Friday Live Chat

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live chat

It’s back, the Friday Live Chat. You know what to do – just use the comments section below. We’re open from 2-3pm today:

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  • Alex Ihnen

    Thanks for joining! Look for the next Future Great City podcast to post next Tuesday. It should be a fun one.

  • tony

    So what’s the latest plan with the Orpheum Theater? Does UrbanStreet still own and plan on reopening?

    • Alex Ihnen

      It is owned by Urban Street and there’s currently no plan of which I’m aware. It came as part of the package with the Roberts Tower and the Locust buildings. The Locust buildings have been sold and have a redevelopment plan: https://nextstl.com/2016/04/913-923-locust/

  • The Seattle region will vote in November on a 25-year $50 BILLION transit expansion plan.

    Los Angeles County will likely vote in November on a $120 BILLION highway and transit expansion program.

    Denver had their famous $1.7 BILLION T-Rex program that expanded highways and built 19 miles of light followed by a $4 BILLION FasTracks program that will result in Denver having a total of 120 miles of rail-based transit upon its completion.

    Meanwhile, here in St. Louis…

    • Alex Ihnen

      Perhaps we have to think beyond St. Louis County politics. We need real regional cooperation. With all the focus on the city and county, those two together are ~45% of the region’s population. We can’t ignore city/county cooperation, but perhaps we shouldn’t concede that nothing can be done until there’s one city/county.

    • Chicagoan

      Denver’s rail construction just hasn’t been impressive, though.

    • Tim E

      Bay Area will also have some big transportation referendums on the November ballot including BART and Santa Clara County (San Jose). This is on top of the fact that almost every single school bond was passed in the primary election this month. This is on top of California committing $500 million a year in carbon tax credit dollars for high speed rail as well. Plus a commitment to electrify Caltrans and slowly building out express toll lanes for the highways.
      .
      The amazing part is St. Louis county passed Prop A six years ago for expansion which also triggered a 1/4 cent city sales tax already approved and the city/county leadership has failed miserable. The latest silliness makes it even more depressing.

      • Chicagoan

        Good, b/c BART has serious Metro (Washington, D.C.)-like problems.

  • Tim E

    Curious if any updates on Wexford/Cortex proposed development with hotel as well as the possibility of Microsoft landing a few hundred jobs in Cortex. Sounds like a lot is to happen by end of year but quiet lately
    Any thoughts that CWE/Grand Center (specifically Lawrence Group/Bull Moose) hotel rooms putting a damper on downtown. A lot of new hotel rooms being talked about in downtown.

    • Alex P

      Downtown needs a lot more than boutique hotels. Grand Center needs it 10x more than DT does. It’s never crossed my mind once that the Missouri Theater Building renovation would hurt downtown.

      • Tim E

        I’m still at loss why BPV phase II with a residential/hotel tower has not already broken ground. I can see a mix of a couple of boutique hotels and a new hotel @ BPV. I think Railway Exchange and now the Jeff Arm guy are throwing out hotel because of the shear amount of square footage involved.
        .
        CORTEX needs hotel rooms just as matter of business, hospital & schools. I think Grand Center rooms are in competition with downtown hotel room – more in line with tourist, entertainment, weekenders. At same time, wouldn’t be surprised if SLU pursues a hotel at Grand & Chotteau.

        • Alex Ihnen

          My hot take: BPV/Cards are making a lot of money and so what’s the rush?

          • Tim E

            Good point, but I believe it is the fact that city didn’t back the bonds for DeWitt’s development partner who has made a living by developing the upside while getting local governments to take on the risk of a downside (KC as example). DeWitt might have very agreed from the get go and no rush because either way the family is make money, on the ballclub, on BPV and some odd parking revenue. But believe the parking is chump change.
            ..
            What is probably is the most frustrating part is no civic pride out of DeWitt family. At least with Scottrade you eventually got the Peabody back and LHM tackled Union Station. Fortunately, Koman got attracted to Cupples because lack of BPV progress.

