In the Hands of Joe Edwards, New Future Seen for Historic Wabash Station

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{Wabash Station Hodiamont Entrance}

The long vacant Wabash Station building straddling the Metrolink tracks at Delmar could see new life. Last occupied by a lighting store, and owned by Joe Edwards for some time, may be nearing a new life. He says he’s holding it to make sure it’s in good hands and would like to pass it on for the right project. Edwards opened up the building for a visioning session sponsored by Citizen’s for Modern Transit, the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council, and Rise St. Louis Saturday morning. With many plans (nextSTL coverage) completed recently, stakeholders are pushing forward.

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{the Wabash Station Entry Hall. The upper right once had a mezzanine built for the lighting store which Edwards had removed.}

Improvements to the Delmar and Forest Park-DeBaliviere Stations and surrounding areas have obtained a high profile. They have shown up in both the East West Gateway high priority project list ($19M) as well as St. Louis City’s list ($14M) for the 3/4% sales tax for transportation.

Details from the City’s list:
Delmar/ Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Station Area improvements. Bike, pedestrian, transit station, and vehicular improvements. Widen sidewalks, construct ADA ramps, & improve lighting along Hodiamont from Delmar to Skinker. Narrow Hodiamont & install multi-use path alongside. Road diet on Delmar from Hodiamont to Goodfellow with parking lanes (coincides with Loop Trolley design). Enhance DeGiverville & Des Peres as pedestrian gateways linking Stations Re-establish vehicular connections between Hodiamont and Enright, Clemens, Cates, and Maple. Pedestrian bridge over MetroLink tracks to connect west side of Pershing to existing Metro parking lot. Connect Ackert Walkway to Delmar Station. Connect Ruth Porter Trail to Forest Park Station and Forest Park, per TOD Plan done by H3 Studio with Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates and M3 Engineering (2013).

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{Back Room}

The building is set back from Delmar and Des Peres, offering an opportunity for something outside. There might be space for a small building along Des Peres. The entry Hall could be a really grand space. There’s a back room with windows over-looking the Metrolink tracks.

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{View of Tracks}

So how to activate this space to make it a great place? Most want it to be the entrance to the Metrolink station. A back entrance would have to be maintained for passengers coming from the park ‘n ride lot as well as bus riders making transfers, so it still would miss some foot traffic. How can Metrolink riders be drawn in and served? Since you can’t eat or drink on the train, a grab ‘n go might not make sense. Those arriving are probably going to one of the Loop attractions. What might make them linger? Could it be a Loop destination in and of itself? An amenity for the surrounding neighborhoods? Try to do all three? Let’s discuss below. Also share your thoughts with CMT.

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{Wabash Station Over Metrolink}

Wabash Station, Delmar MetroLink Station - St. Louis, MO{Wabash Station Sign ~1950s}

TOD Station Area Planning, Delmar & Forest Park Station – St. Louis, MO by

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  • Cecelia Elliott

    Well I have personally been in LOVE with this building for as long as I’ve heard stories from my Dad about this place. I wish I could have seen the inside in person. In my ‘dreams of winning a ridiculous lotto’, I have dreamed of making this a sort of stop & go to service the fact that there are many who live in the area and having a place where they can get a ready made meal that all they have to do is heat & eat seemed like a great idea for all those in a rush to go somewhere. I must say, the history lover in me is disappointed in the inside- I was expecting (in my dream world) more wooden floors and antique lighting, maybe some sconces as well. Basically I would get it back as close to what it looked like when first build as possible, but still a little eatery.

  • Scott Nauert

    1) The first thing Metro riders need is a clean restroom. Let’s get this place fitted out with a set of first-class men’s and women’s johns – and have a Metro employee keep them clean. 2) The next step is to get Metro to DROP it’s no food/drink policy on board trains, because based on my experience, people violate that all the time anyways, and that should NOT be the reason to preclude a food/drink-related establishment from going in here! 3) Following that, the station is perfectly suited for a Starbucks, where commuters can grab a coffee and a snack on their way to their trains. 4) Next, St. Louis is a Wabash town. Get with the Wabash RR Historical Society and establish a St. Louis-themed railroad exhibit / museum / gift shop inside, with photos and history of the Union Depot “UD Line” which Metrolink uses through this area. And finally, as this is a train station, why not use it as such? The Metro line directly serves Amtrak and Greyhound just a few miles away, and we can’t forget the airport also, so what about a ticket counter with agents from Amtrak, Greyhound, and Southwest Airlines, or, what about a travel agency geared towards selling transportation at the hubs connected by the Metro line? Back when Kirkwood Station still had ticket agents (which the state of Missouri eliminated through budget cuts), it was the #1 revenue-producing station in the country. Why? STL residents love trains, ride trains, and like buying tickets from a REAL PERSON versus a machine, the net, or an 800 number. (Oh, and don’t ask the logic behind removing the agents from Kirkwood – that’s a whole other story)… -Scott Nauert, Clayton, MO

    • not ted danson

      Um, what does this building have to do with Metro, other than it’s location? It’s a privately owned property looking to be developed for commercial use. Not sure why you think Metro could do anything they want with this building, or what they have to do with this at all, other than as an excuse to go on a rant about their food and drink policy.

