And Then Some: nextSTL News Roundup

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There’s a lot more happening in the St. Louis region than we’re able to cover at nextSTL. While we try to hit the big stories, provide context to the news, and insight about trends and policy, a lot of important developments and updates are missed. So here’s a little more of what’s happening in St. Louis. We’ll call it, “And Then Some”. If you want to play-by-play of happenings and opinions, be sure to follow nextSTL on Twitter and Facebook.

Kiener Plaza proposal - CityArchRiver{the plan for a reimagined Kiener Plaza (more images)}

Ferguson Commission: Meet The Members – St. Louis Public Radio
As the region awaits an announcement regarding whether a grand jury will indict the Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown: “Three hundred people answered Gov. Jay Nixon’s call to apply for the Ferguson Commission. Of those applicants and others, the governor selected 16 and announced their names on Tuesday. The group includes teachers, attorneys, community organizers, law enforcement officials and protesters from across the region. It has nine blacks and seven whites; six women and 10 men.

The governor has asked the commission to make recommendations on a number of issues, including police and community interaction and relations; racial and ethnic relations; disparities in education, economic opportunity, and housing; among other things. The deadline for the final report is Sept. 15, 2015.”

St. Louis Public Radio - STL County Executive results 2014North St. Louis County Carried Stenger Across The Finish Line – St. Louis Public Radio
In August, Steve Stenger trounced incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley in the Democratic primary largely on the strength of the South County vote. Stenger is white, as are the majority of the South County voters. Dooley, an African-American, garnered a large majority of the majority African-American North County vote. In the general election, it was North County that delivered a victory for Stenger over Republican Rick Stream, who is also white. Stenger’s support for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch prior to the events in Ferguson led many in North County to endorse Stream, resulting in a very close result in the majority Democratic county.

Kiener Plaza Redesign Public Input – CityArchRiver
This week CityArchRiver asked the public for input on the overhaul of Kiener Plaza (which looks nice). Unfortunately, asking for public input on a fully baked design falls well short of real, and needed, public engagement. CityArchRiver quietly revealed in September that completion of its $380M Arch project would be further delayed beyond the initial October 2015 date, with work continuing through at least 2017 (construction schedule). The latest schedule showing the delay was sent to St. Louis news organizations (not this one), but reported by no one.

One element already completed should be removed and redesigned. The pedestrian cages over the I-44 depressed lanes at Walnut and Pine Streets are a crime against the Arch (and Old Cathedral, as commented below). The MoDOT do-the-minimum crossings on the New I-64 project are substantially better. Ironically, the galvanized metal cages completely block the view of the Arch itself, while affording a clear look at the Interstate below. This level of design shouldn’t be allowed:

CityArchRiver project - St. Louis, MO

Three part Indiana toll road story and privately financed highways – Streetsblog
Angie Schmitt and Payton Chung pull together the incredible story of the I-80 toll road in Indiana, and the world of privately financed highways. Eight years after negotiating a 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road for $3.8B, the operator has filed for bankruptcy. The core of the problem: completely absurd traffic projections. It was predicted that traffic volumes on the Indiana Toll Road would increase 22% over the first seven years. In reality, traffic volumes shrank 11 percent in the first eight. This was more than just a misjudgment. There’s something much worse at work here. Read the series: The Indiana Toll Road and the Dark Side of Privately Financed Highways, How Macquarie Makes Money By Losing Money on Toll Roads, The Great Traffic Projection Swindle.


This week on nextSTL

Opus Mid-Rise on Lindell Takes a Step Forward (4643 Lindell)

Demolition Sought for Missouri Belting Company Building at Pevely Site

UIC Set to Break Ground on Contemporary Homes in The Grove

Master Planned Salvation Army Project in Midtown Progressing? (2900 Washington)

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  • you-topia

    Ugh, they chose an uninspiring plan for the Arch grounds largely because it was doable in time for their “hard” deadline. Now, the deadline is pushed, and the plan remains uninspiring.

    • Jeff Leonard

      Beyond the original proposals and aggressive timetables, the confluence of groups the “own” different aspects of the Arch grounds has created a lethal cocktail that limits if not kills just about any common sense improvement you can think of. The National Park Service is at the head of that group, but it also includes the Core of Engineers and MODOT. Having spent an enormous amount of time hearing learning about each aspect of the project as part of the Citizens Action Committee, I think it will be an improvement on balance. But many great suggestions seemed destined for the trash bin, and whether the total cost is justified will be a subject for debate for a long time.

      I do wonder though if the seed of a larger downtown improvement hasn’t been planted with the creation of the CityArchRiver group. Could this group be transformed into the kind of successful private-public partnership seen with Forest Park Forever? No other mechanism is in place to funnel the tax and philanthropic resources of the entire region into downtown. I think this possibility is worth exploring.

  • Michael C.

    You said: “The pedestrian cages over the I-44 depressed lanes at Walnut and Pine Streets are a crime against the Arch” True, and I would also say they are a crime against the Old Cathedral! They look hideous right next to the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi River, the only spot in the entire city of St. Louis that has never changed hands. Why isn’t there a beautiful plaza being built in front off the Old Cathedral like there is in front of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans? It’s one of our greatest historic sights. The Archdiocese did a great job restoring the exterior and interior to its original look. There is also absolutely no need for giant traffic lights on that bridge. They are blocking an historic view. In New Orleans, this would never happen.

  • John

    Are they getting rid of the ampitheatre at Keiner Plaza?! What the fuck are they taking, stupid pills?

    • John R

      I’m not a fan of the amphitheater –certainly wouldn’t like it if it were proposed as a new feature — but while not great it’s already there and seems to work well enough…. I think it might be better to spend the $$ on improvements elsewhere. I do like the extension of tree-lined sidewalk on Market.
      As for the Contemporary Lawn, I can’t quite tell if its large enough to hold a decent-sized skating rink, but something like that would be good for downtown…. we need more winter programming. If not here then maybe under the shed at Union Station as part of their transformation.

      • Jeff Leonard

        While I like the amphitheater in concept, I don’t think it works well in execution. I spoke with the designers at the Keiner Plaza open house, and they talked a lot about trying to make sure the entire footprint, which right now is divided into two roughly equal sized spaces, could be better activated all year round. They’ve done some interesting work on shadows, and what portion of the space is in full sun versus shade during all four seasons, and how to make it more accommodating in each.

        I’m of mixed opinions about whether the proposed plan nails it, but I’m in favor of upgrading the space overall. This is the nexus for downtown St. Louis, similar to Union Square in San Francisco, or Fountain Square in Cincinnati. It should and can do better, especially since the funding is already in place. One massive challenge for Keiner though that’s not addressed is how much the surrounding built environment is lacking. The parking garages are an eye-sore, just to point out one obvious example. I’m not sure any plan focused on the plaza alone can overcome those limitations.