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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The St. Louis Mile: Longer Than 5,280 Feet?

There are several factors in what makes a place walkable.

Citing my own mix of experience in studying Jane Jacobs and urbanism, as well as being a pretty well-travelled pedestrian in both St. Louis and New Orleans, I would list the following on my "walkability" check list:
  • Manageable building heights, with any towers stepped back from the "base". Personally, for both walking and living, I prefer roomier and quainter residential districts and neighborhood-scale commercial areas to mid- and high-rise districts anyway.
  • The street should either be narrow enough to slow traffic, or have traffic slow enough to make me feel safe crossing right after a yellow light.
  • Of course, street trees serve multiple purposes for pedestrians: beautification, shade, rain barriers, buffer from cars, etc.
  • Seeing other people walking or having other visual interest and activity around makes walking less monotonous.
  • Building designs, from block to block, are hopefully varied and interesting as much as the activity on the street.

But the most important point is that there be a lot of corners. As a friend of mine here in New Orleans noted, corners are the lifeblood of urbanism. A plurality of them means more opportunities for neighborhood commerce and exchange, whether that's said in the literal sense (retail, restaurant, etc.) or the sense of community, wherein people "run into" one another and strike up conversations upon turning a corner.

Street corners force automobiles and other traffic to be more vigilant, especially the more of them there are and the more automobiles clamoring to get on one of the main roads. Almost no matter what, corners display the visual complexity of urban life. The best moment as a pedestrian (especially a leisurely pedestrian not in a time crunch) is to happen upon a busy corner and to be literally drawn in each direction to the point of having to halt in the middle of the sidewalk to decide if that corner over there merits a jaunt just to check things out.

In St. Louis, I think automatically to:




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Or perhaps less obviously:


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Either way, my "explorer" alarm goes off when I see such interesting things on all four corners (bonus points go to traffic circles that form super-intersections that remain pedestrian-friendly).



The reality is that St. Louis doesn't meet all of my requirements for full pedestrian comfort just yet. That's all right, as many areas are slowly getting there (Forest Park Southeast, Tower Grove South along Morgan Ford, etc.). Yet one problem with St. Louis's corner-making potential is that the blocks that feed into the mixed-use districts tend to be too long. In nearly all areas outside of St. Louis's old Creole street grid (Soulard, Old North, and Downtown), we have long "Victorian" blocks that were laid out with the notion of keeping activity (whether that activity is through pedestrians, streetcars, or vehicles) on shorter main roads with more corners.



To return to Maryland and Euclid in the Central West End:



The green line (North Euclid between Maryland and Pershing) is 477 feet.
The red line (Pershing Place between Kingshighway and Euclid) is 855 feet.


You'll notice that the "walkable" block (north-south) is Euclid, while the residential streets are nearly double the length and therefore less walkable. That means I have to amble twice as far to find the activity and vibrancy than if I were walking down Euclid (throw on top of this argument the fact that private or closed-off streets make a lot of pedestrians feel uncomfortable and unwelcome). Cherokee's situation is reversed in directionality, but is the same for all practical purposes. North-south streets are long, while intersecting east-west blocks with more commercial uses are short. It seems ingenious, and does contribute to walkable "strips" of activity.



But my contention is not that Cherokee, or Euclid, are not walkable streets. I feel that the city as a whole has committed the number one sin of walkability: making distances seem farther than they really are.



I've noted on this blog before the issue with long blocks (Jane Jacobs is not a fan, either). For drivers and for pedestrians, they offer fewer routes to get to the same place, thereby concentrating activity on the main drags. This is great for the driver of a vehicle who wants to, say, park on the northern end of Euclid (say, Delmar), get out of a car, and walk the strip down to Maryland Avenue. But for those who live technically within a sensible American walkable range (1/2 mile), their options for getting to Euclid and Maryland are probably insufficiently diverse as to ensure they walk every time if they still own a car. It doesn't help that it's often not very difficult to find a parking spot anywhere in St. Louis. That's a separate (albeit related) issue that I hear a lot of urbanists comment upon. I hear less about the perception of distance in St. Louis, which may be more related to long blocks than we think. A study is definitely needed.



