3,000 Space Parking Garage, 1/3 Mile Elevated Walkway next for BJC/WU Campus

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BJC parking garage and connector

Placemaking or space wasting? That is a question sure to be asked by many regarding a new eight-story parking garage and connector being built near the CWE MetroLink station. KAI Design presented a zoning request to the City in March regarding the project. The new garage will be sandwiched in between two existing parking structures off Duncan Avenue between Newstead and Taylor.

The East-West Connector project is a component of the billion-dollar BJC/Washington University Medical Center expansion, and will feature construction of a one-third mile extensive skywalk. According to documents the connector will be a 13-foot wide tube elevated to a height of 33 feet. It will negotiate four parking garages before entering the medical center proper.

BJC parking garage and connector{designers are considering several options for facade treatment}

The skywalk will run west along a Metrolink right-of-way adjacent to the new 3,022-space garage. It then moves north on Taylor Ave. to west on Children’s Place, where it runs alongside the 700-space School of Medicine Metro Garage.

The connector ends at S. Euclid near the BJC Institute of Health, and the Michael Van Valkenburgh designed Hope Plaza featuring a Maya Lin designed circular fountain. Other notable buildings adjacent to the connector route include a 213,000 square foot College of Pharmacy academic building currently under construction, the Parkview Building, Storz Building, and the Eric P. Newman Education Center.

BJC garage{new connector in blue, existing netowrk in orange}

BJC parking garage and connector

Other major aspects of the project potentially include a new traffic road, and revamped entrance/exit to the Children’s Hospital employee garage. Construction is expected to be completed by late summer of 2015.

BJC parking garage and connector{a view of the connector west of Taylor Avenue}

The Campus Renewal Project is a decade-long effort to remake BJC/Washington University Medical Center with new development and significant renovations. The 16-block campus includes Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine, among other healthcare organizations.

The first phase is now well underway. It includes an expansion of Children’s Hospital and Siteman Cancer Center. New space for university faculty practice offices and clinics, parking, and additional green space have also been proposed. A new research facility on McKinley Avenue at Taylor is currently under construction.

BJC_Childrens_yellow{the garage (added yellow highlight) is visible in recent expansion rendering}

IMG_8357{the connector joins the existing network at Hope Plaza}

According to the Washington University website, “Campus Renewal encompasses the three institutions with an overall focus on improving the patient and family experience from both a clinical and campus perspective.” The garage and skywalk development site is also situated within the boundaries of the Cortex innovation district.

Cortex is a partnership of major institutions based in St. Louis including Washington University and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation. The 240-acre district is an actively developing hub for life sciences research, innovation, and commerce. Nearly 500,000 sf of research space, and a 2,450 space parking garage, is being planned several blocks to the east. That project is near the Ikea, which should be under construction this fall.

Contrary to most past incarnations of research parks as stark suburban districts, Cortex has expressed interest in becoming a neighborhood of perpetual activity, aware of its urban location. Dennis Lower, president and CEO of Cortex has stated the district has plans for creating a sustainable, walkable, twenty-four seven community.

Noted certified planner Phil Myrick was hired in 2012 to help Cortex realize this goal. Myrick is a Senior Vice President of Project for Public Spaces. The nonprofit planning, design, and educational organization identifies itself as the central hub Placemaking. The global movement reimagines public spaces as the heart of every community, in every city.

However, one prominent nextSTL design source noted the skywalk is unattractive, anti-urban, and will remove the medium density pedestrian traffic from Taylor. According to the source Taylor Ave. is the optimal connector street between the lively CWE entertainment district and bustling Grove. Removing pedestrians from the street, instead of investing in the street, could be a negative.

Urban Chesnut’s Grove Brewery and Bierhall at Manchester and Taylor, a few blocks to the south, opened in February, and could serve as an ideal draw between the two districts. A $10 million renovation of the former Renard Paper Co. 80,000 sq. ft. warehouse gives the brewery enough room for expansion that could increase production to 100,000 barrels annually. Comparatively, Schlafly, long the largest craft brewery in St. Louis, produced approximately 56,000 barrels in 2013.

An attempt to reach BJC vice president of corporate and public communications June Fowler was unsuccessful.

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  • Mark Burcope

    Does any one know what the cost sf or lf is for a connector like this?

  • One reason that the “campus” is hard to navigate for the unfamiliar is that the hospital and medical school have treated the street grid as expendable. An open grid is safe and functional, making navigability likely. The skywalks are fine as long as no more streets close in the area.

  • samizdat

    A mega-block of parking garages…how nice. Basically, BJC is putting the “pretty” along Kings’way, and the cars up on blocks in the back yard. So typically hoosier, so typically St. Louis.

    They at least ought to put up a sign:

    “Welcome to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Parking Garage Museum and Rec-Plex. Abandon all hope of an urban neighborhood, ye who dare to enter. Admission, $10.”

    • Marshall Howell

      Oh would you rather have all the garages up along kings highway? I think having parking in towards the middle would be preferred. Oh maybe along FPP instead.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I know you’re being facetious, but actually, that design would be much more functional. And actually, there are big garages facing Kingshighway that are pretty well disguised. Parking should be hidden when at all possible. The med center’s North Garage is a pretty good example. It faces Euclid, but does so well at ground level, but better is the Forest Park side largely hidden by the Parkway Hotel. Another building will be added to the east, leaving only the parking entrance on FP Ave.

  • tpekren

    I know from a dollar and sense perspective it doesn’t make sense for the campus, but couldn’t you get a much better design as well as incorporate better street level features if they built one garage instead of one bigger one between the two smaller ones? The other thought, incorporating a green roof/park and solar array on top would make the project so much more appealing from my perspective.

