St. Louis City to Consider Vacating Portion of Clayton Avenue for Cheshire Inn Parking

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{city/county border in blue, portion of Clayton Avenue shown in red}

The City of St. Louis and the municipalities of St. Louis County need development. We need to rehabilitate our existing infrastructure, preserve our historic buildings and return them to use. Using incentives to do so is standard practice, and in many cases necessary to encourage development. So, the announcement that the Cheshire Inn complex, straddling the City of St. Louis-Richmond Heights line has a new owner and redevelopment plan came as good news. The usual suspects of incentives are all there, property tax abatement and sales tax benefits from Richmond Heights, a decade of tax abatement from the City of St. Louis and the city vacating Clayton Avenue from Clayton Road to Skinker.

The City of St. Louis has vacated too many public city streets, and continues to do so seemingly at the mere request of any business or institution. This trend is damaging and practically impossible to reverse once implemented. There should be a high standard of information and evaluation required before permanently vacating a city street. Has there been a traffic analysis of the impact of such a closure? On what merits will the proposal be evaluated? How are the potential benefits and negative effects considered and weighed?

In this case, according the Post-Dispatch, the additional land given to the Cheshire development would be used for surface parking. And this is needed because the new owner envisions multiple restaurants, a coffee house and market on the property. Much depends on the execution of this vision, but adding amenities to the Hi-Pointe/Demun neighborhoods would be a good thing. 

What purpose does this one block currently serve? Clayton Avenue provides access to the BP/Amoco station and the Cheshire Inn. Access to both would remain, and presumably be improved, at least from the west, with the closure of Clayton Avenue. This stretch also provides direct access to and from the east via Clatyon and Oakland Avenues. If closed, all traffic wishing to access Clayton Road would be required to make a short jog on Skinker Boulevard. This would add some amount of traffic to an already busy intersection.

The cluster of roads converging at the Hi-Pointe Theatre and number of stoplights directing traffic are confusing. Closing Clayton Avenue only to the west will do very little to improve this confusion. In the end, the closure will put more traffic through an already congested intersection, eliminate a direct route to Clayton Road and Richmond Heights for residents of the City's Dogtown neighborhood and those using Oakland Avenue to access Forest Park Community College, the Highlands or Forest Park and provide parking for a business owner who will bring amenities to the neighborhood, revitalize an historic hotel and receive significant tax benefits in the process.

Anyone willing to bet whether or not Clayton Avenue will be a parking lot in the near future?


{a view of Clayton Avenue looking west from Skinker Boulevard}


{a view of Clayton Avenue looking east from Clayton Road}

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  • Adam

    I support this with reservation. The little triangular island between Clayton Road and Clayton Avenue is completely cut off from anything other than vehicular traffic, as there are no crosswalks to access this. This problem is compounded by the incredibly confusing five-way intersection between Clayton Rd, Skinker, McCausland, and Oakland which is a complete disaster from a traffic flow perspective.

    Closing down Clayton Ave would make the intersection much simpler. They really need to close down Clayton Ave a little further east and force people to merge from it onto Oakland. That would turn the intersection into a three way intersection, which I think would improve both vehicular and pedestrian flow. But still, the intersection is always going to be a disaster until it undergoes a major rerouting of streets.

  • Zun1026

    You don’t shut down this street, unless you want more congestion on Skinker between the two Claytons. You don’t close it if you want to try to maintain the CBD in Dogtown.

    At first glance it didn’t seem like a terrible idea, but after looking twice its easy to see this is a bad idea IMO.

  • Benya31

    still praying someone sometime with some authority realizes that a turnabout would be good here

    • TW

      I have drawings actually…

  • I think completely closing that street is really problematic. While it might work for the new Cheshire (which I’m excited about), there are other parties involved here – like the other businesses on that corner, Dewey school, pedestrians (there are plenty here), people driving into Dogtown, etc. Here’s an off the cuff idea – Keep it open running West to East (for a number of reasons I won’t explain, its probably more vital going that way) So people can go from Clayton Rd. Into Dogtown. There is a street / alley called Oakland West of Skinker, which is one way, and could be flipped to run East to West. I think that might work for most folks. Whats is really key though is improving a number of the crosswalks at this tangled web of intersections, especially going north from Oakland into the park, and going across Skinker at Clayton. This is an intersection I use all the time and already had my eye on.