      • Nathan Bookhout

        A lot of people would like to see this revert to metro. While it may be privately held it could still serve both purposes. You can’t deny that it would be a much more attractive access point than the current stair/ramp and having quick service outlets as mentioned above would do quick business with commuters. It could serve as impetus for further investment and be true TOD.

        • not ted danson

          But if Metro was interested, wouldn’t they have been the ones who bought it in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, i love Metro and use it all the time. And it would be great if *they* did something with this building. But i think that ship has sailed. I just want to see that great little building be put to use, preferably something tasteful and non-tacky.

          • Nathan Bookhout

            It never ceases to amaze me what metro isn’t interested in. Chalk it up to lack of vision or lack of funding, but dream is all we on the sidelines can do. It would be splendid if we could take some of that public/private support that ole Joe likes so much and make a train station *gasp* a train station! It will likely end up a restaurant or museum of sorts, it is too ornate to be retail.

      • Scott Nauert

        Ted – The fact that it’s a train station on a commuter rail line may have a bit to do with it! People who commute and travel need a restroom, food, and a ticket!

        • not ted danson

          But it’s not owned by Metro. It’s probably going to be a restaurant or something.

          • Scott Nauert

            True; but I believe Mr. Edwards will do what is best for the property, hence our suggestions.

    • James Holzmeier

      Scott, speaking as a longtime WRHS member, I think your No. 4 suggestion is eminently feasible. We have experience with this: the WRHS has in the past collaborated with the City of Ferguson on Wabash-themed displays inside the Whistle Stop, the former Wabash depot building now an ice cream parlor. I personally have many items of Wabash/St. Louis interest I can loan out for display. I have a familial connection with Delmar, as that’s where my dad boarded the train to go to college. – James Holzmeier, Kirksville, MO

  • Just took this at the Fullerton train stop in Chicago (just before getting on a connector bus). It’s a small pass-through window Dunkin Donuts. And a Whole Foods is right next door.

    Obviously this stretch of Delmar isn’t near as busy as CHI’s Fullerton stop (smack in the middle of DePaul), but viable business leads to increased usage.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    I think having the Museum of Transportation open a satellite location in the Wabash Station would be a very appropriate use. It could be rented out for small company or organizational events, akin to the Regional Arts Commission space or the Mad Art Gallery, and it would be good exposure for the museum in a different part of the metro area.
    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

  • opendorz

    How about a bodega-type fresh food market/newsstand/coffee shop/flower seller? This type of hybrid can be found near every NYC subway access point, and are a colorful patch in the urban fabric of that great city.

    • DylanT

      I would have to wonder if this would do well, as Winslow’s home, only a mile away serves as a resteraunt/general store. It isn’t at the station, I will grant you that. Food for thought.

  • mc

    This should be open to the public. Small cafe + small transportation/streetcar museum. It should also function as an entrace to the Delmar Metro. There should be public bathrooms (that are taken care of – wouldn’t mind paying 50 cents per usage), tourist information, place to put bikes, and bike rental possibilities, Multi-perpose and public is the way to go here. Also, it should be completely restored to its original glory.

  • Nathan Bookhout

    I like the idea of a coffee shop with information and ticketing, police substation. I’m thinking we should use our transit stations as such 😉

  • Aaron Michels

    This site has a ton of foot traffic from commuters and rail and bus users. If you ever go by here, you see your clientele. It would be a great spot for a small grocery/convenience store with an in-store cafe. Something for people waiting for a train or bus, or headed home after using transit. Not high end.

  • Aaron

    My vote for the building is to concur with a space for security/restrooms/loop tourist info/transit info/revolving Art exhibits. I’ve been asked at least 5 times by lost out-of-towners on the Delmar MetroLink platform, so where and what is the Loop? The design of the MetroLink station should invite you into the Wabash building as you exit the train where you then get oriented and step out onto the front steps of the Wabash where you can actually see the entire established Loop plus the emerging East Loop.

