Starbucks Appears Set to Receive City Approval for South Grand Store

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South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO

If all goes according to plan for local developer Richard Robinson of First & Main Properties, a corner lot at 2350 S. Grand Blvd. (at Sidney St.), across from Tower Grove Park and Always Low Prices grocery store would be purchased and redeveloped by Robinson, and leased to Starbucks with a potential opening in summer 2015. Currently, the lot holds a vacant single story mid-century building set back from Grand and Sidney.

The plan calls for a rectangular-shaped building with drive-thru to be built along the north side of the property; the drive thru lane would extend the length of the east side of the property. 16 parking spaces and 3 road cut-outs would complete the lot surface, along with ornamental shrubbery and a bike rack north of the drive thru. A 24-foot high corner facade and historically appropriate brick and wrought iron would adorn the building.

South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO

Robinson presented his plans at a Tower Grove East community meeting Tuesday, August 19, where 8th Ward Alderman Stephen Conway, members of the Tower Grove East Neighborhood Association board and several community members were in attendance. Robinson is scheduled to present to the City of St. Louis Preservation Board at its August 25 meeting. The city’s Cultural Resources Office is recommending that the Preservation Board vote in favor of the proposal.

Community proponents of the project say the development would increase local property values, ameliorate crime and vagrancy on a problem property, add a convenient option for coffee-drinking commuters, and is the best option presented for this site. Many support the project moving forward as presented.

South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO

South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO

South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO

Community critics cite limited pedestrian and cyclist access; increased traffic and trash; exhaust pollutants produced by engine idling at the drive-thru and their impact on neighboring families; and the suburban fast-food nature of this development as aspects of the project that need to be addressed before receiving neighborhood support and/or approval.

Reports regarding the need for chemical remediation due to the sites use as a dry-cleaner and gas station were still pending. No traffic impact study has been conducted. No alternative mock-ups for the parcel were presented at the community meeting, but additional details are available in the Preservation Board agenda (below). Robinson told meeting attendees that engineers for the project saw no other ways to situate the building. Engineers for the project were not present.

South Grand Starbucks proposal - St. Louis, MO
{proposed Starbucks would be substantially similar to the store at North/South and Delmar}

This lot has been the target of a number of failed development proposals, most recent of which was an unpopular plan to develop the property into a free-standing Domino’s Pizza (the Domino’s at Grand and Arsenal would relocate) with a small fleet of delivery vehicles.

Despite pass misses, the site remains attractive due to its location. Information available on the First & Main Properties site shows an average household income of more than $56K within a mile of the site. Traffic data show a northbound (easiest access to the site) 7am peak of roughly 1,200 vehicles an hour. The southbound peak at 5pm registers a similar number.

The developer has worked on Brentwood Square, Brentwood, and Olde Towne Plaza in Ballwin, MO. He also was a partner in the now defunct developer group, Sappington Square LLC, which developed Sappington Square, Crestwood in 2008, whose tenants also included a Starbucks.

City of St. Louis Preservation Board final agenda 8-25-14 by nextSTL.com

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  • Adam

    wow, that is f*cking awful.

    • Bruce

      It’s like if someone jammed a pipe cleaner down my urethra and then turned it into a building.

  • TGE

    It’s really not awful. Unlike the north and south site, the drive through would be mostly shielded from the busiest street – Grand. People living right around the site are almost universally in favor of the project.

    • Adam

      no, in terms of urban form it really is awful. it’s a suburban abortion in one of the cities densest neighborhoods. pathetic, and makes it clear that the developer is either an amateur or just doesn’t give a sh*t.

    • Imran

      I concede, a lot worse could be proposed for the site. The point of this discussion though is so we can understand what design changes can turn a mediocre proposal into something that really adds the maximum value to the intersection and the community.

  • STLgasm

    How about a modern glass Starbucks building? Aren’t people in this city sick of faux-historic brick already?

    • ModernIsBetter

      ^Yes, but the faux-brick is usually mandated by historic district standards. They’re great for helping preserve existing buildings, but these standards for new construction badly need to change is we want better design. There’s no magic bullet, it’ll have to happen neighborhood by neighborhood.

    • Mike F

      1st Q: Yes. 2nd Q: I know I am.

  • Chaifetz10

    Can’t they change the building direction? Have it build up to the sidewalk facing Grand, with the parking lot and drive through to the East?

    • Ken Jackson

      Turning the building puts the kitchen side toward Grand. That means a side that is 100% brick an no widows face grand. Do you want to look at the ugly side of the building???

      • Adam

        What are you talking about? They could absolutely put the pedestrian entrance + windows on the Grand side and have the kitchen + drive-through on the opposite side.

        • TGE

          Under the current configuration, pedestrian entrance is on Grand and drive through is on the rear

          • Adam

            No, according to the schematic above the door facing Grand opens onto a fenced-in seating area. The customer entrance opens onto the parking lot.

  • rgbose

    This isn’t enough tax base. Is it so inconceivable that people might want to live on upper floors close to the park, South Grand, and the most frequent bus line?

    http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2014/7/22/the-cost-of-auto-orientation-update.html

    • tbatts666

      I would support it if it included apartments for sure.

      • Ken Jackson

        Again, the lot design has only one parking space above the minimum required by the city. That means no additional parking would be available for any other tenants.

        • Mark Groth

          Fast food restaurant chain on Kingshighway with drive through. Let’s aim high, not low.