    • Alex Ihnen

      No one’s talking about the Wexford development at Cortex. It’s coming though, and more is planned.

      I don’t think the hotel in Grand Center will have much of an effect on downtown. I do think that all the new hotels coming online will negatively impact the dated and less well run hotels in the immediate area.

      • Tim E

        That is what is scary. Outside of Crescent believe going forward it is now infill with new construction. That has been a tough sell in the city considering the huge amount of underutilized building stock, the tax credits available on top of abatements, reduced construction vs. cost of new construction.

    • citylover

      I’m shocked how many hotels are coming to downtown. Is this just because the millennium went lights out?

      • Alex Ihnen

        That’s part of it. That was 780 rooms, though not all were in use before it closed. There was a long period when few hotels were built and so the natural turnover wasn’t happening. The planned boutique hotels range from 80-150 rooms and so add up rather slowly. Another factor is the Rams leaving and some expectation of increased convention business.

  • citylover

    Map of development in central corridor. Not perfect, but orange post-its show positive signs in the region.

    It amazes me that metrolink was expanded so heavily in St. Clair county. Belleville is about the size of St. Charles City (60 k or 65 k) but only 800 people use the station daily…it proves that density plays a major role.

    Gives me headaches of station studies in south, north, and west county. Just adds uncompetitive commute times and low ridership.

    • Alex Ihnen

      We’re looking at building a map for the site to geo-locate development stories. It will take some time to see if we can get it done.

      Illinois funded MetroLink and so Belleville and other location have stops. I’d bet that St. Louis county MetroLink lines won’t perform as well with federal funding measures as a north-south city line. Which makes the local disagreement all the more silly.

    • TIm E

      What kills me as a county resident at the time and voted in favor of Prop A is the fact that it has been six good years since it was passed and just now the county is moving forward with studies. A lot of people down on Stenger but Dooley could have a lot done already

  • Frank Absher

    Any news on whether SSM plans to develop the two buildings between Chouteau and the new LaSalle St?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Nothing other than slight optimism that they’re not gone in the images shared to this point. That said, I’d still bet against them staying.

  • Vince

    Any news on location of that new brewery looking to settle in the Grove?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Nothing new over the past two months, but I understand it’s still in the works. http://www.rockwellbeer.com/

      • tony

        Is the plan still to be located on Vandeventer? Would be nice to see more interest spread from the main strip.

        • Alex Ihnen

          My understanding is that a location hasn’t been determined, but is still focused on Vandeventer. There aren’t that many options on that stretch and so I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up somewhere else.

  • At today’s Board meeting, Ald. Green noted that Tower Grove still has a smaller version of St. Louis’ Pridefest, and that many TGS/Grand businesses rely/relied on activity in the area during Pride weekend to buoy they’re financials.

    So what’s the history there? Obviously the businesses can’t be happy the event was moved. Can’t imagine it was the residents who pushed it out. Did the City “take away” the TGS celebration in favor of a downtown event, or was it an organizer decision?

    Personally, I lament that more events are being centralized — in many cases, like with Pridefest, it was the best opportunity to show non-City residents that there’s more to the City than what exists within the central corridor.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’m not the best person to answer that question, other than to say there were different ideas among organizers and the city, about sponsorships and planning, etc. I’ll defer to Tower Grove Pride: https://www.facebook.com/TowerGrovePride/?fref=ts

    • citylover

      I do like the tower grove area more for pride. There’s a bigger rainbow vibe there than downtown, but I want Fair STL back at the Arch grounds

    • Mike B

      This is only what I heard recently from someone who had booths at the Tower Grove Pride before they moved downtown: Tower Grove Park charged Pride St. Louis an outrageous amount of money the last couple of years. Add the increase in popularity over the past 5-10 years and you get pride moving downtown.

  • Vince

    When will high speed rail to Chicago be completed?

    • Alex Ihnen

      The Belleville News-Democrat had an update recently: http://www.bnd.com/news/local/article82918242.html. Looks like it’s still on schedule to run at 110mph in stretches in 2017.

