Friday Live Chat

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live chat

We’re wrapping up the week with something new – a live chat. You know what to do – just use the comments section below. We’re open until 3pm today:

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  • Andy

    Moving many of the “Schoemehl Pots” in the CWE to open the neighborhood up to Westminster Place, and other blocks in the area will help push development north. Who knows? Eventually this may actual lead to some redevelopment north of Delmar Blvd adjacent to the CWE. Soulard’s success eventually spilled over into Benton Park but I do not see the success of the CWE organically breaching the Delmar divide.

    • Daron

      Don’t forget Cathedral Square’s brewery at the holy corners. That ought to be a big deal.

      • Andy

        That is an exciting development. Haven’t heard much about it recently but I’m assuming they want to open it up this year correct?

  • Alex Ihnen

    Checking out of the Live Chat – continue the convo for a bit if you choose! Thanks for coming!

  • Daron

    My theory for quite some time is that St. Louis does not have a city center. It might by some measure have three. These being Clayton, the Central West End, and Downtown. Grand Center might also count, but only for a few blocks. Chicago has done great things by concentrating development in one spot and making sure people can get there and back without cars. We don’t have a shared downtown, we have a central corridor. It therefore seems very important to me that the different parts of that corridor connect to each other. Each is currently an island unrelated to the others. We won’t really have a central corridor until walking between these locations isn’t horrible.

    How can the Clayton/Loop area meet up with the BJC/CWE area north of the park if all those private houses are between? Probably only through a very strong WashU corridor through Forest Park. Bike Share, metrolink, beefy sidewalks, what? The trolley could help perhaps. Forest Park Parkway?

    How can the BJC/CWE area connect to Grand Center? The space between Lindell and Delmar is such a slim corridor. Mere blocks!

    How can Grand Center meet up with downtown? Midtown is a wasteland. It’s a non-neighborhood. It’s bombed out and empty with roads, fences, and grass everywhere. Again the connection has to be through a very narrow strip between Olive and Delmar. The midtown alley is vital but so narrow.

    Those three connections have to happen and CORTEX is not really going to help all that much because SLU is not going to take an urban development pattern next to it.

    • Daron

      The delmar divide is actually the main spine of the city…

    • Alex P

      I probably bring it up too much and there’s really not much to talk about but the east riverfront / East STL HAVE TO BE part of this conversation. People can whine about the crime but every urban planner has to think on a 30-50 year timeline, not 5-10 years like developers do.

      • Daron

        Yes, but the distance between downtown and East St. Louis is even greater, and the failures of CityArchRiver demonstrate the lack of will to do anything about it. How would you connect East St. Louis in a meaningful way to downtown? A park that spans the river was a good idea, but there’s no political will for that sort of thing in the next twenty years. Great Rivers Greenway and the Metro East Parks and Recreation District have to reclaim the riverfronts first before they’ll be able to connect the two sides. Other entities will fight them.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The geography of our river and flood plains may make this a case of throwing good money after bad.

        • Alex P

          As for a connection tool, Alex Ihnen frequently makes comparisons between STL’s and Cincy’s historic bridges. Cincy’s attracts cyclists and STL’s doesn’t. However, the main reason for that is a lack of destination in EastSTL. What does give me hope is Casino Queen. Imagine if larger hotels, restaurants and spas were built as part of that complex. Eventually that would lead to Condos and offices. I have complete confidence in saying that that’s one of the best potential views out of a apartment living room window/balcony in the country. As for a slightly larger scale, focus on the metro stops. There’s already some momentum building at the Emerson Park Metrolink station. It’s really going to be the new center of EastSTL. The momentum just needs to stay walkable and focus on the people and lives of East St. Louis.

    • That polycentricity of the St. Louis region is not a problem as much as the lack of a true center. Downtown used to be the region’s CBD, but like you said, increasingly it looks like the true CBD may shift to the Central West End and CORTEX area. Westport could become another serious job node if Maryland Heights and St. Louis County were interested in remaking the area into a true center of commerce.