  • Imran

    Pros: It is built up to Grand, Mostly brick exterior, Starbucks will improve the image of the area Cons: Too little built area and too much asphalt, Too many auto-centric curb cuts esp. on Grand, Parking lot facing Sydney/Grand intersection would likely never be allowed if there was a form based code here.

    • Ken Jackson

      The asphalt is a city requirement. They have only one extra parking space above the minimum required by code. Don’t know why people think the building should be bigger???

      • Imran

        Yes, Ken. You have clearly demonstrated that you don’t get it. Even though I don’t like the city’s parking requirement, I added angled parking in the mock plan above to answer that question. There is enough room to meet that darn parking requirement.

        • Ken Jackson

          City requirement 15 spots, Proposed has 16. Your plan 14. Did I miscount???

          • Imran

            There is room to add 2 more parking spots if you relocate/re-design the trash enclosure if you mush belabor the point. And I doubt that residents will like all the emissions from the drive through wafting into their yards but I don’t see you suggesting that the drive thrugh be moved. Lets drop the pseudo-concern for residents.

          • Ken Jackson

            Then move the trash to where??? Let me be specific, I AM a resident just a few doors down from this location and WE are all tired of the gas station. I have spoken personally with half of the homeowners on this block in the past week and WE are all opposed to this change in design and have collected over 100+ signatures on a petition stating so. WE all have significant investment in our homes and most resident on this block have been living there for over 20+ years. You should start talking to some of them if you have a concern for the residents.

          • Imran

            Since you lack imagination, I will re-do the drawing to visually demonstrate 16 parking spots. Though I don’t think that will make a difference to you. You are not here to have a conversation.
            ps. Would love to see that petition posted here :)

          • Imran

            Here it as promised. I even added an extra parking spot to please the parking requirement gods.

          • Adam

            What change in design? Are you saying that you went around to your neighbors and got signatures of opposition to the informal redesign that Imran posted less than 24 hours ago? Now I ABSOLUTELY do not believe that. Yes, please upload this petition so we can see it with our own eyes.

          • ben

            Old blood. Figures. What else would you expect from people that predate the resurgence and long ago forgot what a real City is all about.

        • Ken Jackson

          Now my other concern. Your plan forces all inbound traffic to Sidney. The residents clearly don’t like that. Any ideas???

    • Ken Jackson

      Imran, I do give you credit for the only person to try and propose an alternative design. However, my opposition is that the engineers that have spent 9 months on this are also talented. The problem is a design that works for the neighborhood and Starbucks. Bottom line, Starbucks won’t buy in with the building turned and you can’t force them. We all have opinions but the immediate homeowners are excited for a Starbucks and not a gas station. We are upset with the lack of support that forces us to keep a gas station for the next 20 years. The site is difficult to work with. Everyone says be more creative but even you have to admit that many of the suggestions here don’t work economically or for the residents. I suggest you attend the final approval meeting tomorrow at city hall. My guess is that they will approve the plan with the provision of turning the building which will kill the deal and we can all debate the next proposal that comes along in 10 years or so.

  • imran

    If I can come up with this, imaging what an actual engineer could accomplish.

    • jhoff1257

      While I wholeheartedly support a site plan that looks like this, there may be many factors that we don’t see. There could be underground utilities or other circumstances that simply make a corner lot too expensive. I’ve heard this used to be a gas station, maybe there are some old tanks (though I doubt those would have been left to sit there all these decades) or other equipment under there.

      Either way I say table the Starbucks until a true urban developer (calling UIC??) with some good cash steps up with a plan for a nice apartment building. Maybe then bring the Starbucks back with some ground floor retail.

      • Mark Beirn

        It was reported at the neighborhood meeting that tanks had been removed during a remediation of the lot late last century. The developer said plans with a corner-orientation drawn up by his engineer were no feasible, though, no engineer was available for comment nor were alternative plans available.

        • Imran

          Glad to hear that people at the neighborhood meeting brought up the same questions about the site plan.

      • Ken Jackson

        Nice plan. Too bad it doesn’t meet the parking requirements of the city.

        • Ken Jackson

          Oh, I almost forgot. This site plan forces all of the traffic from using an entrance off of Grand and use an entrance off of Sidney . . . exactly what the residents on Sidney don’t want. Don’t forget Starbucks has already written that turning the building will kill this deal. I guess those of you who do not live on this block would prefer the gas station while the residents on Sidney have overwhelming supported it.

        • jhoff1257

          Exactly why the City should remove parking minimums. Or at the very least they should be removed in dense walkable neighborhoods like South Grand.

          Also, why do you up-vote your own comments?

  • jhoff1257

    South Grand doesn’t need drive-thrus. The success of this district alone should tell the developer that. At the very least they could put the store on the corner. This is basically a “corner store” in the center of a parking lot. Not worthy of a historic district such as South Grand.

    Also…did anyone see the demo recommendation for yet another historic home on the North Side at the end of the PB agenda? That pisses me off too.

    • tbatts666

      Auto centricity ruins community.

  • Presbyterian

    Yeah, this one is honestly disappointing. It’s all about the setback. Were they to move the building to the corner, I suspect most folks would be happy to see it built. Hopefully the board will add that requirement.

    This is why we need city-wide form based code with an objective means of enforcement.

  • John

    Form-based codes must be passed city-wide ASAP to prevent suburban design like this from further damaging the street wall. ALL new commercial, residential, mixed-use, etc. development should be constructed right up to the sidewalk and, if at an intersection, then right up to the corner. Why can’t this be designed similar to the new Subway going up on S. Kingshighway? That one isn’t too bad.