To wit: when friends from St. Louis visit New Orleans, I usually forewarn them that when I say we're walking to a place that's "only 12 blocks away", it means we're roughly "six St. Louis blocks" from our destination. The number sounds scary to the inexperienced pedestrian, but the constant interest of the intersecting streets and their corners (not to mention the activity and the nearly universal human scale architecture) ease the pain a lot. For St. Louis, I fear a mile seems much beyond the traditional 5,280 feet metric in pedestrian psychology.



Maybe one reason folks don't talk about the problem of long blocks in St. Louis is that, well, it's an intractable one. Few people these days would argue we need to tear down houses in Tower Grove Heights to create new corners and through-ways (I wouldn't!). And pedestrian pathways, while nice features on overly long blocks, usually suffer from a look of privacy and, (as in the Northampton neighborhood's walk ways) and do not create corners in the traditional sense.



We could look to this interesting case out of the suburbs of New Orleans for some of our more tattered neighborhoods: the "Goodbee Square" in Covington, Louisiana. In this system, a grid is staggered to make north-south travel (in this case) inefficient for vehicles. While the article goes on to suggest that pedestrian paths should be created for such a system to make walking easier, a slight modification of such a grid could produce logical pedestrian paths, more corners, and at the same time make sure the new roads aren't used as cut-throughs exclusively. See below:





For intact neighborhoods, it's a matter of getting more people walking and returning corner mixed-use properties back to commercial life. Even if the grid itself can't be altered, a return to widespread commercial properties will still lend each block with a solid corner a degree of urban excitement, randomness, and possibility of discovery that St. Louis so needs.



It's a matter of public art, whether on sidewalks, in varied tree plantings, on the streets, fire hydrants, in gardens, even streetlights...St. Louis needs much more unexpected bursts of color and life.



Some neighborhoods, such as Forest Park Southeast, Downtown, and Old North, have various forms of themed walking trails. These are delineated by signs and markers. They make the unsuspecting pedestrian passer-by curious and might spawn further exploration. In other neighborhoods, removing concrete barriers and allowing vehicular traffic back through will strip these streets of their "semi-private" status and encourage more walkers. And I'm always an advocate of re-styling or removing altogether certain members of our much too intrusive interstate system, which creates wide psychological gaps as well (how far apart do Shaw and old McRee Town seem to you?).



The best way to reduce the St. Louis mile, if you're interested, is to walk anyway. Active streets are interesting streets. But it wouldn't hurt for you to create that interesting sidewalk art. Or plant that garden. Or plan the walking trail. Or lobby to patch up our tattered street grid. By then, hopefully walking will be so pleasant we won't even be thinking about how many more steps and blocks it is to that ultimate destination.

When Was "X" Building in Shaw, CWE Constructed?

These great architectural surveys by Landmarks Association of St. Louis have the building construction dates of every building within the Shaw and Central West End historic districts.


What a great historical research resource!


Here they are (PDFS):


Shaw

Central West End - West

Central West End - East


And a screen capture (of a portion of Shaw) to entice those who don't want to download a PDF:


Monday, October 26, 2009

Who Knew Lafayette Square Had Two Parks?

...or that "I-44/I-55 Confluence State Park"* was the larger of the two?



*Not a real park.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yet More Historic Districts in St. Louis (and Other Good News)

--MORE NEW HISTORIC DISTRICTS--

In furtherance to my recent post, Doug Duckworth has reminded me of a historic neighborhood (or two) in St. Louis that I neglected to include on my map of new historic districts in St. Louis.

Specifically, 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French has Tweeted that he is exploring the possibility of listing of the O'Fallon and Penrose neighborhoods on the National Register. (On a side note, Holly Place adjacent to O'Fallon Park is already listed). As Duckworth points out, French is a part of a growing movement of North Side leaders recognizing the importance of preservation to harnessing a sense of place--and economic development.

Also, the Preservation Board has released the final version of this month's Preservation Board agenda. Most demolition threats seem neutralized (see below). Perhaps the best news of the agenda is the appearance of the Wellston Loop Commercial Historic District, which is bound to be approved and likely soon listed on the National Register. This district spans Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on the city's western edge, from Clara on the east to city limits on the west.

Also slated for nomination is a boundary increase (the third such increase, to be exact) to the Central Carondelet district. The good news is that this is a large addition that will essentially render nearly all of greater Carondelet officially historic (the section of the city south of Bates and east of I-55). The district expansion in question is bounded by Bates, I-55, the River, and Holly Hills, covering over 600 buildings.


