Top 15 nextSTL posts in 2012

We’ll share a few more numbers on the big year at as the year winds down, but it’s always interesting to look back at the stories that attracted the most readers over the past 12 months. SLU made a lot of news, and development plans in general rebounded from a largely silent 2011, but the news spanned the big and small, preserving our past and planning decades into the future. This lists uses simple raw user views, which posts do you remember that may not have made the list? (See also: Top 10 posts of 2010 and Top 10 posts of 2011)

15. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Bier Garten Opens to Rave Review
I haven’t actually read any reviews of the UCBC bier garten. That “rave review” is mine. UCBC announced yesterday on their blog that the bier garten would have a soft opening and I managed to stop by for a liter. The short of it is that this is an authentic Bavarian bier garten, an open courtyard with communal tables, a beer hut, 1/2 and 1 liter steins, the whole deal. That’s great in its own right, but what’s really exciting about the UCBC bier garten is that it’s truly a “place”. We don’t do beer reviews here at nextSTL, so I’ll leave it at the beer being really, really good. But one of those “reallys” can be attributed to the new space. Just like you swear that margharita pizza you had on the shore of Lago di Como was the best ever created, the beer simply tastes better here. Place influences taste. This is where UCBC got their bier garten right. read more >

14. Olive/Lindell Streetcar or Bust: Why a New St. Louis Line Must Build on Success
The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis has released an RFQ (PDF below) for consultants to “a streetcar feasibility study for connecting the areas of Downtown, Midtown, CentralWest End, and Skinker-DeBaliviere in the City of St. Louis”. This is step one in a long, necessary process that must be followed to develop a streetcar line. Citizens for Modern Transit offered a mock-up of the best potential route (image below). The Post-Dispatch put a piece online titled “So you want a streetcar, eh?” and offered a wacky Locust-Olive-Walton-McPherson route (OK, Locust would be pretty cool). Here’s why the only feasible route will prove to be Olive-Lindell. read more >

13. Conscious of History, CORTEX Plans New Construction and Preservation of City’s Memory
Three significant historic buildings will see new life as part of the CORTEX development. The district, aiming to lure innovative life science companies and expand research capacity of its member organizations, covers nearly 240 acres in central St. Louis City. The Cresent building at 4340 Duncan, the Southwestern Bell building at 4250 Duncan, and the Brauer Supply building at 4260 Forest Park Avenue, are all slated to be renovated as part of CORTEX Phase II, which includes new construction, a pedestrian plaza and new MetroLink station as well. While the RFP of last November gave us an idea of what’s coming, the latest news shows just how quickly development might move. CORTEX was created in 2005 and the City of St. Louis, labeling the area “blighted” by ordinance, offered carte blanche for development in the area. This meant no demolition review, no public hearings with the city’s Preservation Board. read more >

12. The SLU-burbanization of Downtown St. Louis: School Envisions Closing Chestnut Street
In January of this year, Saint Louis University announced its law school would be moving downtown from Midtown’s Frost Campus. Renderings of the school’s new home were revealed in May. While the move was generally applauded and seen as an investment in the city by the university, the school was relocating within the city and taking a downtown office building off the tax rolls. If nothing else, many believed the move foreshadowed a shift to embrace urbanism, a more urban-friendly development plan by SLU. It now appears that the school is more intent on suburbanizing the central business district. What appears to be a new rendering of the Joe and Loretta Scott Law Center, shows Chestnut Street closed for a circular driveway at Tucker Boulevard. While it’s possible that the idea hasn’t gone any further than the drawing board, now is the time to state unambiguously that this should not be allowed to happen. read more >