    • Ken Jackson

      Maybe I should reopen this site as a gas station or dry cleaners. Then I wouldn’t have to get any approvals as it would be continuing under its current use.

      • Yojimbo

        If that’s as far as your imagination can take you.

  • TGE

    The drive through is driving the site design. The main entrance of the building would be fronting grand, but the building is oriented perpendicular to grand instead of fully fronting along Grand. SBUX insists on a drive through because in their experience in STL, a site has to have one to be viable….remember that this is a small site – slightly less than 1/3 of an acre….curious about what might be some *good* examples of development of similarly sized corner spots around the city.

    • Adam

      Too small? Absolute nonsense. Look next door for your example. The site is the same width as the neighboring 3-story building.

      • Ken Jackson

        But you can’t get a larger building approved as the city requires additional parking which the current site is barely able to accommodate. You couldn’t build that 3-story building today.

        • Adam

          Wrong. Variances. And your basically arguing that since city parking requirements have been set unreasonably high we can never build dense again. Nonsense. Variances can be granted and parking requirements can be changed.

  • RC

    The developer said during the community-input meeting that his engineers tried a few options and this was the only one that worked. That is B.S. He wants to use this plan because it reduces his costs. Designing a new, site-appropriate, building to sit on the corner wouldn’t allow him to reuse the building plans from other sites (such as the one in the above photo). So TGE residents will have to look at this horrible, cookie-cutter, suburban-style box for at least the next 10 years if Starbucks survives there, or an boarded up Starbucks if they fail, or whatever other fast-food joint wants to take over that drive-thru. Residents and city-officials agreeing to this signals to other developers that we support drive-thru and fast-food chains on S. Grand. What’s next? McDonalds at the Pelican building site? A strip mall at the YMCA site?

    • tbatts666

      Please write the alderman. I bike this route all the time. To get to the businesses on south grand.

      I hate it. Please write

      https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/aldermen/profiles/stephen-conway.cfm

      • Ken Jackson

        My wife and I bike constantly in the area, no problem. Grand even has a bike lane which makes it easier that other areas to bike in. Suggest you try some of the side streets as Grand already is part of trail.net and has significantly more room that other neighborhoods . . . or start driving.

        • Adam

          Ken, I highly doubt you live or bike anywhere near this development.

          • Ken Jackson

            Adam, we bike so often I wear out bikes. Why so negative??? I live a few houses away and we go to TG park and the Botanical gardens weekly weather providing. We are in TG park so often we recognize the regular walkers. If Grand traffic is too busy for you even though it has a bike lane than maybe you should try Arkansas. There is considerably more traffic and Grand & Arsenal than on Sidney. There is also a traffic light 1/2 block south and another 1-1/2 block north. Doubt the city will put up another on Sidney and the neighborhood would oppose it. We also consistently bike downtown from here. We feel the area is much better that going downtown.

          • Adam

            How am I being negative? I just can’t understand why somebody who supposedly spends so much time on foot and on bike would be promoting low-density, auto-centric development that makes walking and biking (instead of driving) less viable, less enjoyable and more dangerous.

    • Ken Jackson

      This is a custom site plan developed by the engineers. Why do you think it is a “cost cutting” plan. This is a $1 million development that has already spent thousands to get this far. This has been in the works since November and already had significant planning to get this far.

      • Yojimbo

        If this is a “custom site plan,” somebody needs to download some imagination and hit CAD again.

  • Imran

    The developer ( and his engineers ) have worked in Ballwin, Brentwood and Crestwood. That says quite a bit about them.

  • Baffled?

    There is currently a drive-thru Starbucks at Forest Park & Grand?! Why do they need another Starbucks less than 2 mi. away?!

    • Scott

      I am excited to see it coming. The lot is an eyesore and I suspect you don’t even live in this area and have to look at bombed out building everyday. Many people like myself will walk to this Starbucks but not the one 2 miles away

      • tbatts666

        Mokabes coffee house is nearby that place is pretty hip

        • Alex Ihnen

          And Hartford Coffee Co.

          • Mark Beirn

            Also Gelateria del Leone, South City Diner, even the walk-up Bread Co. with rear and street-side parking serves coffee.

          • Yojimbo

            Exactly. The project is commercially redundant, and jeopardizes the ongoing success of non-chain businesses.

    • Mark Beirn

      One possible explanation is that, through the success of the Saucer bldg. store at Forest Park and Grand, Starbucks sees an untapped market in the South City/Grand Blvd neighborhood. The emphasis on the drive-thru may indicate Starbucks is looking to tap the potential market of northbound morning commuter traffic.

    • Chris Cleeland

      because there are a lot of people from the south who will drive north to I-44 in the morning, and will not bother going through the extra 25 stoplights that sit between I-44 and the flying saucer.

  • Scott

    Bring it on!! I look forward to a stable business in a current derelict lot. Brings up property values and more people to Grand. More eyes and ears in the neighborhood

    • Imran

      And a well designed/situated building would still do all that.

  • tbatts666

    https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/aldermen/profiles/stephen-conway.cfm

    Please write the alderman to tell him your opinion of the design.

    I told him to fight it until they come up with something more attuned to what he businesses look in the nearby south grand business district. (Mixed use, walkable)

    • Imran

      Agree with you. Residents should demand a more urban site plan. They were able to get CVS to revise their plans on Lindell in the CWE. It is certainly possible here.

      • Yojimbo

        Agree.

        • TGE

          The residents have spoken and they like the plan.

          • Yojimbo

            Unsubscribe.