      • Tim E

        I believe MoDOT, IDOT and Terminal Railroad association have a fastrack grant request in for getting one of the rail crossings rebuilt to full capacity – secondary Amtrak route when coming across river before arch and taking the rail line in front of the arch. Can’t remember which bridge upriver of the arch it is but can only handle one train at a time at reduced speeds.
        Wouldn’t hurt if Metro East would put some support behind upgrading the rails between Alton and downtown as well as dropped the idea of another station for East St. Louis. One more stop, more reduced speed for metro east community well served by metrolink.

  • DB

    Something lost in the metrolink hoopla is BRT, why isn’t anyone pushing for a more comprehensive look at a high end BRT, wouldn’t it accomplish a lot of the same as LR and for 1/6th of the cost per mile

    • Alex Ihnen

      You’re right. Short answer – there’s long been a rail transit advocacy effort in STL. There’s been a virtual absence of any other transit planning outside government agencies (and even then…). So transit in STL has been rail v. nothing.

    • Alex P

      My thoughts on BRT (not a short answer). 1) IMO it won’t actually attract that many new riders, even though the increased quality should attract them. People/developers don’t gather around buses in any form. Buses routes can disappear at any moment, rail not so much. 2) BRT would be an incredible progressive step that would help those that that already use transit. Just the sheer effort that the region is trying to be innovative is a positive. Except they actually have to get it right. 3) Not all BRT uses highways and dedicated lanes. The Grand and Kingshighway buses are not far from being BRT lines because of their current frequency. They need prepaid boarding, coordination with stoplights, some dedicated lanes, and of least importance, some branding.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yes – the issue is primarily that of service frequency. If BRT/busses could run 10-15min headways, the system would be much more usable.

        • Alex P

          If more people knew about 70 Grand headways, it would attract development like LRT does. If it used the same ticket system as Metrolink, it would attract some of those exposed to metrolink through Cardinals games / other special events.

          • Alex Ihnen

            There’s a lot that could be done if the goal was to increase use of transit, and specifically buses. St. Louis needs a bus lobby!

    • The cost of BRT really depends on what goes into it. Platinum standard BRT could easily approach the cost of light-rail.

      Of course, the problem with BRT is that the very cost argument you are making is usually used as a means to oppose light-rail. Then when LRT is dropped in favor of BRT, the plans get watered down until there is nothing left but a regular run of the mill bus line. And of course, Metro has put forth their own ideas for “BRT”; those plans were dead on arrival.

      I’d like to see Metro focus on implementing additional frequent bus lines before seriously considering BRT. As of today, the only frequent bus line in the entire region is the 70 Grand.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yes. The BRT w/o priority lanes on Interstates was a shockingly bad idea.

    • Chicagoan

      If building BRT, you have to build it “Gold Standard” or “100%” or it won’t work. Here in Chicago we recently built a “BRT Light” system and it’s been held back by a few issues. It’s got the bus lanes and signal priority, but it’s lacking the pre-paid boarding and train station-like enclosures.

      The system is nice if you take a commuter train into the city and your office is in the East Loop. Also, the construction gave us some protected bicycle lanes, which took auto lanes down from 4 to 2 (Yay, progress!). But, CTA officials have forced bus drivers to approach the stations at a speed of like 3 MPH, due to the presence of large mirrors on the back of the buses. This has been a pain. Finally, cabs, private autos, private buses, Lyfts, and Ubers have used bus lanes and hurt the performance in the early going, though that’s gotten somewhat better.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you build BRT, it’s got to be “Gold Standard”. So, it must have bus lanes, pre-paid boarding, signal priority, and train station-like enclosures, no compromise. Exposing BRT to the public engagement circus often times makes this quite hard to accomplish. We’d hoped that this “BRT Light” system could perhaps spur support for a “Gold Standard” BRT service on Ashland Avenue, but instead it’s made it even harder to make happen.

      TLDR: “Gold Standard” BRT is hard to do.