11. Whole Foods Set to Occupy 30,000 Square Feet in Central West End City Walk Development
In August, nextSTL reported on efforts to bring a Whole Foods Market to the long vacant lot at Euclid and West Pine in the city’s Central West End neighborhood. The project now appears to be moving forward, with developer Bruce Mills announcing that the grocery chain has signed a letter of intent. The site was the location of the Doctor’s Building until 2008, when it was demolished. The latest City Walk proposal is for a 6-story building with 159 rental apartments, 6,100 sq ft of community space (fitness center, club house, cafe and lounge), and 393 parking spaces (up from 312 in 2009) in a garage conceled from street view. The rendering above, from the 2009 proposal shows a seventh story on the half of the project nearest Euclid, but otherwise still appears to accurately reflect the current design. read more >

10. Understanding St. Louis: Total Crime Index and Crime-Ridden Neighborhoods
Crime and crime reporting shape our perception of St. Louis. A recent murder on a Saturday afternoon in the city’s busy Central West End neighborhood has brought more attention to crime in the city. In the wake of the murder, other armed robberies were retroactively reported. Some have even noticed that not all murders are treated equally by the local press. In the first six months of 2012, there were 70 homicides reported in the City of St. Louis. The city is roughly on pace to equal the 143 homicides in 2009 and 144 in 2010, outpacing the 113 recorded last year. The local press has taken notice of the increase in crimes committed with guns, rising number of homicides, and yes, the CWE murder (two individuals have been apprehended and charged with the crime). read more >

9. In Effort to Keep Rams, St. Louis CVC Offers $60M, Asks Team for $64M to Push Dome to “Top Tier”
This is a story that’s a long way from being finished. Today was step one of several that will reveal whether the Rams will stay in St. Louis. In my opinion, Stan Kroenke already knows if the Rams will stay or go. No matter the details of the lease, if the Rams are determined to go, they will go and the NFL will help them. All that remains is how ugly the break up will be. Of course if the Rams stay, the negotiation now underway presents an opportunity for the Convention & Visitors Commission, Kroenke, and the City of St. Louis to build mutual respect and an impassioned fan base. If they stay, they will likely stay for a long time. L.A. is the outlier and more $1B+ stadiums can’t be expected to pop up in the near future to lure teams to new cities. read more >

8. Loop area Retail Plan Promotes Ambitious Vision of Urban Development
The recently released ambitious Loop Area Retail Study will find a lot of fans in the urbanist community. It affirms the affection and oft-promoted potential of a dense mixed-use walkable area. In short, it’s the prototypical model of modern urban development: removal of surface lots, removal of a gas station, removal of stand-alone fast food, a corner grocery store right up the sidewalk, revitalization of old buildings, modern mixed-use new buildings, building urban walls, densification, attractive and active public spaces, an enhanced sense of place, extension of the street grid, improved sidewalks and streetscapes, transit oriented-development (TOD), and pedestrian-priority intersections. The drool-worthy vision and renderings are an early Valentine’s Day gift for Loop lovers. read more >

7. Arch Grounds Plan Set to Quietly Remove Connections, Close City Streets
The CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation presented its second update to the community Wednesday night, its first in 12 months. There wasn’t a lot of news, nor the typical enthusiasm this time. There were no specifics offered regarding design, no mention of Cathedral Square, or the south end. Final design for a new Kiener Plaza is reported to have been completed, but was not revealed. What was heard was an overt scaling back of the ambitious rhetoric we have come to expect. A scaled-down “lid”, covered previously here on nextSTL, was shown, but changes were not explained. If you want to know where the process stands, our January 2011 story still works. Except for the revelation that one of only four pedestrian crossings to the central Arch grounds, Pine Street over I-70, will be eliminated. Yes, another city street will be closed, an existing connection between downtown and the park will be removed. read more >

6. St. Louis to Hand Paul McKee, NorthSide, 162 Acres of the City, Sell 34-Acre Pruitt-Igoe Site for $1M
Mark Twain once wrote, “The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it.” Paul McKee appears set to not make the same mistake. First, he purchased hundreds of parcels of land across a wide swath of north St. Louis City, at first with no one noticing. There was, N & G Ventures LC, Noble Development Company LLC, VHS Partners LLC, PATH Enterprise Company LLC, Allston Alliance LC, Sheridan Place LC, Dodier Investors LLC, MLK 3000 LLC, Larmer LC, Union Martin LLC and of course Blairmont. That’s the name that stuck when Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office first pegged the purchases to McKee. Once the process became public, the purchases slowed, but continued. At Sheriff’s sales and through private transactions, his holdings grew strategically. In the meantime, allegations regarding brick theft and fires, usually stopping just short of implying complicity on McKee’s part, appeared. read more >