      I don’t think it’s necessary to fully connect each center with a contiguous line of development; there just just needs to be abundant access and good transit connections between the centers.

      • Andy

        The CBD is more downtown Clayton than the CWE. Having a huge hospital, and pharm school, restaurants, expensive condos, and a couple of tech startups does not scream CBD to me.

        • John R

          I guess you can define CBD’s in different ways, but I agree that CWE is too dispersed to properly be considered a core CBD. And I believe downtown still dwarfs Clayton as an overall concentrated residential/employment/cultural center.

      • Daron

        New York has 5th Avenue. Chicago has a Magnificent Mile. St. Louis has the Delmar Divide. There doesn’t have to be contiguous line, but these places shouldn’t be islands.

      • Every city is polycentric: New York has Downtown, Midtown, Downtown Brooklyn, Jersey City, etc. We are not special, in this regard.

        This map is how I think about the local economy, in terms of the role each part of the region plays. It’s broadly accurate, although the population densities are way smaller.

        • To clarify, I would say St. Louis is surprisingly polycentric given it’s size. Most other cities comparable is St. Louis may have other job centers, but those secondary centers are often much closer to the core than those in St. Louis—Crown Center in Kansas City, universities in Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis are all within 3 to 5 miles of their respective downtowns whereas Clayton is 8 and Westport could emerge more than 15 miles away.

          On the other end of the spectrum, Chicago is surprisingly monocentric given it’s size.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Good thoughts. Delmar is how to connect with development. But Kingshighway needs to be improved from Delmar to Lindell – to connect commercial areas. Delmar east of Kingshighway is quite residential. Lindell needs to be improved for pedestrians as well…real bike lanes on FP Avenue too?

      • Daron

        Trolley down Forest Park…?

        • Alex Ihnen

          a) No more trolleys. b) I think the heart of the Loop and the CWE are too far apart to be functionally connected. c) A streetcar down Delmar, maybe, but homeowners won’t allow it to connect to Lindell. d) MetroLink runs down FP – how would a streetcar differ?

          • Daron

            Streetcars have more frequent stops and they slow down car traffic. The MetroLink does not stop in the park or attempt to heal the cut up pieces of it. That’s one difference. The other big difference is that it could take Forest Park Avenue instead of Mill Creek Valley.

            But you’re right. The cost would not at all out weight the benefits.

            Honestly though, the greatest thing that could be done to reduce the Forest Park divide is to get rid of the larger of the two golf courses and do something more useful for the general public.

    • Hannah

      These areas would be and feel so much more connected with bikeshare. Currently CWE, the Grove, South Grand, Cherokee St, Soulard, Downtown, etc are all short bike rides from one another and tourists and residents and these would benefit hugely if people could get from one to another without hardly having to think about it.

      Have there been any talks of potential sponsors yet?

      • Alex Ihnen

        Not that I’m aware of, but I hope so.

      • Daron

        A bike share program in St. Louis should obviously begin with WUSTL students. With great density of stations on both sides of the park, trips between would happen quite naturally, and the density of bikes would push infrastructure changes the alderman in Dogtown would support.

  • John R

    What project in recent years that has come and gone been your biggest disappointment in not seeing happen?

    • Alex Ihnen

      City to River will always be a missed opportunity. So much support was lined up for the idea, but the proverbial powers-that-be had other things in mind.

      As for a developer proposed project – the first one at Chouteau/Taylor in The Grove was great, and looks even better in light of Aventura and the hotel there now. And the apartments at the Optimist site was a good development IMO.

      • Alex P

        City to River would have gotten incredible international attention. It was indeed a huge missed opportunity, especially considering how disappointing/small the new Lid is (at least in my circle of friends). I love how MoDOT kept saying that removing the freeway would always be an option after the Lid, but now that it’s too late, they just keep saying that freeway removal is completely impractical and will probably never happen.

        • John R

          Another frustrating thing was the argument that everything had to be done by Oct. ’15th. Ha!

      • John R

        I agree C2R was a wasted opportunity for the city. As for a developer proposed project, I think the McGowan Bros. proposal for the Jefferson Arms as home to Teach for America and apartments would be at the top for recent (post-recession) years. But I remain optimistic that something will get done there before long.