    Remember about 6 years ago when the Delmar bridge+ the Des Peres transit plaza were rebuilt? That was perhaps a missed opportunity to reshape the Delmar Metrolink station in a way the utilized the Wabash building as a gateway to Delmar. I’m sure it would have cost a lot, but damn it we should have re-built and widened the Delmar bridge to incorporate the MetroLink platform beneath it with an elevator on each side of the bridge bringing you up to Delmar where MetroBus could pick you up in an auxiliary bus lane as it does on Grand. The elevator on the northside of Delmar could bring you right into the Wabash building.

    So yeah, I hope the building can be put to good use, but the current location of the platform, the transit plaza, and the Wabash building are a disjointed mess.

    • Aaron Michels

      I partially agree about the apparent disjointedness of the current platform, but it actually functions better than what you suggest for people making connections to other transit (the majority of traffic through here). Also, What percent of traffic that goes by here do you think is tourist traffic to the Loop vs. commuters? I’d put it at less than 1%. That’s not to say that some basic info on the loop (for tourists) wouldn’t be good, but if we had a functional convenience or other retail here, I’m sure they could field questions from the occasional tourist traffic.

      • Aaron

        Good question, I’d put the annual percent of visitors at this station at 2-4% with higher peaks in the spring/summer of course. I’d be curious to see this in EWG’s most recent system on-board survey that was conducted last year. Has anyone seen the report yet? Edwards is making a big gamble for more tourism with his toy trolley and more of them will be encouraged to take transit because driving to the Loop is about to be even more annoying with the Trolley. Regardless, I still think the use of the Wabash building I favor would be a benefit for commuters and infrequent resident transit users alike. Additionally, it would have looked great and been efficient to have designed a station that has more direct access to Delmar Blvd using the bridge itself and the Wabash building as an access/transfer portal.

        I’d have probably used a convenience store there when I was a regular commuter using Delmar, but couldn’t that also fit into the empty auto garage next door on Des Peres at Demar? The new food store at Eastgate and Delmar will probably block that concept anyway.

    • rgbose

      I too am a big fan of access to the station from the south side of Delmar. I fear that when they rebuilt the Delmar bridge, they made it too short to fit the platform or even a thinner access to the platform (like at FP DeB station).

  • WhatWouldLouTheszDo?

    A fully equipped police station staffed around the clock would work for me. Would make other near by vacant and underutilized properties more attractive to developers.

  • Adam

    Aquarium! 😉

  • nikelosm

    The question is does Mr. Edwards seek to maximize profitability with this building? If not how about an art gallery that focuses on the historic and evolving presence of the Delmar Loop? This coupled with maps and information about the Delmar Loop and surrounding community, and bicycle rental/racks.

  • guest

    Think of this location as the welcome to St. Louis, first impression stop visitors have when they take Metrolink into the city. What do we want them to see?

    • Aaron Michels

      We want them to see something functional, not necessarily for tourists. But to entertain the premise: A person who arrives in a strange city by plane, who takes Metrolink, not a rental car or taxi, is looking for: food, lodging. This site clearly can’t be lodging. Only later they will try to hit information, historical sites, and museums.

  • Court

    Sump 2! Though seriously, a destination place, rather than one that has to grow its own clientele, might work better.

  • Imran

    A coffee shop in that back room overlooking the tracks.

  • Don

    The City needs to organize a committee to design and fund a large bronze statue of Joe Edwards. He has transformed almost singlehandedly created one of the best entertainment strips in the City.

    I’m not so sure the station works for retail, but I know it’s now in good hands and it isn’t going anywhere.

  • Presbyterian

    I guess I’ve always admired (1) the Beaux-Arts architecture, which screams classy, and (2) the view over the tracks. Those are two very unique elements. And unique makes me think classy evening lounge with $15 drinks. The kind you drink slowly while you people-watch. And you can add to that a $7 plate of olives.

    No, you can’t take them on the train. But I’m not sure this building wants to be a pass-through anymore. It might just want to be a destination in its own right.

  • referencegirl

    Why not make the building a service orientation for users? Have bathrooms, vending machines, bicycle racks, bicycle rentals, and maps. Add a museum of St. Louis public transportation? Include the history of the trolley, how the current system evolved, and future plans for nerds like me.

  • ehecker

    This is a horrible location for retail due to the lack of parking. This is a great place for a mixed use Metrolink station entrance with Delmar Loop and Metrolink/bus info as well as magazines/news. Probably could put in a small food shop, like a Fro Yo with some sidewalk seating, too.

    • matimal

      You haven’t been paying attention to this forum have you?

