[VIDEO] Updated: BJC Campus Renewal Project – The New Link Extension

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BJC skywalk

We reported in April of 2014 that a 3,000 Space Parking Garage and 1/3-mile elevated walkway was planned for the BJC Healthcare-Washington University School of Medicine campus. BJC has posted a video update of the project witha fly-though animation of the walkway.

The parking and walkway is a nice amenity for the thousands working on the growing medical campus. The project will connect four parking garages, have closed circuit security cameras, get people out of the elements, and remove pedestrians from the public sidewalks.

It’s a huge investment for an area that lacks some basic public street and sidewalk infrastructure. Pedestrians, at least those not working or visiting the campus, just using the space as part of the city, aren’t being served well. Again, while nice for workers, the structure reinforces Taylor as an access road, and not an active, integrated part of the city.

Taylor Avenue pedestrian crossing

Taylor Avenue streetscape - BJC/WUSM campus

Taylor Avenue, more-or-less the eastern border of the BJC, WUSM, St. Louis College of Pharmacy part of the campus, has long been treated as a alleyway. Sidewalks are narrow, punctuated by telephone poles, and crosswalks insufficient. Elsewhere, pedestrians have been given second-class consideration during construction. Before skywalks connecting every parking garage with every campus building are permitted, more should be required of the public infrastructure.

BJC parking garage skywalk{the new skyway – currently under construction}

BJC parking garage{the new parking garage sites between two existing garages}

aerial map of BJC/WUSM skywalks{existing BJC/WUSM campus skywalks in yellow, new project in blue}

Even the Cortex development to the east has prioritized moving cars in and out of the area above robust pedestrian or bike infrastructure. That development has replaced a significant length of sidewalks and installed pedestrian streetlights where none previously existed.

A new MetroLink station is coming the area as well, perhaps breaking ground in 2016, and opening in 2017. It is made possible by a federal TIGER grant. By contrast, the new $18M I-64 interchange serving the area was prioritized and completed in 2014.

The new walkway will connect directly from the newly completed 3,000-car garage (and adjacent garages) to the garage housing the Central West End MetroBus station, to the under-construction 500K sf BJC office building.

aerial rendering - BJC office building{aerial rendering of new 500K sf BJC building – skywalk shown at base}

BJC/WUSM campus under construction{Cranes for new BJC 500K sf building – skywalk will attach to north of garage at left}

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  • Michael B

    The new and existing skywalks are really handy for existing employees of WashU, Children’s, and BJC, but they also serve a dual purpose of allowing people to literally walk above the “riff-raff” that comes with urban settings and nearby public transportation. I’m worried that this will lead to the abandonment of public spaces and will cost us the empathy and sense of urgency needed to combat homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, and other problems of the city. People won’t demand solutions to these problems when they can simply avoid them through a convenient sky-way.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t build these skyways, but the medical campus should be improving the sidewalks, biking infrastructure, and other pedestrian access for the rest of those who are left below. Two people can’t even walk side-by-side down Taylor without one of them walking into a utility pole.

    Cortex isn’t much better as their new roads heavily prioritize vehicles, like the double-left turn lanes on Newstead. The lanes have been narrowed so much to provide for these extra lanes that there is nowhere for a bicyclist to ride except for the middle of the lane. I simply avoid the area and use other roads to avoid the aggressive drivers who attempt to pass even when there clearly isn’t a need or room to do so. I had hoped to see a progressive approach to pedestrian and bike access with all of this new construction, but unfortunately we are seeing the opposite.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Well said.

  • Guest

    That area is cramped, nearly every inch taken up by the massive health complexes and institutions that support them. Ummm…wouldn’t going UP (like including parking levels in the new towers) have been a reasonably intelligent plan that would allow for wider sidewalks and welcoming pedestrian spaces? That way, commuters can drive right to their destination, and the growing numbers of nearby residents who work there would have safe and attractive walkability. Oh, that’s right…the city isn’t allowed to build anything higher than twelve stories…people may get the idea that St. Louis city is a progressive, large urban center. We certainly don’t want that, now…do we?

  • Luftmentsch

    Hadn’t realized how much the distopian visions of Bladerunner and Metropolis were still inspiring architects and planners.

  • Daron

    Not a terrible project, but the thinking behind it is incredibly anti-urban.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes, I think it’s the enthusiasm and rhetoric that feel anti-city. IF there were an investment in a quality space for pedestrians and public users up and down and across Taylor, this project wouldn’t seem so gratuitous.

  • Imran

    “bringing pedestrians off the street”

    • matimal

      Yes, the fear of public spaces is profound in St. Louis.