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Showing posts with label Dutchtown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dutchtown. Show all posts

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Downtown Dutchtown's Vital Signs Improving

Just a few short years ago, when I worked as an intern at Dutchtown South Community Corporation, a humble coffee joint (Java Joe's) and a pair of small antique shops were about all that a once vibrant stretch of Meramec Street could claim. The one true anchor of the business district was Winkelmann's Drug, a pharmacy open since 1913 at the southwest corner of Meramec and Virginia. Java Joe's closed for good soon after I completed my internship. While I'm not 100 percent certain, I believe the antique shops are by appointment only, or have random hours otherwise. The street was clearly not at its best.

Today, the story of Meramec, and the overall outlook of the street, is much different. A dedicated group, the Downtown Dutchtown Business Association, or DT2, is working to attract businesses to the neighborhood commercial district. So too is recently elected 25th Ward alderman Shane Cohn.

The Java Joe's space, and, I believe, another short-lived coffee shop, gave way to Urban Eats, Dutchtown's best little cafe and hangout spot. Urban Eats is cozy and has an innovative concept: couture wraps and pizzas. Their food is made to order and exactly to your liking, from the type of bread on up. They also have a really nice retail shelf of Dutchtown and St. Louis-related items. Urban Eats must be given credit for infusing Downtown Dutchtown with the right energy level and a sense of creativity and community all at once.

Urban Eats
3301 Meramec

Twice Blessed Resale Shop, across the street from Urban Eats, is a not-for-profit store run by the folks behind Our Lady's Inn, which serves homeless women in the St. Louis region. The staff is friendly, its wares somewhere between free and dirt cheap, and its profits help keep the shelter afloat.

Twice Blessed Resale Shop
3302 Meramec

Another newcomer to Downtown Dutchtown is the Virginia House, an art gallery sheltered in a diminutive brick Dutchtown storefront that was vacant for quite a while.

UPDATE [5/21/10]: Reader Maude has informed this blog that the Virginia House is no longer an art gallery, but will soon be home to a boutique produce market, which will accept EBT and WIC! Awesome! Reader Dan tells us not to fret over Virginia House; they're looking to expand because their first two events were too big for their space! All around great news!

Virginia House
4219 Virginia
Facebook Page

Pre-renovation shot, from their Facebook page.

And post-renovation, shot in artsy Polaroid, also courtesy of the Virginia House Facebook page.

Here's a nice photo of the outdoor gallery space as well:

The newest kid on the block, though, is Refabulous, a consignment shop. Definitely worth a visit for its incredible prices and great selection of men and women's clothing, the owners are delightful as well!

3314 Meramec

I have a pretty trustworthy feeling that we'll see more movement on Meramec quite soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Op Art Brickwork in Bevo, Dutchtown

Does anyone know what type of brick/brickwork this is? I call it "Op Art" because, up close, it almost disorients the eye with its stylistic patterns.

Bevo, at Neosho and Morgan Ford:

And then one of my favorite little houses in the city, on Kingsland Court at Hydraulic in Dutchtown West:

The home above, in particular, is a must-see. What are these eye-popping bricks? Are they just cleverly arranged buff-colored brick?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Itaska Castles Make For Yet Another Delightful St. Louis Streetscape

I grew up on Itaska Street in Bevo Mill. At a very young age, I lived on Itaska Street in the Southampton neighborhood. One of my first self-guided, no-passengers driving architectural tours through the city was to cruise the entire length of Itaska Street, which had been my home address for most of my life in St. Louis. While I quickly learned that I-55 made that an impossibility in the strict sense, and that Itaska jogs several times and is never a straight shot, I saw a street that is in so many ways quintessentially St. Louis.

From the sturdy red brick late 19th/early 20th century structures of Dutchtown to the fanciful Tudor stylings of St. Louis Hills' section of Itaska; every moment of it oozed uniqueness and told the story of St. Louis's westward expansion and development. I suppose this was all fitting. Itaska Street is named after Minnesota's Lake Itasca--the headwaters of the Mississippi River. One special street of a great American city, like our nation's great river, is sinuous, complicated, and gripping all at once.

