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.
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.
We need to save this place.
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).
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.
These are in addition to the more high-profile downtown headquarters that are a part of every major American City’s skyline.
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.
I have yet to visit a number of other telephone company offices in the region, but hope to stumble upon more. Happy exploring!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Relatively rare in the City of St. Louis, single family home construction by UIC has been completed at an aggressive pace.
Multi-Family residential has also been recently developed at the 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.
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:
I switched to black & white after my first brief outing:
The next day road conditions had improved immensely on the neighborhood’s major trafficways, but driving remained unattractive.
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):
Stay warm and be safe!
This spring I started working in the Creve Coeur “Central Business District.” There’s a lot there. Tons of office space, plenty of retail, grocery stores, many restaurants, residential all over the place (with a large emphasis on multi-family), great school districts, close proximity to major hospitals, parks and even a public golf course. Creve Coeur has a lot to offer. Despite these assets, the area is unashamedly suburban, auto-centric and unfriendly to pedestrians (or human beings as I call them).
Interstate access and ample parking are the area’s main advertising points, but ironically, Creve Coeur’s CBD has nothing on Downtown St. Louis in both of those arenas.
In 2002, the city of Creve Coeur adopted a new master plan, envisioning a progressive future shaped by revised zoning that focuses on the transformation of its “central business district” (see this pdf for several maps of the area and conditions – well worth a thorough perusal).
The language of the planning document takes care to emphasize that Creve Coeur is “mature” as well as already “attractive and well planned.”
1. The City of Creve Coeur is an attractive, well-planned suburban community that is almost fully developed. It has strong residential neighborhoods, a strong retail corridor, a solid employment center, and strong educational and health institutions. There is much to value and protect in Creve Coeur. This plan urges gradual, but important changes that build on the existing community, not wholesale changes that alter its basic fabric. 2. “Big ideas” can be pursued in a mature, stable community such as Creve Coeur. The City can and should implement substantial changes in certain areas. Specifically, there is a desire to improve the “livability” of the community. This concept means different things to different people, but it generally involves several themes: – Addressing mounting vehicular traffic congestion including providing alternatives to automobile-only transportation, and creating a more pedestrian-friendly and “walkable” community with a network of pedestrian connections throughout the community. – Creating a system of recreational bicycle trails and commuter bike lanes/routes, which provide connections between residential areas, schools, parks and activity centers.
I like that livability is tied directly to alternative transportation. I wish the City of St. Louis had come out against “wholesale changes that alter its basic fabric” in its master plans. I wonder what would happen if the ideas expressed above were taken seriously by our region’s hopelessly addicted motorists.
Since the adoption of this comprehensive plan there has been visible progress. King’s Landing (pictured above) is the most obvious example, but a number of smaller developments have incorporated elements of urban design into their construction. Apartment buildings have been constructed alongside offices. Strip malls have been built to the sidewalk. Even car dealerships are building in the spirit of the new code. This is all despite the fact that the technical language of the zoning is relatively lenient in many areas. See the following setback guideline as an example:
Unfortunately, even such modest attempts to push developers in the right direction can come under attack. In this case by a rather unlikely assailant.
The Koman Group sought [a] change in zoning protocols to give council the ability to hear site development plans that fall outside the setback requirements along Olive Boulevard. The Fresh Market has submitted a plan that leaves the building 104 feet from Olive Boulevard. City codes call for 80 feet.
The Fresh Market, “different from the giant industrialized grocery stores,” with “each [store being] a part of the local community,” is fighting a plan to improve (otherwise forgotten) livability and sustainability. Luckily for the small (deindustrialized?) grocery chain – with a market cap of 2.4 billion – Creve Coeur City Council voted to override a decision by the city planning commission to enforce the municipal zoning. Clearly this stretch of Olive must need another grocery store more than the Fresh Market needs it (there are 3 others within a block or two of this site, more within a mile or two).
Whether or not this development is built as planned, Creve Coeur’s “CBD” has a long way to go before it becomes either sustainable or livable. This significant hub of activity is so hostile to pedestrians today, that driving a quarter mile to lunch is considered normal. It is a shame to squander the potential of such relative density. This is a section of town in which retrofitting suburbia has already been started, and where the relevant municipal zoning is already law. It’s also an affluent area in which new developments largely succeed! Unfortunately, the war for retail that wages between St. Louis County’s 90 municipalities and the region’s countless other administrative bodies has blinded elected officials into competing in a race to the bottom. Here, the big box chain is the only winner.