          • Chaifetz10

            Where have they spoken exactly? I have yet to see a petition…
            As a resident who lives just blocks north, I strongly oppose this.

          • TGE

            When this possible development became public last month (it had been rumored for months) I contacted my alderman, Stephen Conway, and he said that he’d support it if the neighborhood association and area residents did. There was a neighborhood meeting a couple of weeks ago to gauge neighborhood support. At that meeting, support for the project, while not universal, was the overwhelming majority, particularly among the residents of the 3500 blocks of Victor and Sidney, which are the residences in the closest proximity to the project. Based on that neighborhood support, the TGE board provided a letter of support but I believe it did so with the suggested stipulation that the building be re-oriented to completely, rather than partially, front along Grand. Since then, there have been two official city meetings – a cultural resources office meeting on 8/25 where the plan to raze the current building was approved and the board of adjustment meeting on 8/27 where the actual current plan was approved (without the stipulation suggested by the TGE board, I believe). One of the residents of the 3500 block of Victor circulated a petition of support prior to the 8/27 meeting and I know that it had more than 100 signatures, including mine.

          • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ KevinB

            The neighborhood association *almost* got it right. If the alderman really will go with what they determine, they need to make this known to the developer and have him sign a Restrictive Covenant agreeing to its proposed changes *before* receiving the Letter of Support.

            An organization I worked for did this and successfully sued when the developer broke that covenant. Future developers certainly took the organization’s role in the process seriously after that.

            Still not sure rotating the orientation 90 degrees make this stand-alone any better though…

  • Lcran

    Why can’t this be part of a mixed use development on the same site? Wouldn’t that be better than a little coffee island with a drive thru moat?

    • Ken Jackson

      City requirement . . . not enough parking.

      • Yojimbo

        You haven’t answered the question.

        • Ken Jackson

          To add additional tenants to the building it would require additional parking as well. Currently the plan is one space above the minimum.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Exemptions are granted left and right across this city, including one for a drive through at this location. Parking is not a real requirement.

          • Ken Jackson

            Do you think Starbucks wants parking for their clients?

          • STLEnginerd

            Why not a shared parking agreement with the store on the south side of Sidney, in the vast underutilized lot. There are other parking solutions if someone could put forth the effort.

  • Jon S

    Not enough shrubbery and ornamental iron to lipstick that pig.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    Since so few development designs in this city meet the aesthetic criteria of this online community, it would seem the solution would be for this group to establish a non-profit that buys derelict properties, rehab or redevelop them with aesthetically-suitable buildings, then take the financial risk of trying to find tenants for them.
    Bryan Kirchoff

    • Alex Ihnen

      We’ve heard this sentiment before. I reject it, as the logic would then follow that only a property owner would have a say in what’s built. That’s clearly absurd as not one of us would want a neighbor to build something hideous or out of character next to our own homes or businesses. And aesthetic criteria are considered in many places across the city already (and presumably where you live as well), including numerous local historic districts, and National Register properties. So presumably, we’re talking about where to draw the line. We can talk about what constitutes an historic district, highest and best use, blighting and government subsidies, but if your comment has no depth beyond saying that someone can’t have opinion unless they own the property, it doesn’t seem that you have much to add to the conversation.

      • Ken Jackson

        This project is NOT hideous or out of character. The building is modeled after the buildings across the street. Lets also be clear there are NO government subsidies on this project and the developer lives in Compton heights so you have a local building owner.

        • Yojimbo

          Disagree. The project *is* out of character. Check the S. Grand streetscape in the immediate vicinity. How many other drive-through windows do you see? How many other commercial structures entirely surrounded by asphalt car lanes? Appropriate adjustments need to be made for this project to fly.

          • TGS resident

            I see a jack in the box across the street

          • STLEnginerd

            And thats the problem when you say yes to Starbucks then McDonalds, KFC and Taco Bell can all say hey you’ve already got two drive-thrus…

        • Adam

          Ken, we can see when you up-vote yourself.