No stretch of Itaska is more notable than its run between Virginia, on the east, and Grand, on the west. It's here that some developer or developers built some of the South Side's most interesting little shaped-parapet "castles". I don't believe I've seen another city that has whole rows of these little romantic brick ramparts. Some have polychromed arches above doorways and windows; others have "Beetlejuice" themed awnings. Some even have dueling griffins! Here are some of Itaska Street's greatest hits in Dutchtown.

If you're still not convinced and don't think it looks like much from Google Streetview captures, go walk the street for yourself. How do such small houses command such an urban presence?

You'd think that we bloggers, with our environs becoming increasingly crowded, would run out of facets of St. Louis to freak out over--but they keep on coming. That's because St. Louis rocks your face.

Friday, March 12, 2010

South City "Quirk-itecture"

Ever pass by buildings and objects in the built environment that force you to double take?

How about this assisted living facility, appropriately titled the Silver Spur, on Texas Avenue at Utah in Benton Park West? Yes, those are wagon wheels, pitchforks, and other Western accoutrements attached to the facade. Photograph is courtesy of Google Streetview. By the way, the sign on the corner of the building reads: "Smile Pardner: You're Being Taped by the Police".

What about this home, on Missouri Avenue just north of Broadway (in Marine Villa)? The lavishly painted side of the home shown (barely) by this capture is not even the main attraction: swing around the front for some seriously strange (and oddly attractive) bulging, glassy, post-modern windows on this classic red brick St. Louis structure. For a better view, make sure to walk, bike, or drive by yourself. Photograph is courtesy of Google Streetview.

The dueling griffins on this too-cute Itaska Street cottage are one of the many notable attractions on a stretch of Dutchtown road that certainly deserves its own post. Interesting little South Side castles dominate Itaska from Virginia to Grand, but none are as fantastically decorated. Image courtesy of Google Streetview.

This blog has actually already covered the next entry: the "Tree-House" in Compton Heights. When the homeowners' favorite tree succumbed to the elements, they swiftly outlined its shadow onto the facade of their building to mark its historic position prior to its removal. Photograph by me.

When I passed by this structure on the 2800 block of Missouri in Benton Park last December, I wondered if it was a home or a street-fronting garage for nearby condominiums. Let's see was decked out for the holidays while surrounding structures were not. Who would only decorate their garage and not the main house? It also had its own mailbox and an address prominently displayed. It looks like it could have been a former auto body shop or something of that nature and might now be residential. It's a real head scratcher! Check out the Google Streetview of the property here. Photograph is mine.

All across the city there are dozens of examples of quirky structures that lend real character and "weirdness" to their host block. Do you know of one not shown here? If so, submit a picture and I'll add it to the list! North City and Central Corridor (and elsewhere!) examples are permitted; I just named the topic after where all of my examples came from.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brilliant Urban Design in the St. Louis of the Past

Check out this row of buildings in the 5000 block of Louisiana in the very southern tip of the Dutchtown neighborhood.

The photograph is courtesy of the St. Cecelia National Register District nomination form, compiled and submitted by Lynn Josse and NiNi Harris. You may click here to view the full nomination, but be warned that it is a large PDF document with several photographs. Be patient.

This beautiful historic district has several rows like that of the above. The fanciful, stark white "bakery brick", a St. Louis original, creates striking patterns that almost literally "tie" streetscapes together. In the above example, some buildings have crowns; some have small porches; others don't.

The result is a neighborhood that is delightfully cohesive--never monotonous, but certainly harmonious. Brilliant.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Infill...Atop a Parking Lot? Am I Dreaming?

The Lawrence Group has released plans for Phase II of their South Side Station redevelopment. Phase I was the rehabilitation of the South Side National Bank building into residential units, saving the building from the Walgreens wrecking ball.

