TOD in St. Louis: What a Load of Crap

The antithesis of transit-oriented development. That's what I called the plan for the site adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink station that is currently under construction, a Mini car dealership surrounded by more than 500 parking spaces.

Then I found this image and description on Cozad Commercial Real Estate's website which shows the next phase of development.

Sunnen Station development - TOD St. Louis

Sunnen's goals for Sunnen Station are to establish a master plan that will allow for future growth, development and adaptability to change in our constantly changing real estate market; as well as promote the lifestyle of the development, including access to transit, greenways and an urban mix of uses as a highly desirable place to work.

What a load of crap.

What is the new "urban mix" replacing? A neighborhood of modest homes and apartments within an easy walk to the MetroLink light rail station.

Sunnen Station development - TOD St. Louis

Sunnen MetroLink Station demolition

Sunnen MetroLink Station demolition

Sunnen MetroLink Station demolition

  • dempster holland

    What is interesting is that the construction cost of the auto dealership
    will now be added to the “development generated by light rail” in all
    the promotional materials of Metro etc

  • John

    Currently pedestrians coming from the south have a 2100 foot(!) detour around the construction to get to the Metrolink stop. It’s not obvious from Cozad’s pictures what access will be like when complete. I wrote Maplewood, STL County, and Cozad two months ago and never heard back. I tried again and finally heard back from Maplewood City Manager Marty Corcoran. According to him, pedestrians will no longer have the old Laclede Sta shortcut – they’ll have to proceed up Hanley to the new Sunnen Drive extension. This route veers west and north out of the way before coming back. Hopefully, in reality, people will be able to just cut across the parking lot that is pictured, but right now the grade is pretty high there compared to Hanley, so I’m not sure. What a load of crap.

  • fulltimemonti

    I am a Maplewood resident and have been disturbed lately by the lack of planning from the city. They tore down an ugly car dealership to put up an ugly CVS. Fine. But now they want to tear down the old building kitty corner so QT can move 4 blocks to the intersection. I moved to #mplwd for the walkability and charm and it is quickly being destroyed as they run towards development and tax revenue without thinking about sustainability.

    • john w.

      I live in the city’s 24th Ward, which is the westernmost ward in immediate adjacency to Maplewood. I used to both work and live in Maplewood, and bought property nearby. I did not near of the proposal to tear down the Plaza Ford building at the NWC of Big Bend and Manchester, and this is very disappointing. We do have to balance two realities at this intersection, and that is that the volume and speed of traffic along this corridor will not change (likened to Brentwood, Hampton, Kingshighway, Grand, Jefferson), and that fact that a great historic inner-ring suburb doesn’t have a visible indicator of arrival at this intersection. One would never know what is simply a few hundred feet to the east if one did not move eastward along Manchester Road and into Maplewood’s downtown.

  • Luftmentsch

    meant to write: “Maplewood  THINKS it’s doing something wonderful….”

  • Luftmentsch

    What’s bizarre is that Maplewood since it’s doing something wonderful by putting more parking next to a Metrolink station rather than encouraging TOD. St. Louisans seems to have no ability to think about Metrolink in any terms other than as a tool for getting to baseball games and the airport that one first reaches by car. (I even heard Charlie Brennan once railing about the fact that there was no parking near the Skinker and Big Bend stations!)

    Sunnen Station had so much potential as a site for TOD, but, for that matter, so did Brentwood Station and plenty of other stations on that route. Why St. Louis turns its back on lightrail (after spending millions to build it) is a mystery to me.

  • Steve Kluth

    I agree with much of what’s been said and commented. But let’s face it, the land near any Metro station will end up being redeveloped. I agree this plan is pretty pathetic. But if Metro is still around for another 25 years (and I believe it will), this area will be redeveloped again more intelligently. I do hope that whoever owns Deer Creek Plaza redesigns it to take advantage of its proximity to the Metro station. A more pedestrian-friendly plaza with a pedestrian bridge over the commercial rail tracks to Lowell Industrial Drive could really bring back Deer Creek Plaza. 

  • Douglas Duckworth

    Metro has no land use control.  St. Louis has no regional planning.  There is no coordination of transportation to what is built.  What else do you expect to happen?  What is getting built represents the dominant built form in Saint Louis and no one has placed structures that would promote another type of outcome.   

  • matthb

    I would like to see a discussion of local ordinances forcing “good” development vs. imaginative developers choosing “good” development.  I’ve seen very attractive developments in other cities and I wouldn’t think that many cities (yes, some, but not many) are using innovative zoning to force more forward looking developments. 

    So is this a governance issue or a general lack of imagination with developers in this region?