  • John R

    Do you think downtown is getting close to having enough residential/jobs/visitors density to attract significant retail beyond bars/restaurants?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not really. I think a CVS or something is possible and should happen, but other retail would still rely on people driving and parking – which is just easier elsewhere. To be honest, I was surprised the Midtown Station retail plan didn’t happen. That seemed located to serve downtown residents, some neighborhoods, and commuters.

    • Andy

      Downtown’s office pink elephant is the AT&T building. Their is no realistic solution to that problem that I can see in the next 5 years. If someone else disagree’s I’d love to hear some optimism.

    • no, partly because density is too low (only about 7500/sqmi), but also because physical retail is dying. Going forward, the only successful physical retail sectors will be food services, luxury items, and convenience stores. Online services like Amazon are the future of retail.

      • John R

        Thanks, Jason. I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying and retail certainly is a challenge in a changing modern landscape, but I am curious as to how downtown Cleveland and Detroit for example are making solid gains with retail and we’re not. They may have somewhat higher daytime populations (I think DT CLE especially at least for now) but they have made some solid strides with shopping retail the past year or two.

        • It’s hard to do city to city comparisons like that, particularly when the three cities involved are such basket cases. To steal from Tolstoy, every good city is the same, every bad city is bad in its own way. It may be as simple as a particular developer taking an interest: if Joe Edwards had opened Blueberry Hill on Washington Ave instead of Delmar, things would be very different.

          You’ve also got to be careful about definitions. What counts as “downtown” in each city? Are those areas really comparable in terms of number of residents and visitors? It’s tricky.

          Saint Louis isn’t going to see really good street life until density gets to around 15-20,000/sqmi across a largish portion of the city. For comparison, Manhattan averages about 71,000, and Boston averages about 13,000 (although there are census tracts in Boston with densities as high as 200,000/sqmi). That’s the level we’ve got to get to. It’s going to take 50-100 years, if ever.

          • John R

            Really appreciate your comments, Jason. I guess my outlook is how can we be more like Detroit and Cleveland in the short term and more like say Minneapolis in the longer term (as I agree Manhattan and Boston are unrealistic.)

            You are right that lead stakeholders can make a difference — there is no doubt Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock team has led to savvy progress in downtown Detroit for example. Cleveland’s gains have been more diffuse, but concentrated along or near the hot Euclid Corridor. Anyway, hopefully we land a drug store as Alex says in the near term along with a few boutiques, etc. that can provide a bit more interest and service to downtown residents and workers.

  • Marc Schneider

    This is minor, but I can’t remember the last time anything was in this space (sw corner of euclid + w. pine). Believe it was a deli/restaurant decades ago. Why, with everything going on in the CWE (and on that specific corner), is that retail/resto spot so hard to fill? Or is there something newly in the works? Just a consistent bummer every time I walk on that stretch of Euclid…

    • raccoozie

      Google street view goes back to 2007. Looks like that same “for lease” sign has been up there for almost 10 years now. Kind of sad. Maybe the space inside isn’t suitable for anything.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Good question. It doesn’t have a true retail entrance (as in on the corner), but it is odd. I would think with Whole Foods traffic and the Koman project, it would see something go in.

        I don’t know specifics here, but I’ve seen retail spaces in St. Louis sit for a long time with a high asking price. Sometimes owners don’t have much invested in the space (got it cheap) and so aren’t in a hurry, and want to establish a high rent. Can seem counterintuitive, but it happens.

        • raccoozie

          If that’s the case perhaps this is the moment the owners have been waiting for. With The Orion and the 32-40 N. Euclid project going in it should be a desirable corner. We might see something soon!

  • Despite hailing itself as a city of neighborhoods, St. Louis suffers from limited connectivity between them — no, I’m not talking about transportation, but about the built environment and urban experience that should serve as a membrane leading from one into the other. What do you all think is the best STL example of “the space between” neighborhoods. What’s the worst? And where is it most needed/possible?