Phase II, the subject of this post, involves new construction on Grand at Tholozan (just south of Gravois). (Actually, the always-on-top-of-things Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association posted about this development on November 6, but this is the first time I've seen it or heard of it, so it's news to me).

Two things stand out. First, the proposed infill is, I think, quite nice. It's a clearly traditionally-styled building, yet not so much that anyone would assume the design was meant to fool you into thinking this is a turn-of-the-century work. The added density and massing should help make this section of Grand more aesthetically-pleasing and pedestrian-friendly, better matching the mostly intact Grand South Grand district to the north. Check the designs out for yourself.

The site plan:

The Grand elevation:

The Tholozan elevation:

Thanks again to Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association (DWNA) for running such an excellent and often-updated blog!

The second thing that stood out: this will subsume a large parking lot! In the same city where the San Luis Apartments, a fine structure worthy of rehabilitation, was recently torn down for a parking lot, it's great news to observe the reverse!

Make sure you bookmark DWNA's site for ongoing information about the western portion of the large Dutchtown neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why not Chippewa?

In the ten blocks of Chippewa Street located between Ohio on the east and Louisiana on the west is a mostly forgotten and forlorn commercial district. (Take a Google tour yourself here. Head west with Streetview).

In a shrinking city that has more often opted for suburban style retail to compete with its suburbs, these small traditional business districts don't even get a second look.

Yet if you check out the inventory, there's a lot more there than you might expect. Imagine if some of St. Louis's star mega-entrepreneurs decided to buy up the stretch and market it aggressively (think the Gills with Skinker-DeBaliviere and the Grove or Joe Edwards with the Loop). Chippewa is not the kindest of areas in the city right now, being colloquially located near the epicenter of South Side crime. Yet if circa 2000s Manchester can turn around, I have faith Chippewa can too.

The picture above is the south side of the 2700 block of Chippewa. St. Louis streetcar suburbs (such as this Dutchtown-Gravois Park borderline once was) featured 5 or so primarily north-south residential blocks before interrupting the rows of doubles and 4-families with an east-west mostly-commercial street. See Arsenal, then Cherokee, then Chippewa, then Meramec, Bates, etc.

What is important for re-establishing a neighborhood business district today is the presence of not just corner commercial units (which have often been converted to residential-only anyway) but also mid-block mixed use buildings. These are the buildings that encourage people to continue their journey afoot, convinced that more such beacons of commerce exist farther that way.

Chippewa doesn't have a ton of these, but, as the picture shows above, they're there.

Here's a nice corner commercial building at Chippewa and Ohio. After a little renovation, this could really shine.

Here's a unique corner commercial unit just a block west of those previously shown. Again, a bit of a storefront makeover would go a long way in sprucing up this handsome building (although it might be sad to see those kitchy and in no way appropriate Georgian-style ogee arches over the door disappear).

Hopefully, I'll be able to put together a little map of available properties, since the city seems to have a picture of nearly everything on Chippewa. It has a great stock of both residential and mixed use properties that are simply a little worse for the wear. I'd hate to see it get to the point where more properties are demolished. There's already a large vacant lot in the district as well as an autocentric corner at Compton/Chippewa. Luckily, though, this area is now in the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Streetcar Suburb National Register District, which means that any owner seeking a demolition permit must go through Cultural Resources and the Preservation Board first.

With any luck, this old business district could reconnect with the cluster at Chippewa/Broadway/Jefferson, which has been autocentricized, but not, perhaps, to the point of death. A fine row of commercial buildings, the subject of much controversy due to Alderman Schmid's liquor license restrictions, sits on the east side of Broadway just south of Chippewa awaiting full occupancy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Amberg Park

Amberg Park, located in the newly minted Dutchtown West neighborhood, is a wonderfully-sized urban park (2.76 acres).

It is large enough to be appreciated as an open, green space. Yet it's also small enough that one can see to its urban edges at nearly all sides.