      • Bryan Kirchoff

        Mr. Ihnen,
        Thank you for your response, and I apologize for the snark that my note above carried. Obviously I check your site frequently because it has good info on it.
        I am not suggesting that residents cannot offer a say in what the built environment looks like, I am simply suggesting St. Louis is not in much of a position for that say to mean anything to developers. And certainly there is a question of where the line of property owner say-so versus neighbor say-so resides. A few more thoughts:
        1) How much say should non-owner have over the appearance of a given property? If neighbors objected to the color choice for your house, or the landscaping of your yard, or even the shape of the car you park out front, does that create an obligation on you to spend money to spend money to “fix” those things? You might reasonably suggest that neighborhood associations and subdivisions levy such requirements all the time, but the difference is that it is part of the compact of people who choose to live in those particular blocks – to apply that example here, the only valid say-so would come from people who live adjacent to the Starbucks site. One might be tempted to say that businesses are different, but I would have to pose the question “Why?” They are public institutions in a certain sense, but the public’s “vote” comes via spending or not spending money there.
        2) When the same debate was held over Ikea, one commenter raised the proposition that tax breaks give the public a right to proscribe the design of the building. I found that convincing for a bit, but on further consideration: (a) The City offers those breaks to the business for the creation of jobs, so building appearance would have to an explicit condition of the tax break for the public to get a say, and (b) once the tax break expires, I suspect successful businesses pay in more tax than they take in services – by virtue of therefore subsidizing other City residents’ services, does the business then get a say in the appearance of their properties?
        3) Finally, the tone of much commentary seems to indicate a belief that Starbucks designed this building in this way because it is somehow ideologically wed to “suburban” design. I have no doubt that Starbucks bases its design on oceans of market research and technical considerations to determine the best way to make money for shareholders. Had all other factors been equal, I’m sure Starbucks would have gone with a more “urban” design, precisely to avoid criticisms that we see here (that might hinder its ability to make money at the location); evidently its deliberations determined that having a drive-through trumped having a sidewalk storefront. Again, we are forced to enunciate a principle: Why should the aesthetic preferences of residents trump the company’s fiduciary duty to its shareholders (who, though often stereotyped as wealthy people, include union pension funds, middle-class employee 401ks, etc.)?
        4) All that said, I am not saying residents cannot try to insist on a particular look for developments. But St. Louis City (whether in the form of its government or its residents) is not really in a strong position to make extra demands on employers. We have a dropping population (and, thus, tax base), poor schools, higher crime (and that was before our national brand became “‘Lou’ is simply short for ‘looting'”), higher litigation costs, a certain desperation to cure our higher unemployment, and we charge a 1% premium to enjoy all of these “features”, to boot. If a franchise is considering a St. Louis expansion and debating where to place that expansion, stringent rules on building design are one more – perhaps small, perhaps large – incentive to locate in a municipality that does not impose such requirements.
        And that last point is why I say establishing a non-profit to purchase, develop, and market urban properties is the only way to guarantee we get the city we want to see; in essence, it is a version of the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” argument. The cheaper version would be to establish a non-profit that provides 0% interest loans to developers willing to agree to aesthetic standards. I’m simply one guy with an opinion, but as someone relatively new to this forum, many of the criticisms that commenters post seem to be a call for someone else to take on the delays, costs, and engineering risks of building a city we find visually pleasing.
        All that said, it’s good to have a forum for such discussions. Believe it or not, I’m a huge fan of the type of developments you all are looking for – walkability and distinctive architecture is a good part of why I live in the City. I just differ on our right to place those expectations on others.
        Bryan

        • Alex Ihnen

          Well, I ask for more, and I get it…thanks! Let’s see…

          1. Yes, subdivisions are analogous, and an interesting comparison as they often dictate there be no street parking, that shingles on sheds match houses, etc. To draw a longer line – it anecdotally seems that people who live in such environments can be to most pro-biz, least community input individuals. Anyway, I think a business in the city in very close proximity to other businesses and homes is different. If a Starbucks goes in west of McKnight on Manchester Road, well it really fits, right? The same building on S. Grand fits less well. Second, the city, I think, rightly belongs to more people than simply those in very close proximity. This came up with the Midtown Saucer (now Chipolte and Starbucks). The alderwoman was surprised anyone outside the ward would care. This is more obviously an issue when we talk about places like Forest Park, a museum, or recognized monumental building – there’s shared ownership across the community.

          2. I very much wish that the city would actually measure impact and report to the community. We don’t really know whether particular tax incentives have been productive. I would say that the issues aren’t simply financial. Those who live in near proximity to a business should have a voice. The project impacts their daily lives. I shudder to think that residents and businesses would have a say equal to their economic activity.

          3. I think Starbucks, and the developer, is ideologically wedding to $. That’s what drives this. It’s a pattern building because that’s what’s cheapest to build, and overall is assumed to yield the greatest profit. The pension fund beneficiaries argument is flawed, IMO. There’s enough truth to it to convince many that what’s good for big corporations is good for your 401K is good for you and the community. The amount of Starbucks stock held by you or me, or anyone else here, is so minuscule as to be irrelevant. Businesses exist to make as much money as possible, and that money is concentrated at the very top.

          4. You’re right – we constantly debate just how desperate STL is for development. The common argument here is that our past desperation has led to some truly awful development that has greatly damaged the city. For a few decades we have accepted just about anything, but the places that are more stringent are the places that seem to today be most successful economically – Lafayette Square, CWE, parts of downtown, Soulard, etc. Where we’ve decimated historic neighborhoods and allowed crappy infill, the city is suffering. It’s more complex than that, of course, but you get the point. Regarding the payroll tax – quite a few cities have a much higher tax. Cincinnati has a 2.1% payroll tax and is home to corporate headquarters of Proctor & Gamble, Kroger, and Macy’s, among others. What matters is building places people and companies want to be. We/they will pay for smart investments and quality services.

          Some of us have talked about a fund that would help produce better quality development. Frankly, the money needed is far greater than what one person, group, or nonprofit could muster. It’s my opinion that individual’s efforts are best spent supporting elected officials sharing a particular city/development vision, frequenting businesses that build in a smart way, and working publicly, and behind the scenes, to push for more economically sustainable development. This may mean one less curb cut for a condo building, or the denial of a demolition permit, etc.

          Thanks for reading – and commenting!

          • Nathan Woodall

            To add to this, I think it might be useful to see if this type of Starbucks (standalone, drive-thru, lots of hardscape parking surface) can be found at sites with similar characteristics in cities similar to St. Louis. The site is more or less a Starbucks “tweener site”. It isn’t contained within a contiguous storefront corridor like Grand south of Arsenal, but it isn’t far from one. It also isn’t surrounded by acres of parking lots common in a suburban site area or contained within a spec suburban style strip mall. The site has Tower Grove Park, some sidewalk-oriented commercial storefronts, and at least reasonable potential to revert to a more traditional (and pedestrian friendly) urban form.