    • John w.

      You’re describing form-based code. Since it already exists in full template form, and is in use in places other than St. Louis, it would not be very difficult to arrive at a critical mass of support among urbanists.

      • matthb

         Yes, and my point is most cities don’t have one, but have more attractive development including TOD.  There seems to be a tendancy to place some blame on local governments (yes there is blame to go around).  Perhaps other cities just have more forward thinking developers/business leaders.

        • john w.

          1.  “Yes, and my point is most cities don’t have one…”

          2.  “Perhaps other cities just have more forward thinking developers/business leaders…”

          Yes, and yes. I would say the two go hand-in-hand. Cities that don’t have FBC, but also have [progressive] development don’t likely need FBC to set standard, because there is already an environment that is conducive to both capital investment and new development that respects respectable standard-setting existing context. St. Louis mostly shows no such respect, and with declining residential population it’s more likely that new development that fits the “do anything you want, just please, do something new so that it likes like we’re making some sort of progress” approach. The many cases in point are well illustrated by the Slay administration and SLU, for instance.

  • John Regenbogen

    Somewhat relevant to this post; I drove along Watson Rd. in the Crestwood area for the first time in awhile.  Man, that place is just run down… a good look into America’s future for Suburbia: closed malls, closed big box stores, closed gas stations.  Its a huge warning signal that we need to get our act together as a region. 

  • Alex Ihnen

    With this project, Hadley Heights, the phantom Target in Rock Hill, the new I-64/I-170 interchange, etc. etc. etc., it’s amazing how much housing is being demolished in the inner suburbs. I’m sure we’ll all be shocked when the County again loses population this decade.

    • Zun1026

      But we will have retail tax revenue…the ultimate need for any community!           I kid.

  • tpekren

    I’m dumbfounded by the fact that Sunnen can’t even fill its existing development on the other side of the tracks after using the same basic development plan; demo and grade a greenfield lot in order to build the same spec building you can build anywhere where their is a road and flat surface in the region.  Why have a business development model that essential has you competing with the entire region? and hasn’t succeeded that well in the first place

    Sunnen has simple becoming a landlord of empty, non productive space.   Wondering if it has more to do with ego than any reasonable business plan.  They might as well buy up Deer Creek Plaza and knock everything else down while they are at. 

    What I’m even more dumbfounded by is the fact that Richmond Heights, Brentwood, and Maplewood are some well grounded communities surrounded by the best of the region’s infrastructure with easy access to Airport, Universities, BJ/Wash U med school and the regions two biggest business districts/with respective city&county seats.  Yet they have gone on a path of wholesale residential destruction that has resulted in declining populations.    Putting up/zoning dense residential around there respective metrolink stations could turn around that trend.

    • There’s a possibility that Deer Creek may come back to life. At the very least, Summit Development(?) has presented a list of interested tenants to the Maplewood planning commission.

      Agree with everything else regarding the failure of RH, Brentwood, and Malplewood to push for quality and sustainable development.

  • symphonyplayer

    The houses and trees are now gone at this site…

  • T L

    Here are a few good link and books: 

    Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980
    (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995)·         Common Fields: An Environmental History of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO Historical Society Press, 1997), editor·         Chasing the American Dream: A History of Diners, Bowling Alleys and Trailer Parks (New York, Basic Books, 2001)·         Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner-Cities (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010)

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    Well, look, anyone that owns property is free to develop it and call it whatever they want. Unless we as a region want to start investing in the property around our transit hubs, and/or we form some kind of regional planning authority, people advocating for smart growth are going to continue to have very little say. 

    Projects like this are developed one municipality at a time, as with every other issue in this fractured region. You can suggest design changes. You can attend meetings at city councils or planning commissions. You can go out and preach the gospel of good, transit-supportive development. But in the end, if the people advocating for better development have no (1) ownership of the property, (2) money in the game, or (3) influence over the elected leaders of the muni in question, they can do whatever they want. If the people of the muni want better development and demand that of their leadership, they’ll get it. 

    So the challenge to you, urbanists, is – how can we educate the populace as a WHOLE so they start demanding better development – more sustainable development, financially and environmentally – from their elected leaders? Now’s the time to come up with a solution, before the next big so-called “TOD” or the next TIF is up for vote.

  • Guest

    Are you sure this is the right project? I don’t see a TOD here. It should be passed off as one either. 

  • Concerned Citizen

    Developments like this is why St. Louis is not a thriving, successful region….Get with the program people! When the market rebounds all data points to more sustainable and urban centered development. Where is the leadership on this? When are we going to stop talking and start doing? As a region!