Its edges are better than most St. Louis parks, too.

From Dutchtown

On the northwest and southwest corners of the park, there is retail frontage. While the Express Lane Market on the southwest corner (Gustine and Keokuk) has generated some controversy among neighborhood residents, the presence of these retail spaces could really transform this neighborhood park into a truly urban amenity.

Urbanist author Jane Jacobs once said of neighborhood parks that their life came from their surroundings and the people who use them; parks themselves could not confer vitality. In so many St. Louis neighborhoods, parks were developed solely for the purpose of providing their residents with an "oasis" in the middle of an urban environment. The parks themselves are often flanked only by residential structures. Without active edges along the park (meaning, places where people shop, work, play, and live), they're rarely used continuously. They can actually then become forbidding, empty places--unfortunate gaps in the urban fabric--despite their inherent beauty.

However, since St. Louis has tumbled in its population, and has planned for decades for the car and not the pedestrian, many neighborhoods are no longer dense enough or walked often enough to truly support these parks. When commercial uses exist adjacent to a park (think, the southwest corner of Gravois Park; the northeast corner of Fountain Park, etc.), they're usually either abandoned or have been converted to residential use.

I see potential in Amberg Park, however. Its residents are mobilized to clean up the park and make it safer for its users. It's got a series of somewhat dense apartments lining its edges, especially to the west, where an impressive twin set of multi-family Tudor building provides a pleasing visual symmetry and anchor. It's also got two commercial spaces that could be used someday to enliven the green space they overlook.

I welcome the Dutchtown West neighborhood's vigilance and dedication to make their neighborhood a better and safer place to live. It's (by my unempirical observation) one of the densest and most diverse (read: urban) places to live in the city. It's also just a short walk or bus ride away from the South Grand Business District. I hope that the Dutchtown West neighbors can take this "right-sized" park and show the rest of St. Louis how great small scale urban parks can be. They are truly a rarity in the city.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April Preservation Board Also Contains Two National Register Nominations

In furtherance to the previous post, this month's Preservation Board Agenda features two important possible additions to the National Register of Historic Places.

The first is one of the remnants of old St. Louis, with its narrow commercial lots--the William A. Stickney Cigar Company Building at 209 N. 4th Street. Click here to see a Google Street View of the building.

The second is very exciting: the hulking National Candy Company industrial building at 4230 Gravois, which is technically in Dutchtown but, since I grew up in Bevo, I always claimed it as my neighborhood's heritage.

Imagine Schools is the applicant. Through a website search, it appears they're planning on opening an "Imagine International Academy of Arts" in this spot. They're likely going to use the Missouri state historic tax credits to renovate this large building into a workable condition. What a great building and wonderful re-use of the site!

View Larger Map

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Restaurants, coffee shops, you name it--they should have bike racks! Dutchtown's Urban Eats, (3301 Meramec, 63118) which is officially at the top of my list of places to try the next time I'm in town.

Here is a picture of their bike rack:

They're also hosts to numerous neighborhood and community events.

One even dealt with bicycles--the "Blessing of the Bicycles" in front of the glorious St. Anthony's church on Meramec. Check their website out for more info.

I've had the pleasure of having tried another bike-friendly establishment: Cafe Ventana (3919 West Pine, 63108), which not only has a row of bike-shaped bike racks, but also a striped "bike lane" in its parking lot.

These two restaurants are leading the pack, St. Louis. You need to catch up.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A rival to Ballpark Village's crater?

View Larger Map

(Zoom in where the marker is placed to see the site.)

The city says it's owned by Anheuser-Busch.

A little research on the address turns up the St. Louis "Everman Quarry". It's also on a list of Missouri Superfund sites--the list that the Environmental Protection Agency creates to document extremely contaminated sites that require remediation.

What is this place? Does anyone know? Are there any plans for it?

If you can't tell on the map, it's bounded by Virginia on the west, Delor on the north, Walsh on the south, and Michigan on the east.

Can anyone help me out?

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