            I might have missed one, but I couldn’t find a single example of this proposal in a similar location in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Detroit, or Milwaukee. I did find one that is arguably similar in KCMO (w 39th).

            A couple sets of questions that should be asked: 1) If this Starbucks doesn’t appear to be “good enough” in a similar setting for the majority of our regional peer cities, why is it good enough here? 2) Is the drive thru configuration even necessary? There are many examples of street-oriented, one-story Starbucks with parking behind the building in urban areas of our regional peer cities. What makes this site are so different? Or is this simply an issue that we’re willing to accept what others don’t?

          • Adam

            “Or is this simply an issue that we’re willing to accept what others don’t?”

            This combined with a frustrating lack of concern/awareness about how things work elsewhere. All the while incessantly complaining about how everywhere else is better.

        • STLgasm

          I would argue that these cookie-cutter developments that disregard basic urban design principles is a major reason why St. Louis has continued to decline in population, and has been struggling to hold on to major employers. St. Louis is at its best when it looks, acts and functions like a CITY. As long as we try to compete with the suburbs, we will lose. People don’t move to urban neighborhoods because it’s easy to park- they move there because they offer something that car-oriented suburbs don’t– walkability and a rich sense of place. Our “anything is better than nothing” mentality hasn’t served this city well over the past 60 years, and we have the irreparable scars to prove it. We are a proud city– we need to grow some balls and set some basic citywide design standards. When I see these proposals pop up, I ask myself, “Would Boston or Philadelphia or DC ever approve this development?” The answer is hell no– the developer would be laughed out of the room. When did we stop comparing ourselves to the great cities of America and become satisfied with “good enough”? Grow some balls, St. Louis. There’s no such thing as holding steady– unless we’re moving forward, we’re falling behind.

        • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

          I take issue with the assertion that St. Louis needs to take the stance of desperation (“not really in a strong position to make extra demands”) when dealing with chains like Starbucks.

          Most of the proposals like these offer redundant uses. The area around Tower Grove Park is not lacking options for coffee, from MoKaBe’s to Restituo to Gelateria to Bread Company to the new place on Shenandoah to Hartford Coffee. Starbucks is proposing something that the area already has in number, so residents are right to ask questions.

          Also, a key point within the framework of market capitalism is that the commenters here are potential customers. Consumers have the right to express their preferences. I don’t think that many people are stating that the city should prohibit this from being built as much as expressing their own desires — which Starbucks should heed. (Starbucks stores have closed here, like the one in Soulard.) It’s part of capitalism for consumers to state their preferences even without making demands on the government to use its police powers over real estate.

          One of the great things about nextSTL is that it offers developers, businesses and others some free market research on what St. Louisans really want. It’s a small share, but still, it is useful.

          • TGE

            Notably all the coffee spots you mention are west of Grand, with the exception of the soon-to-open Kitchen House Coffee at Shenandoah and Compton. Fox Park and TGE are fairly densely populated but the area lying roughly between Russell, Jefferson, Gravois and Grand is underserved with respect to coffee shops.

  • Imran

    Just read over at urbanStl that the Sekisui location is now available. Starbucks should set up shop there. There is already a parking lot behind that building. That way the Sydney/Grand location can be saved for something more urban in form.

    • Ken Jackson

      Doesn’t work. Starbucks requires a drive-up window.

      • Alex Ihnen

        The Frontenac Starbucks doesn’t have a drive thru.

        • Ken Jackson

          Yes, and can you seethe size of there parking lot. Don’t forget they are also across the street from Plaza Frontenac and currently Starbucks will not open any new store without one.

          • TGE

            That’s a strip center, though, and it has lots of surface parking. The point is that regardless of what it did in the past, SBUX thinks STL is a market where going forward it needs to have a drive through in its new locations. Im not saying I agree, but thats their position.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Of course that’s their position. Starbucks is trying to make money, quickly and easily, if possible. One way they do that is to design a model store and squeeze it into as many places as possible with as few alterations as possible. Residents and cities can provide a counterbalance of other values if they desire.

        • Imran

          Yup, Neither does the CWE Starbucks on Maryland and it is a fantastic location.

      • Yojimbo

        No it doesn’t. Lots of examples of urban Starbucks franchises without drive-through access.

        • Ken Jackson

          Starbucks will not approve this site without a drive thru. Also, the last 5 Starbucks to close did not have a drive thru. Homeowners in the area have not been concerned for the drive thru as it is for having an entrance on Grand rather than Sidney.

    • Mary C

      The landlord doesn’t want another restaurant in that spot. Besides, there’s no room for a drive-thru.
      Personally, I prefer patronizing local coffee shops anyway.

      • Imran

        Local coffee shops are great. However, that large parking lot behind sekisui could have a drive through. Imagine a U shaped drive, one arm of which runs along the back to the sekisui building. Where there is a will…… Not that I am advocating or a drive-through.

        • Mary C

          Except the lot is needed for the other businesses located in the building. A drive-thru would eliminate too much parking.

          • imran

            I guess then its a good thing that there is a ginormous underutilized parking lot behind the bank building to serve the entire South Grand Business district.

  • Larry Guinn

    This development is a cookie-cutter cost savings reuse of commonly used suburban plan development. Just the pedestrian approaches are an example of this, since all pedestrian perspective should be from that of someone in a wheelchair, there is no sidewalk access to the front door. According to the plans posted here, the sidewalk is fenced off with only driveway access. A wheelchair is forced to go around cars in the parking lot and follow the path created for the handicapped parking space. How easy is it to see a wheelchair moving behind a car backing up?
    It’s ironic Starbucks hails from Seattle, a city that embraces urban living, that Starbuck’s development is anti-urban and pro-car suburban.

