Does St. Louis care about becoming a walkable, vibrant city? It has the requisite 260-page encyclopedia of sustainability, sometimes referred to by its misnomer, "plan". The first goal under the section "Infrastructure, Facilities & Transportation": "Facilitate Affordable, Efﬁcient, Convenient, Accessible, Safe, and Healthy Transport of People and Goods". A fair reading of that for most St. Louisans would be lots of cheap parking at the front door of every business and building.
And although we lack any kind of comprehensive parking survey downtown, a cursory look reveals the negative impact parking structures and lots have on the experience of walking the city. And more parking continues to be added. St. Louis Centre, now the MX, was largely converted to a parking garage. The city built a new parking garage near City Hall. The owner of Cupples 7 predicts it will become surface parking and demolition for parking was sought for the five-story historic building at 1105 Olive Street. That building is now in the hands of Craig Heller and is slated for redevelopment.
Now comes a proposal to replace a pedestrian plaza of trees and benches with 26 surface parking spaces and a new building entry. 1010 is being marketed at $15.50 – $18.00 psf, full service for Class A office space. The building totals 345,750 square feet and marketing materials are offering up to 73,110 square feet spanning the top four floors. 1010 Market was built in 1981 and is comprised of 20 floors rising to 295 feet.
Brown & James PC, a law firm of 84 attorneys according to a 2012 St. Louis Business Journal article, vacated 50,000 square feet at 1010 last year. The firm moved into 54,000 square feet at Bank of American Plaza at 800 Market citing the need for additional space. Their lease there is estimated to be $22.00 psf.
The particularly glaring problem here is that this lot would face Market Street and the Gateway Mall. This is supposed to be the premier vista in our city, our central spine, our Champs Elysees. The city and private interests have spent millions designing, redesigning and master planning this space. City Garden, about 100 feet away, is a $40M investment in this public space. While new surface parking belongs nowhere downtown, shouldn't this be especially true lining the Gateway Mall? The 260-page sustainability "plan" is worthless if proposals such as this are allowed to propagate. Perhaps a new idiom: Actions speak louder than sustainability plans", is needed.
According to marketing materials, the property does not have dedicated parking spaces, though there are 89 parking spaces in the adjacent media building (home to KSDK-TV) leased through 2081. Also noted is additional parking available in "large public garages within the immediate vicinity." There is, of course, also on-street parking.
This is currently a proposal put forth on marketing materials alone and it does not appear that it has been presented to the City of St. Louis. If and when it is, the city should clearly reject the intrusion of surface parking on the Gateway Mall and downtown. The other option would be to stop piling up sustainability documents and pretending to plan for a better, more dense, more vibrant downtown. It's a small lot, but could prove to be a big test.