snow Storm in The Grove

Mural in The Grove

The Mangrove

Gotta Walk in the Street

Arco Avenue

Snowed In

Buried Car

Out to Shovel

Spherical Bollards

Dog in the Snow

Getting into the Car

Snowy Alley

Frosted Over Light Switch

Snow Plow on Newstead

The next day road conditions had improved immensely on the neighborhood’s major trafficways, but driving remained unattractive.

Cab and Pedestrians on Manchester

Abandoned Storefront

A new neighborhood market is in the works (presumably the same City Greens Market run by St. Cronan’s Parish about a block away), to replace No Coast skateboard shop (recently moved to 4427 Morganford):

Coming Soon: City Greens Market

Snow on the Shoulder

Stay warm and be safe!