    • TGE

      Larry, that’s not my understanding. I believe the design has an entrance fronting on Grand.

      • Adam

        Again, no. Look closely at the schematic. The door on Grand leads to a fenced-in patio. It is not accessible from Grand. The main entrance opens onto the parking lot.

      • Larry Guinn

        The posted building plans do not show it.

  • Alex Ihnen

    Current argument seems to be – Pro: parking requirements are inviolable, Starbucks says it requires exactly what’s proposed, and developer lives nearby. Con: it’s a bland cookie-cutter suburban auto-oriented design in a walkable neighborhood that already has roughly a dozen places to get coffee.

    What’d I miss?

    • rgbose

      That we have to get more tax base than this will generate in order to afford the infrastructure, amenities and services we want in a city.

    • TGE

      There is a real lack of coffee shops east of Grand. Hartford is about a mile away and really serves a different area. Mokabe’s….I like their brunch but am personally not a fan of their coffee…I think there is plenty of demand without harming the *good* coffee shops in the area.

      • Alex Ihnen

        It’s plausible that this Starbucks would serve a different clientele – those commuting through – who wouldn’t otherwise stop and get coffee. Of course some locals will walk there as well. No matter opinions expressed, it would seem that short of pointed Aldermanic opposition, it’s coming.

        • TGE

          I’m not a SBUX-ophile per se, but it will be nice to have a decent coffee shop within walking distance of TGE. I do think the area east of Grand really needs more coffee shops and this location will get a lot of foot traffic. The readers of this site are smart and have generally well reasoned and informed opinions on urban issues, but the strident opposition here is not representative of how most people in the neighborhood feel. We are excited to have a business that is walkable and will reflect positively on the neighborhood. I’m generally against drive throughs but I will accept it for this site. If this were a drive through proposed for the Pelican site, then I would be with everyone else and pull out my urban planning pitchfork and torch.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Seems like a reasoned approach. What a development replaces matters. The discussion about highest and best use is very important for setting expectations, understanding options and exploring possibilities for current and future development. What’s perhaps most frustrating is that there’s no plan for most of the city. Our city plan is 66 years old, and every development is layered with exemptions, re-zoning, etc. This means that too many (nearly all) development seems arbitrary, haphazard and unpredictable.

          • tbatts666

            Right on.

          • dempster holland

            which was the way the older parts of the city developed

          • Sean

            Hi TGE, I just wanted to point out that there is another coffee option opening up east of grand at Shenandoah and Compton – Kitchen House Coffee: http://kitchenhousecoffee.com/. As a resident of TGE myself, I will be spending my money here (and Hartford, the Gelataria and Mokabees) over a Starbucks. Cheers, Sean

    • tbatts666

      Inviolable? A city planner for St Louis told me that parking requirements can be overlooked for any development. I am really confused about parking requirement in St Louis, I thought they were progressive?

  • Justin Striebel

    As someone who lives pretty close (not in TGE, but TGS) that would frequent this Starbucks, here’s some thoughts:

    I WOULD absolutely utilize the drive-thru on a regular basis. For better or for worse (most likely for better), I often skip any sort of morning coffee beverage (I’m not one that requires one) because few are directly on my way, and I rarely give myself the time to park, get out, and go inside, etc.

    When I lived in STL Hills, I used the drive-thru Starbucks a decent amount, though.

    Now, the urbanist in me agrees with a lot of the things mentioned. And it’s also willing to tell the commuter in me to get over the drive-thru. But I do wonder if there’s a happy medium where the building can be more urban and still have a drive-thru.

    I suppose my real point is that while I sympathize with any concern over a poor building design/street orientation, I do think a drive-thru would oft-used by nearby residents.

    • Mark Beirn

      Thank you for this response. Do you think you would go inside the Starbucks and drink a coffee inside the store or just use the drive-thru?

      I ask because one common refrain is that the neighborhood needs a coffee shop; does the drive-thru experience satisfy that perceived need? Several neighborhood residents ask why both a drive-thru AND a non-car-friendly placement can’t be achieved on the site. Many people support Starbucks coming in, but don’t like the plan because of the many groups that it excludes. Thoughts?

      • Justin Striebel

        Good questions. Not actually living in Tower Grove East, but instead Tower Grove South, I have my local coffee shop in Hartford Coffee, along with other options like Mokabee’s. So to be honest, if I were planning to go inside for a coffee and to hang out/work/etc. I’d probably prefer to frequent a local shop like that.

        Now, I don’t have a real opposition to Starbucks, so if I did live in Tower Grove East, and I didn’t have another coffee-shop option to get the inside experience in, then I would certainly utilize it for that.

        But for my personal experience, I would say that of any business I gave this Starbucks, over 90% of it would be drive-thru business. And I’d also say that I would give it a pretty good amount of drive-thru business.

        I’d give the nearest by neighbors the most weight in this discussion, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that I’m probably not alone in being someone that lives pretty close that would feel like I’d benefit from (or at least utilize) the drive-thru.

        But I fully agree with the idea that they could probably change the site plan in a manner that satisfies a lot of the critics (and as an urbanist, I probably qualify), while still retaining a drive-thru.

        • STLEnginerd

          “But for my personal experience, I would say that of any business I gave
          this Starbucks, over 90% of it would be drive-thru business.”