      • ehecker


        • matimal

          You’ve got the relationship of business and parking exactly backwards, but thanks for reminding us how powerful the force of tradition is in St. Louis.

          • ehecker

            Well, Matimal, its like this…as a retail consumer who lives in St. Louis City within a four-minute walk of the DeBaliviere Station in this study, and within a 25 minute Metrolink ride to both downtown and the airport, and who also owns automobiles, bikes, and a good pair of legs, I have to say that based on over fifty years of living here, parking spaces within easy walking distance of the retail door are strongly recommended for the vast majority of types of retail in St. Louis. Now, that’s not the carefully beaten-to-death finding of some highly credentialed PhD in Urban Planning. That’s just over fifty years of retail customer experience. St. Louis isn’t Manhattan, downtown Chicago or San Francisco or any other town with a high enough pedestrian density to sustain successful retail without consideration for cars. Successful retail, everywhere, must have foot traffic, and in St. Louis, the vast majority of foot traffic gets into and out of cars. Leave cars out of the planning for anywhere in St. Louis, and the retail might as well not be built.

          • matimal

            Things change. Your experience might not be the most important source of information about St. Louis. UCity isn’t Chesterfield either. Let the owners, city, and market sort this one out. Grand defenses of parking are beside the point. Parking needs absolutely no defenders in St. Louis. Your concerns are completely misguided.

          • Adam

            The thing is, if the situation you describe is ever going to change we have to stop championing ample parking for every potential customer. Period. Yes, in St. Louis a lot of people drive. Therefore the most reasonable places to start subtracting parking spaces (and adding residential projects) are our dense (by our standards) transit accessible neighborhoods, e.g. the Loop and the CWE.

          • moe

            You are correct though others are calling you on it. They act as if all the parking problems in the world are in St. Louis. This is 2014. Sure driving miles are down, car ownership is down…..but yet the leading sellers are gas guzzler pick-ups. My point is that as much as many would just love to ban parking all together, we can’t. And to think that somehow cars are all going to stop running and people are going to walk and bike and bus everywhere is folly. Both cars and public transportation need to be taken into account.

          • Adam

            I don’t think anybody is realistically suggesting that cars be banned altogether. Here is the reality: if you provide ample parking for every person who might drive somewhere, you decrease density and promote driving. Nothing. will. change. unless we start increasing residential density and removing parking spaces where it makes the most sense, i.e. our most-dense, transit-accesible neighborhoods (again, like the Loop). This can’t and won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all at the rate we’re going.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I only have a decade in STL, but all the places I love to visit, eat, shop have a parking “problem”. If that problem is ever “solved”, then I’d be willing to bet that the place is no longer somewhere I want to spend time.

            So yes, one might be foolish to completely dismiss parking as an issue in STL (though I don’t think anyone’s really doing this), but it also seems foolish to predicate development with parking concerns – or to weigh them too heavily. If everyone did that, there would be no new business or development in the CWE, South Grand, The Loop, etc.

          • ehecker

            I agree that development should not be entirely predicated with parking concerns. The Loop has Washington University students as its pedestrian economic base. The CWE has the Chase Park Plaza and the Washington University medical community supporting Euclid on a pedestrian basis. I don’t know enough about S. Grand to comment, but CWE and The Loop also have parking garages and parking spaces for visitors, as well as for redidents. In cities I’ve lived in in Europe, the very dense city centers at ground level are primarily pedestrian with very limited parking, but underground parking is usually adequate to plentiful. It would be nice if one could build a Euro pedestrian-style planned urban development within the context of a city with space and a strong addiction to getting around by automobile, and have it be successful, but I think the odds are against it. Parking doesn’t have to be overabundant, and it doesn’t have to be in plain view, but it does have to exist on the perimeter, like a mall, until high-density pedestrian style urban development is more accepted.

          • matimal

            IT isn’t like this. you aren’t an unquestioned source of truth here. You haven’t presented a comprehensive grand economic theory of St. Louis.

          • ehecker

            I have never claimed to be so, nor do I need to present a comprehensive grand economic theory of St. Louis. Re read what I said, and kindly note “based on over fifty years of living here”, as my credentials. Perhaps building high density without parking will work, but if I were a developer looking for places put my money down, I wouldn’t put my money on a real estate development scheme that didn’t include at least enough parking to give every possible resident a space, and, if you’re bringing in retail, I would say plan for an amount of parking space beyond that. Now, are there any other unreasonable requests you would care to make of someone who claims only to have living experience in a place?

          • Alex Ihnen

            Let’s not go down the you-said-no-I-didn’t-saw road. These conversations can be really informative if kept on the subject at hand.