--THREATENED BUILDINGS--

Vanishing St. Louis has covered the fact that the Carr School has been removed from the earlier agenda, as has a property in the Columbia Brewery District that was owned by Paul McKee, Jr. of Northside Project fame. That's likely good news. The word that I've heard regarding the crumbling Carr School is that the Carr Square Tenants Association (the owner) is fairly close to rehabbing the building. As Michael Allen noted on his blog, the City's Board of Public Service floods the Preservation Board with "condemnation for demolition" requests after these parcels rack up enough complaints and citations. Usually, Allen says, the Preservation Board dismisses these requests by the City outright anyway.

The proposed Soulard demolition at 1927-29 S. 10th Street has been given a vote of no confidence by the Cultural Resources Office. So, too, is the Soulard Restoration Group opposed. That means that it's likely the demolition of this circa 1850s contributing resource to one of St. Louis's most stable and attractive historic districts will not get approved at tomorrow night's meeting of the Preservation Board. More information can be found here.

The only other remaining "condemnation for demolition" requests by the City remaining on the agenda is 3959 N. 11th Street (link to agenda item), in Hyde Park. Third Ward Alderman Freeman Bosley is opposed to the demolition, lending hope to this situation as well.

All in all, it looks like preservationists can breathe easier--and even more neighborhoods can partake in historic tax credit benefits.

The Preservation Board meeting is Monday, October 26, 2009, at 1015 Locust, 12th Floor, 4 p.m.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"New" Historic Districts for St. Louis

Think the recession has slowed the revitalization of St. Louis to a halt?

Well, it has not slowed historic district nominations in St. Louis, which, through tax credit availability, provide an economic boon to the host district!

The map below shows National Register of Historic Places districts that were: a) recently approved and listed; b) currently being surveyed; or c) rumored to be in the works. To view my comments with each district, please view the larger map.


View 2009 - New Historic Districts in St. Louis in a larger map

If you know of any others, comment on this post and let me know.

Special thanks to Michael Allen of Ecology of Absence for helping me with this map.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark

I received an email from Amy Broadway of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.


Excerpted from the attached press release is a description of the artist, Gordon Matta-Clark:


The artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) used neglected structures slated for demolition as his raw material. He carved out sections of buildings with a power saw in order to reveal their hidden construction, to provide new ways of perceiving space, and to create metaphors for the human condition. He spoke of his work as an activity that attempted “to transform place into a state of mind by opening walls.” When wrecking balls knocked down his sculpted buildings, little remained. He took photographs and films of his interventions and kept a few of the building segments, known as "cuts."
The opening is October 30, 2009 from 5-9 p.m. Click here for more information.

Perhaps more interestingly, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is encouraging St. Louisans to take inspiration from their own built environment in conjunction with this exhibit.


Check out their page on "Your Saint Louis", where they will be taking submissions from the public.


You'll be able to submit a walking tour of your (or your favorite) neighborhood to encourage others to explore your section of the city, we'll invite you to share your photographs, and much more. This web page will be where we feature your St. Louis and what it means to you.
Sounds awesome. I plan to see the exhibit the next time I'm in town. You should go to the opening and report on it for me. Please?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dunkin Do-Not!


I could understand some enthusiasm if long-absent-from-the-St.-Louis-area Dunkin Donuts, a chain based in Massachusetts, were reestablishing a presence in the Lou with a couple stores. A dozen would seem fitting, would it not?

According to this press release, Dunkin Donuts is planning over 100 stores for the St. Louis region over the next "several years". One hundred! Holey-donuts! My eyes just glazed over!

Is this a sweet surprise or a weighty issue?

Okay, I'll stop with terrible donut puns. But I won't stop Twittering and generally ranting about my disappointment over the Dunkin Donuts invasion into St. Louis.

I know, I know; realistically, how many of these could possibly come to the city proper anyway? If we falsely assume it's a function of population share, well, St. Louis City has about ten percent of the bloated region's population. So we can expect roughly ten stores in the city over whatever the next "several years" means. And the first stores to be opened won't be in the city--they're already confirmed for Kirkwood, Lambert Airport, and somewhere in northwest county.

I also know that many people really like Dunkin Donuts, as in, suggest they have a really good product. Well, I have just one warning for you people.


Remember these guys?