    Scott Ogilvie
    Independent for Alderman, Ward 24
    ward24stl.com

    • Alex Ihnen

      My real interest in this specific issue is how streets are closed and/or vacated, what is known about potential impacts before a part of the public domain is given to a private developer for parking (in this case). I venture to guess that someone proposes taking possession of a city street; without study or wide publicity the street is given to a private developer. Public notice barely counts as the practical result is that unless a group of individuals become highly informed and organize quickly, there’s little chance of influencing the outcome. Even then there’s little chance. How can this process be changed?

      • Scott Ogilvie

        Yea – great question. I’m sure there’s no study, and the only notice came in the stltoday.com article. I’d be especially interested in this issue of I was a business owner in the area. I have no idea if they were consulted / informed.

    • TWalk

      I think closing that stretch of Clayton Ave. will facilitate the construction of an effective traffic circle/roundabout at that intersection. If someone needs to get across Skinker, the fastest way across is to continue east on Clayton Rd (north of BP), turn right on red and utilize the left on green. The intersection is a total clusterf**k, and by using part of the park, there is plenty of space to make an attractive roundabout with a beautiful feature welcoming people to the city and Forest Park.

      I have drawings, and I live in your ward. Sorry if I heckled you at FBC…

  • Brian

    I’m also a resident of Dogtown and I would gladly trade the little section of Clayton road for a couple pedestrian crosswalks or even a bridge around this intersection. Why there aren’t any crosswalks to be found in this area is just mind boggling. There’s a movie theatre, a bank, restaurants, stores, the Cheshire, and even Forest Park right here. I guess the city planning department just couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to walk to Forest Park! I’m really surprised more people don’t get killed crossing Clayton, Skinker, Oakland, or the HWY 64 on-ramp in the area.

    And yes, the intersection is already congested, but I’m not sure taking out that section of Clayton is going to make that area too much worse. They can probably start allowing a right on red at the main intersection. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the iconic giant Amoco sign, I bet that overpriced BP could disappear without too many people complaining.

    • Bobby

      I totally agree with you on the crosswalks! Along with changing the main intersection to allow a right on red they would need to make that right lane a “right turn only.”

    • Alex Ihnen

      Absolutely true. Perhaps something of a trade-off can be had? If a street is going to be closed, maybe some crosswalks can be put in. They’re not exactly related, but it’s worth a try. Crosswalks are needed either way. It’s a small point, but if Clayton Ave were to become parking, a person walking from Dogtown to any of the businesses on Clayton Road would have to walk along Skinker then Clayton Road, certainly less direct and less pleasant than the current option. In the end, the closing may be justified, but there are winners and losers to be sure.

    • Adam

      I actually wrote to MoDoT asking why this intersection was such a mess, and they said they know it’s a problem but do not have the money to fix it. Rumor is that the I-64 renovation was supposed to fix that problem, but various pedestrian improvements were cut from the project so it could finish early and the companies could make some fat bonuses. I myself have nearly been hit by a car there on several occasions, usually by people zooming off I-64 not paying attention.

  • Bobby

    Being a resident of Dogtown I feel this is a very bad thing for a number of reasons. That intersection is already very confusing for people not from the area to navigate. That small fork of Clayton Ave helps the already congested Main Intersection (Clayton Rd & Skinker) divert traffic. The main intersection separates the traffic that wants to head 40/64 East, or North on Skinker, while the other allows you to head into Dogtown on 2 separate roads. During the Forest Park season these intersections are very used. The Clayton Ave fork also allows you to make a right turn on red which often helps that intersection to not remain congested.

    People in this city are to use to parking their car in a lot and walking 10 feet to the entrance of an establishment. We are one of the few metropolitan areas that you are not forced to park several blocks away and actually walk to your destination. There is plenty of FREE parking surrounding that area and could be utilized by patrons.