          • matimal

            Don’t let me stop you. you’re doing far more to illustrate St. Louis’ problems than I ever could.

          • Alex Ihnen

            No one’s really interested in your back-and-forth. Back on the subject of the post and less on he-said/he-said?

    • Mike F

      Parking? Really?

      • ehecker

        Parking. Really. This is still St. Louis. Ignore parking, and nothing gets off the starting block. If this is a station, parking would come from the Metrolink lots and the parking required for retail. The forum is Transit Oriented (not Transit Only) Development. Parking is, and will always be a very critical requirement. I’m thinking garages, like the one built across the street from the Tivoli, interspersed with the retail.

      • Alex Ihnen

        You know, the least popular and least successful retail/restaurant strips in the city are the ones with the worst parking problems.

        • Adam

          As in lots of empty parking spaces?

      • Don

        I wish we had the transit infrastructure of the big cities back east and Chicago, but we don’t. It’s important to remember that all those transit lines are more than 100 years in the making. St Louis, having made bad choices for several generations, basically started from scratch (again) 25 years ago.

        Denial is not a plan. Simply pretending people in St Louis don’t drive to their destinations or refusing to provide parking won’t change our transit shortcomings. It will cause businesses to fail.

        Every successful project has to provide parking. We just need to be much, smarter in how we do so, so that our parking plans are a rational compliment to future projects.

        And we need to invest in more transit but as long as Republicans who are at war with modernity control Jeff City, I’m not holding my breath.

        • STLEnginerd

          I think weall agree that any succeful retail must be on some level accecible by car. Good Urban planning means planning parking as well but that doesn’t mean every establishment needs 30 spots out front.

          In THIS instance the parking is about as ample as it gets. There is a massive park and ride 500 ft away. The pageant also has several spots that could be “shared”. So the incredulous response wouldn’t be valid everywhere but it is valid HERE.

    • STLEnginerd

      That would probably explain why the loop is such an undesirable spot for retail…

      Seriously the park and ride is 500 ft away. I’d be all for a parking garage behind the Pageant to replace the park and ride in the future but if your product/experience is good enough people will find you.

      Some initial musings. This spot has the potential to be iconic so I’d hate for it to be a simple as a restaurant. Upscale or not. That said its a very viable option. Somewhere someone had an idea of a restaurant themed with inventions from the turn of the century. (regarding the probably soon to be lost Empire Brewing building) The concept could work here as well.

      I think I’d like to see some kind of interactive art class/ training. 3rd degree Glass factory comes to mind. There is also a place in Clayton you can go to taste wine and paint painting (popular for girls nights). What kind of similar crafts translate into potential for interactive creativity. I think scupture could be really interesting like if they had a store run by local artists who sold their works, and also taught classes on sculpture. I wonder if that is feasible. Stealing the Art and Wine idea from the Clayton place is another option of course.

  • dempster holland

    Note the sign about midnight sleepers to Chicago. You would take a brief cab
    ride to Wabash station, settle down, and then the train would leave for Chicago.
    You woke up in downtown Chicago. No long drives to and from the airport; no
    long lines to check the inside of your shoes; no boring Illinois cornfields. Have
    we really had progress?

    • Mike F

      The automakers and the oil cos. certainly seem to think so. And a significant number of our fellow Americans have been conditioned to believe that this s*** sandwich is a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.

      Like Linda Ellerbee used to say at the end of Overnight, waaay back in the 80’s, “…and so it goes.” Geez, I miss real journalism.

      • Scott Nauert

        It’s not ENTIRELY the automakers, though. To be sure: the US government is no angel in this matter. Under Eisenhower, the US **HEAVILY** subsidized the railroad’s main competitors, specifically, the auto and air passenger industries in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Instead of this nation balancing investment across all modes during this period, unlike other developed nations, it virtually abandoned rail passenger in favor of the lopsided highway-air system which we still have in place today. To further handicap the railroads, after stealing their passengers, they were still required by Uncle Sam to run their passenger trains at a heavy financial loss, until Amtrak was created in ’71. Since then, although the starved entity has to come back and beg congress for money to stay afloat every year, it has successfully lured folks back to the tracks, with record-breaking ridership over the past few years.

    • Imran

      I have started using Amtrak to go to Chicago and its waaay more pleasant than driving or flying ever were. We get a two person cabin with a bunk bed, Take a nap and wake up in Chicago ( and St louis). I don’t care if its slow or late if I’m asleep. Trains can be so much more in the US if we could only move past our collective obsession with cars and highways.