  • Andrew

    Overall a positive – employee parking at the medical center is extremely tight, and the more surface lots get the well-deserved axe, the more that will be the case. This new garage looks like a giant-sizing of the existing (easternmost) Children’s hospital garage. Ideally, the mid-term plan would include tearing down the older, ugly, and obsolete Duncan-Taylor garage and putting a building of some sort at the southeast corner of that intersection. (no inside info, just speculation)

  • Brian Marston

    View from my office window. I was wondering why they were taking core samples in that surface lot. It’d make me very happy if they put bike racks, showers, and lockers in the new garage, but I’m guessing the chances of that happening are slim.

  • Marshall Howell

    Super excited for this to begin construction. This will also encourage walking on dark nights or rainy days instead of always using the shuttle.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Smart take – employees get to add ~1,500 steps a day to the ol’ pedometer instead of sitting on a shuttle bus.

      • John R

        I’m gonna stock up my trench coat with knock-off fit bits and make a mint!

  • atractor49

    looks like it will connect to the office building being planned for the coal bunker site.

  • rgbose

    I wish they’d widen the sidewalks on Taylor or at least move the utility poles elsewhere.

    • Brian

      Triple like! Over the 30 years I’ve worked at the WU Medical Center it has become increasingly less pedestrian friendly. I walk or take Metro (love WashU for providing students, faculty & staff with free Metro passes), and everything is good until I cross Highway 40. Though it takes a little longer, I will frequently utilize the footbridge behind CID to avoid Taylor.

  • Presbyterian

    I sense there is uncertainty among some involved with CORTEX about whether BJC really is on board with the district’s placemaking goals. Third-mile gerbil tubes offer a different urban vision than sidewalks, coffee shops and newsstands.

    We’ll have to wait to see whether CORTEX believes its vision enough to really guard it as you move eastward toward CORTEX Commons. It’s a compelling vision; I hope they guard it.

  • RyleyinSTL

    I’m not surprised by this. BJC/Wash-U has been saying they had more parking plans in the works. Given all the surface parking gobbled up by new buildings in the last while it had to happen….and really that makes this story a positive. This one parkade has allowed the development of at least 4 surface lots. Saying that, I sure hope they can come up with something better than a slab concrete elevation for us to look at.

    As someone who makes the walk from the WUSM parkade each day I welcome the sykwalk/pedway. I prefer to walk outside, but when hot out or when raining, this assures I can arrive at my car without becoming drenched in sweat/rain.

  • Tysalpha

    I don’t anticipate the skywalk will remove that much pedestrian traffic. On nice days, many commuters will choose to walk outside. And on rainy and/or hot days, they’ll take the skywalk. That’s been my experience at a campus with an extensive tunnel/skywalk network.

    • Don

      The Wash U medical campus is in a little different situation than a typical urban business. People travel great distances to receive services at this campus which is very large and difficult to navigate for the unfamiliar. Lack of parking for the thousands of employees as well as consumers has long been an issue. Many employees still park in the CWE and walk into the campus which consumes large amounts of limited parking that is then not available for residents and customers of CWE businesses located between Lindell and Forest Park Ave.

      The campus is sprawling with garages often some distance away and their desire to provide covered and temperature controlled access to campus buildings and parking seems reasonable to me. I wish these walkways were underground (like downtown Minneapolis and the Chicago loop), but tunneling increases the cost exponentially.

      Lastly, looking at the map, I’m having a really hard time imagining how this walkway will have any impact at all on Taylor.

      • Mike

        And why do they park in the CWE and elsewhere? Because BJC charges their employees to park in the BJC garages. And is isn’t cheap to pay to park in the garages.

      • moe

        People do travel great distances to receive services and this parking may help free up parking closer to particular service units. However, they really need to put some sort of simple, easy to use patient and visitor transporter between the north and south campuses.
        As it is now, a patient is shuttled through winding tunnels (of which many employees do not even know how to make the journey) and visitors getting services usually will park and get their services done at one end and then go out and move the car to the other end and get their services done at that other end. Consuming both time and money. And if you are getting a service done, you usually aren’t healthy enough or temperate enough to tolerate all that moving about.

  • T-Leb

    Why is this the first sentence? It sounds like a title to an editorial. “Placemaking or space wasting?”

    Seems kind of silly to have an secret source for an opinion or even obvious observation. What point is there to claim the source is prominent for NextStL? Could the author not come to this conclusion on their own? “However, one prominent nextSTL design source noted the skywalk is unattractive, anti-urban, and will remove the medium density pedestrian traffic from Taylor. “

    • Geoff Whittington

      Assumptions are your own T-Leb…

      • T-Leb

        You can answer the question or not. Up to you.

    • Don

      “However, one prominent nextSTL design source noted the skywalk is
      unattractive, anti-urban, and will remove the medium density pedestrian
      traffic from Taylor. ”

      If we’re being honest with ourselves, had this annonomous design source reached any other conclusion, he/she wouldn’t be a ‘prominent’ source for nextSTL.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I think finding a designer who likes developments like these would be nearly impossible. It’s interesting/I like seeing comments about how this impacts daily life and function on the Med Campus. It’s a good reminder that design and urban theory can be a framework for understanding development, but it’s only one factor. So, there’s likely near unanimity among “designers” about something like this, that’s just one voice.

        • T-Leb

          Do you simply reject design based on utility?

        • John R

          I really don’t know much about the skyways in Minneapolis, of course these are connecting commercial buildings but I wonder if there are some design lessons to be learned of what might work best with such situations. Houston’s underground walkway system is kind of weird, too.