Yeah, they used to be this neat, cutting-edge, and actually urban chain of stores that popularized the custom coffee drink and forever enshrined the espresso machine into middle class hearts and minds. Then they decided to go on a expanza-bonanza and open up a million-and-a-half free-standing suburban stores as if an errant barista splattered soy-latte shrapnel every which way over the landscape. They became, well, a boxy blight and were punished for their aggressive expansion strategy, having been forced to close hundreds of "under-performing" stores recently, including a nearly brand new one on South Seventh adjacent to Soulard. (By the way, I don't delight in the fact that they closed; I just think you reap what you sow).


(Wait--why haven't I yet mentioned that other donut chain that, at least at one point, was in danger of collapse from over-expansion)




Anyway...

So now we have Dunkin Donuts aggressively re-entering the St. Louis market. There just has to be a point of oversaturation for (suburban-style, drive-through) donuts in St. Louis. I worry that the locals who have already toughed out one round of Dunkin might be the first to bite the bullet this time.


I'm thinking about:


My favorite in the city, World's Fair Donuts, cleverly named for its address (1904 S. Vandeventer):

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O'Fashion Donuts just down the road at 5120 Southwest.

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Donut Drive-In at 6525 Chippewa, with a newly restored original Route 66 sign!

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Two more interesting St. Louis donut stories for you to, ahem, digest:

-Eddie's Southtown Donuts (4701 S. Kingshighway) has torn down a nice Arts and Crafts home for a drive-through, in one of the city's most stable neighborhoods. More on that at St. Louis City Talk. But the lesson of the story is that, due to the city's zoning and haphazard preservation laws, we might see some Dunkin demolitions in order to fit that drive-through as well!


-John Donut Company (on S. Broadway in Kosciusko--I've never been) is apparently open from midnight until 1pm. Yes, it opens at midnight. Who knew you could get fresh donuts all night in a neighborhood with no residential population?


That's about all I can stomach talking about donuts at this point. Just remember to support St. Louis's unique local businesses. Their "corporate headquarters" are located right here in St. Louis, not Massachusetts.

"Watson in the City"

I grew up in what is probably the geographic center of "south St. Louis".

I can't truly speak for others, but my family mostly did its shopping to the south and southwest of our home. That included Southtown, Hampton Village, South County, and Crestwood. Even after graduating high school, I could literally count on two hands the number of times I'd gone east of Grand or north of I-64/40, excepting Forest Park. Heck, even Tower Grove South off of Morgan Ford Road itself was foreign to me.

In retrospect, my world was infinetismal then--I didn't drive until I was nearly 19 and rarely took the bus either. I hung out around Bevo mainly; anything past St. Louis Hills was a road trip as far as I was concerned in the passenger seat. My mother did make semi-frequent trips out to Crestwood (was this the edge of the world?), but instead of complaining about the distance I liked to watch the transition of urban development down Chippewa.

First Shop N Save and Famous Barr (sigh), then some brown-brick apartment buildings with porches that all lined up; there's the 7-11. Soon came the gingerbread houses, then a mess of cars fighting for a space in Hampton Village or adjacent Target. More gingerbreads and apartments. A couple medical towers. Donut stand. TED DREWES. Blockbuster. Blocky apartment buildings. River Des Peres--ewww. Overpass. That strange little business that manufactures headstones for cemeteries. More shopping centers. Then that St. Louis gray marker near the sign with the population count I was always fascinated by. I know for a fact that it read "ST. LOUIS, Pop. 396,685 (1990)" well past the 2000 census. I knew the population had fallen and didn't want to see the sign ever replaced. It was, eventually.

Right at that gray pylon, after entering St. Louis County--BAM--Chippewa Street magically became Watson Road. Why? Wasn't there one of those back in the city? Even as a child, the divide between city-and-county seemed so pronounced (the road pavement in each even clashed).

I knew of "Watson in the City" because my aunt used to live off of City Watson on Pernod in the Lindenwood neighborhood. I always enjoyed the concept of the competing Watsons, without ever understanding why. I was proud that I lived in the city and "we" had a Watson, too.

I felt compelled to spill this ramble after reading the Lindenwood Neighbor newsletter (September 2009). They used the term "Watson in the City" describing their second annual "What's on Watson" a.k.a. WOWFest!, which is coming up this weekend.

Since I have something of an obsession with neighborhood festivals, I thought I'd just post the information for the WOWFest this Saturday, but took a little detour getting there. Memory Lane may be officially located in Wildwood; but that doesn't stop me from going there.