    • rgbose

      Taylor Ave between CWE and FPSE is quite bad.

    • Daron

      Having just recently moved to Compton Heights, I find it very well connected to Tower Grove East and Fox Park. Wonderfully so really. The connections to the Gate District and Shaw are terrible though. It’s the big roads that are a problem. We have ‘great streets’ projects, but I think we should have put an equal amount of work into great intersections.

    • Alex Ihnen

      So many divisions w/ private streets, highways, railroads… The neighborhoods around Tower Grove Park are rather seamless. CWE-Midtown-Downtown West doesn’t have any real barriers, but suffers from vacancy – that’s changing with everything on the 3900 blocks of FP/Laclede/West Pine.

      The worst, IMO, is basically any place along our urban arterials – Gravois, Kingshighway, Jefferson, etc. = horrible dividers.

  • Tyler

    Besides CWE and Downtown, what are the densest, most walk-able, most diverse area neighborhoods? I ask as local boy who’s been living out of the country for 6 years and looking to make a move back to STL, buy a house/apartment, and continue working remotely for an international startup.

    • rgbose

      South Grand

    • Daron

      If you are driving, anywhere in south city is probably fine. If you aren’t, save yourself a lot of pain and move close to Grand. Otherwise obviously the Grove, South Grand, Cherokee, etc. are still good recommendations.

  • John R

    Are you confident about Green Street’s project in the Grove moving forward? Also, are you hearing about other retail tenants (besides Sauce on the Side) being lined up for all the Grove projects?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes, I believe the Green Street project at the Commerce Bank site will happen. There are always a lot of rumors about development in The Grove – nothing more to share at the moment though.

  • rgbose

    How does the urbanist side of the argument get more organized and politically effective?

    • Alex Ihnen

      #1 vote. #2 support local candidates no matter if they’re in your ward/municipality. #3 meet regularly, plan & work issues. (perhaps nextSTL can begin hosting). #4 focus – so much to vent about, but need to pick actionable (and winnable) issues.

      • Daron

        Who do you believe is currently best convening people around actionable and winnable issues?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Some individual aldermen are doing great things – though are somewhere inherently limited to their wards. Across political boundaries? Virtually no one? Better Together is a very important effort – with info to arm those wanting change, but the studies need advocates to act upon them. Now I’ll drift off to my recurring daydream about establishing an STL metro government in exile…

      • rgbose

        Odd numbered wards in the city are up next year. Who wants to run?

  • Andy

    Any word on the lumber yard in Dogtown? That neighborhood is so great. It is a shame to see that ground sitting. Do you think they will wait for the final zoo renderings for the old Forest Park Hospital site?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Nothing on the lumber yard – I think it’s tough as neighbors fear parking issues and don’t want to see something dense (4-5 stories).

      For the zoo, I don’t think there will be “final” renderings per se. That’s a 20-year project. It would be great to see a hotel or something built in the next couple years, but we’ll see. With the zoo looking at Grant’s Farm purchase, this site could sit for a while.

  • rgbose

    When will there be a nextSTL happy hour?

    • Alex Ihnen

      That’s a good question – would love to do something monthly. Working on ideas.

  • raccoozie

    With more and more big box stores closing locations (probably due to pressures from online sales) what could be the best use of future vacant strip malls?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Would love to see infill built on large parking lots. St. Louis Marketplace on Manchester in STL City is an interesting example of re-use, and a great place to build infill. The old retail spaces are nearly 100% filled, though traditional retail failed here (Kmart is still open, somehow).

      • raccoozie

        Thanks. That’s definitely a location that I think about a lot since I love the Dogtown area. That’s a location that could really benefit from something similar to what they have at Manchester and McKnight or “Market at McKnight.” Some street facing space would be great. I wish they had done the same thing with the IKEA location.

  • rgbose

    Will we learn anything from the recent flooding?

  • So when is the next Future Great Cities podcast episode?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Planning next Tuesday – guest is Sean Spencer of the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation.

  • Alex Ihnen

    2016 has started fast with significant development news in St. Louis. What stands out? What’s been forgotten?