5. St. Louis Set to Study Removal of Elevated I-70
Removing an Interstate highway is necessarily a long and deliberate process, but events have quickly conspired in St. Louis to push the proposed conversion of 1-mile of I-70 separating the city from its historic riverfront and iconic Arch from urbanist dream to planning possibility. Friday, the city’s development corporation released its “Request for Proposals for Downtown Multimodal Access Study”. The bland-titled 22-page document contains the most significant step forward in the effort convert the Interstate to an urban boulevard: “In particular, address the potential removal of the elevated sections of I-70 from north of Pine St. to O’Fallon St, to determine feasibility and traffic impacts should the elevated sections be completely removed, brought to grade, and what various alternatives might be considered for this scenario to occur long-term.” read more >

SLU Law - downtown STL4. SLU Law Announces Move Downtown, Releases Renderings
In January Saint Louis University announced it would be moving to downtown St. Louis. Today, SLU has revealed renderings for what must currently be considered a rather plain building. Unfortunately, it’s current look isn’t a re-skin of an historic facade that could be rebuilt or revealed. It is what it is, but if the final product remains similar to renderings released today, SLU is well on its way to prove that just about any building can be made not only better, but very attractive. Renderings show an additional floor added to the existing building (it was built originally to accommodate additional floors), a rooftop deck and space renovated for law classrooms. SLU Law plans to move to the new downtown location in August 2013. read more >

3. SLU May Pass on Pevely Site for New Medical Facility
According to a source, St. Louis University is no longer planning to build a new ambulatory care facility at the largely demolished Pevely Dairy complex on South Grand. If you missed it, SLU went to the mattresses to demand that they be allowed to demolish the complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places, insisting time and time again that the only site suitable for the new facility was the southwest corner of of South Grand and Chouteau Avenue, adjacent to the existing medical campus. SLU President Fr. Lawrence Biondi went as far as to threaten moving the hospital and medical school if the city denied demolition. read more >

2. SLU Law Dean Annette Clark Resigns Citing Numerous Disputes with President Fr. Biondi
As first reported by nextSTL, Dean Annette Clark has announced her resignation of the deanship at the Saint Louis University School of Law. Her appointment was announced in April of 2011 and she assumed the deanship July 1, 2011. In Janurary, after years of seeking a renovated home on the school’s main Frost Campus, SLU announced that the law school would move to a new building in downtown St. Louis. This move is one issue cited cited by Clark for her resignation. “You acquired the building downtown and deemed it to be the new law school building without adequate investigation of its suitability and without any notice or consultation with the law school leadership,” Clark wrote to SLU President Fr. Lawrence Biondi and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Manoj Patankar in her letter of resignation acquired by nextSTL and dated today. read more >

mls at union station1. LHM Seek Major League Soccer Stadium as Part of New Vision for Union Station in St. Louis
Lodging Hospitality Management is scheduled to close on their $20M purchase of the historic 1894 St. Louis Union Station today and they’re not wasting any time thinking big. According to nextSTL sources, LHM is proceeding with extensive efforts to shoehorn a Major League Soccer stadium into the station site. The Post-Dispatch first reported that LHM, based at Westport Plaza, is thinking beyond reducing retail, expanding meeting space and rebranding the Marriott hotel to a Hilton Double Tree. LHM is hoping to return private train service to the station and add a transportation museum. The PD called it “the centerpiece of LHM’s plan.” But it’s clear that LHM is thinking much bigger. The new owners seem to understand that the revitalization of Union Station will require more than a rebranded hotel and a museum. read more >

See also: Top 10 posts of 2010 and Top 10 posts of 2011