To be WOWed:

Saturday, October 17, 2009 - 11:00 am-4:00 pm
Watson Business District's
Second Annual WOWFest

2009 will celebrate the great businesses on "Watson in the City." Look
for the crowd under the big tent at Southwest Baptist Church (across the street
from the Machacek Library).
Enjoy Live Music, Good Food & Cold Drinks.
Visit Informational and Crafter's Booths with great items for sale. 50-50 Raffle
and other Raffle items. Children's Activities and Crafts provided by
Neighborhood Churches and the Library.

Several of Watson’s great restaurants will sell delicious dishes at
reasonable prices including:

Biggie's
Chris' Pancake
LoRusso's Cucina
Pietro's
Stellina Pasta Cafe
Trattoria Marcella
possibly others ...

For more information call Nancy Doerhoff @ the
Library:
781-2948



By the way, it's worth going for Stellina Pasta alone--one of my favorite restaurants in the city!



EDIT: The festival also takes place adjacent to everyone's favorite bomb-shelter-library-combo. Ah, Machacek.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Preservation Board Agenda: More Demolition Derby

In lieu of further comments, here is the link to this month's Preservation Board agenda.

It includes proposals of:

-demolition of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Carr School (City of St. Louis - Department of Public Safety)

-demolition of a beautiful historic contributing resource to the Soulard neighborhood (deferred from last month--1925-27 S. 10th)

-demolition of two Paul McKee Jr. holding company-owned homes in the North Side project area (one is located within the Columbia Brewery National Register District)

-demolition of a fire-damaged home in Hyde Park on N. 11th Street.

Stay tuned for any more information I can find.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The 1960s Infill Bungalow: Love It or Hate It?

You know what I'm talking about if you live in south St. Louis.
Little 1960s bungalows appear on urban lots in some of St. Louis's oldest neighborhoods, including Benton Park, Marine Villa, and Tower Grove East.

To an urbanist or architectural purist, these small homes are an affront to neighborhood scale and further present a conflict in their styling and materials as well. Quite often situated between two and three story red brick homes, they appear as squat intruders, wannabes trying to hang with the big boys.

I find them charming. They seem to me to loosely reference a "bungalow", which is why I've named them what I did.

Because they're located all over St. Louis, no one is significant singularly, and I'd doubt that any proposed demolition of one of these mod-homes would draw much of a protest. But, for as long as they remain, they remind preservationists of the benefit of living in a city whose built environment has gone through violent upheaval. That benefit is a diversity of housing options unseen in many other places.

Check out the 1960s bungalows below and register your opinion: are they horrible intrusions into otherwise beautiful historic districts; are they welcome additions to St. Louis's architectural milieu; or should this be a matter of unresolved ambivalence?



Tower Grove East

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Benton Park

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Mount Pleasant

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Neighborhood Guides: How would you split up St. Louis's 79 neighborhoods?

For a while now, I've been toying around with the idea of collaborating with others in St. Louis's urbanist community in producing neighborhood guides for prospective residents and business owners of St. Louis.

There are some terrific examples out there.

When I visited Detroit in the summer of 2006, Model D's website was an unbelievable help. Similar sites exist for Pittsburgh (Pop City) and Cincinnati (Soap Box).

While Detroit's site (not an official site, either) focuses only on "Hot Spots," it would be nice to produce a guide that covers all the neighborhoods of St. Louis.

The problem is that, few people agree totally with the city's "official" 79 neighborhoods. Looking for Dogtown, Kingshighway Hills, Lindell Park, the Ivory Triangle, or Compton Hill on the city's official list? Let me help you out: you won't find them.

Some people argue for clear and well-defined neighborhoods that give order to the endless cityscape, while others appreciate the local folklore and idiosyncratic nature of place-naming, where each couple blocks seems to earn its own distinction. I lean towards the latter.

E.g...what do you call the up-and-coming Morgan Ford Business District's neighborhood? To the city of St. Louis, it's Tower Grove South. To historical researchers, it might be known as part of the Oak Hill neighborhood. To others, it's simply a small section of a large collection of neighborhoods known as "Tower Grove". A small but growing minority calls the business district and surrounding area "Skinnytown". Is anyone of these correct, or incorrect? I don't know.

When it comes to assisting people through the urban maze that is St. Louis, the choices made in how to define neighborhoods are difficult and usually impossible if the effort is to please/include/represent everyone.