          And that is the rub. I can’t dispute that most of the sites vale will be derived from drive-thru business. I think there are ways to cut back on parking In a seperate post I proposed a shared parking agreement with the landowner on the south side of Sidney St., but if you kill the drive-thru I’d bet money you kill the project.

          That may or may not be a bad thing depending on how dyed-in-the-wool urbanist you are, but thats my analysis of the situation. If you had 3+ stories of apartments above the building I’d bet most would celebrate in spite of a drive-thru.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Couldn’t find the reference, but I believe that the average McDonald’s gets 60%+ of all business via the drive-thru.

    • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ KevinB

      Just an idea on how a less auto-dependent city could still provide the Drive-thru, provide a few parking spaces (plus curbside availability on Sydney) and utilize the remaining space for residential/commercial multi-story…

      Behold the powers of MSPaint!

      • tbatts666

        Nice! I like it a lot. Putting the parking on the inside of the building would make the property looks a lot less desolate.

  • Michael C.

    There is no place in St Louis city for this suburban styled, auto-centric development. Starbucks isn’t that good anyway. Try Illy or LavAzza and you’ll never go back to Starbucks.

    What makes a city is its character, its charming walkable neighborhoods, its particular architecture. A proposal like this could never fly in middle of any European city. Local developers need to ask themselves the question: Will this building add to/enhance the particular 250 year old architectural heritage of this city? Will this building last for at least another two hundred years? Do we just want to make a quick buck, or do we want to add something substantial to this illustrious city on the banks of the Mississippi River.

    Great and successful cities are built over time with structures built to last. Developers should think of the lasting effects their buildings will have on the neighborhood and the city.

    This proposal adds nothing of great value or character and in perhaps 20 years will be left vacant for another developer.

  • Longtime TGE Resident

    The developer, Richard Robinson, has said multiple times that this building is based on one across the street in his campaign to get neighborhood support. Unless he is talking about the Alps/Family Dollar, I can’t see what he is basing his claims on. The buildings across Grand are all two or three stories structures and far larger in scale that what is being proposed for this site. Anyone with eyes can see the elevation plans match the Starbucks that was built on Delmar and N/S referenced in this article. So to me, this proposal appears to be a reuse of a cookie-cutter building without any real consideration of the neighborhood’s unique architecture. Mr. Robinson is also responsible for the failed redevelopment of both the Pelican building at Grand & Shenandoah as well as the YMCA building a little farther up Grand, both of which are sitting empty and decaying day by day. It won’t be much longer before both buildings become victims of the elements and must be demolished (for more drive through fast food chains?). This all signals a sad future for St. Louis if all we have to look forward to is a streetscape lined with fast food joints.

    • STLEnginerd

      ^That Pelican Building would make for a pretty nice Starbucks on the ground floor. Plenty of room for a drive thru as well… Just sayin.

      • Nathan Woodall

        If they’re fixating on a drive thru, they’ll want it on the east side of Grand. Northbound traffic will find the east side of the street more accessible and there’s more money in coffee being convenient to morning commuters than evening commuters (southbound west side).

        • Mary C

          The Pelican Building is on the east side of Grand. Hope someone is able to utilize it, it’s lovely.

      • Mark Beirn

        Now that’s some creative thinking. Purportedly this developer was involved in the most recent attempts to
        renovate the Pelican and raze the old YMCA building to replace it with a
        strip mall. That plan collapsed.

  • Alex Ihnen

    Just FYI for those wondering:

    • Nathan Woodall

      Good stuff. I looked at KC, Milwaukee, Indy, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh for comparison. There are roughly 210 locations within a comparable distance from the CBDs of these markets. Like STL, roughly 25% had drive thru features. There were only 2 stand alone stores in areas in which the dominant commercial form was even arguably NOT stand alone commercial/retail/strip mall/shopping center.

      1 of these had a drive thru (1420 N Capitol, Indy). This area’s built environment has seen a lot of demolition and contains a lot of vacant lots and parking: http://tinyurl.com/qfgdw22 I wouldn’t call it a storefront commercial area, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s nothing like the S Grand location, however. This is the 1 in 54 stand alone drive thru exception I found, and it doesn’t strike me as applicable to this site.

      I was wrong about KCMO earlier. It has no drive thru, but is stand alone (1701 W 39th). http://tinyurl.com/owdqs5a This one isn’t awful. It blends with the one-story storefront rows fairly well across the street and seems at least a little inspired by the old rail car diners.

      Either way, there is absolutely nothing comparable to this proposal out of 200 Starbucks in 7 metros I sampled. That should tell us something (I hope).

    • Mark Beirn

      excellent info. are data sets available on the Starbucks that have closed recently in the STL metro area?

  • Imran

    Contrast this with Kitchen House Coffee, about to open at 3149 Shenandoah Avenue. A local place in a historic building. No drive-through or parking obsessions.

    • TGE

      I live right behind the site of the proposed new SBUX and am very excited to see Kitchen House Open. I’m confident the neighborhood can support both locations.

  • Dave Metzger

    Disappointed I couldn’t make the community meeting. Seems to me that the building could hug the corner of Grand and Sidney while still providing a drive thru and adequate parking on the east and north side of the site. The entrance could then be oriented at the corner of Grand and Sidney, and built to the height and materials proposed and make for a much better development. With this orientation, I would certainly support the development as it would be much more pedestrian friendly while still meeting the drive thru “requirement”.

  • matimal

    142 comments! Why?

    • cngrant

      To put fuel on this fire: nextstl report on Ferguson – 24 comments; nextstl article on Starbucks – 142 comments. Why?