Nevetheless, I have taken a stab. Below are my 25 neighborhoods. Twenty-five is certainly more manageable than 79. What do you think of the idea of having a web site where people interested in the city can check out each neighborhood in-depth?


View St. Louis Neighborhoods in a larger map

For a neat take on capturing St. Louis City's neighborhoods' individual look and feel, check out Mark Groth's blog, St. Louis City Talk, where he has profiled some of the "Heights" neighborhoods: Botanical Heights, Clifton Heights, Compton Heights, and Hamilton Heights. Stay tuned for more from his series, which aspires to cover all 79 official neighborhoods.

And good luck to anyone trying to simplify the complexity of one of America's great cities!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

St. Louis - No Great Neighborhoods, Streets, or Public Spaces

The American Planning Association (APA) has released its list of America's Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets, and Great Public Spaces, selecting ten in each category.

While the inaugural year for the Great Places netted the Delmar Loop a "Great Streets" designation (2007), St. Louis has received no other distinctions since.

Check out the list here. Honorees include a neighborhood dear to my heart, Faubourg Marigny in New Orleans, located just downriver from the French Quarter. This is certainly a great neighborhood by almost any metric--with the majority of patrons to several popular bars and coffee shops arriving by bicycle or foot. And the architecture is quaint, charming, and a burst of life on every block.

But back to St. Louis.

Says the APA of its Great Places:

APA's flagship program celebrates places of exemplary character, quality, and planning. Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow.

APA Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live. They are enjoyable, safe, and desirable. They are places where people want to be — not only to visit, but to live and work every day. America's truly great streets, neighborhoods and public spaces are defined by many criteria, including architectural features, accessibility, functionality, and community involvement.


Where in St. Louis do you believe should be honored next? If you'd like to view the characteristics of a Great Neighborhood, Street, or Public Space, click each individual word for the qualifications. Yes, you can nominate a place yourself, which I suggest you do on St. Louis's behalf for the 2010 awards!


For neighborhoods, I would recommend Old North St. Louis. It is truly one of the country's best stories of revitalization. Though it would not yet fit the "typical" profile of a "Great Neighborhood", it's a historic neighborhood literally awaking from its death bed and confounding all who only knew the neighborhood for Crown Candy Kitchen. The renovated 14th Street Mall (now, I think, St. Louis's most attractive "Main Street" setting); the new non-profit coffee shop Urban Studio Cafe; the grocery store co-op coming online next year; the increasing number of DIY-rehabbers rescuing St. Louis's earliest built heritage from the clutches of the Land Reutilization Authority; and yes, Crown Candy itself--all combine to make this neighborhood a uniquely "St. Louis" story that is great for very unconventional reasons. And it's upward bound, too--as the t-shirts sold by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group proudly proclaim, "The Future is North"!


As far as streets, I would again go a controversial route and suggest Cherokee Street (the Euclid corridor in the Central West End would be the safer route). It's definitely St. Louis's most lively and varied corridor.


Public spaces would have yielded little for St. Louis prior to Citygarden. Now I think St. Louis has a national player on the public space scene.


What would you choose for each category?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Orleans Feels Our Pain

In a matter you'll be hearing about more from me soon, let me just say here that a proposal by CVS to replace the St. Louis Housing Authority building (and two others to the west) in the Central West End with one of their needless stores is a stupid idea. A suburban store with a drive through and all-too-visible parking lot is set to replace a set of buildings that took actual design thought and craftsmanship. Ugh. Did I mention the Central West End CVS would be located a mere block away from a Walgreens, whose own surface parking lot cost the Central West End a gem of a mid-century theater?

Well, here in New Orleans, matters sound surprisingly familiar. CVS is wanting a prime corner on a major boulevard--you guessed it--across the street from Walgreens. To duplicate its services, provide a visual blight, generate more vehicular trips, cause more air pollution, and contribute to flooding, CVS is only asking for the demolition of four buildings. Yes, one is mid-century and too important to be replaced by generic new construction that privileges cars.

Thanks to my friend Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage for giving us all the heads up.

On a somewhat related note, New Orleans is also contemplating the demolition of the incomparable Wheatley School, designed by none other than Charles Colbert, New Orleans-based architect who designed the now-demolished San Luis Apartments on Lindell.

May the thought of squandering of our built heritage be grave enough to keep these proposed CVSes from increasing their market share.

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