Demo Alert: QuikTrip Plans To Occupy Grand From Lafayette To McRee

Area of Concern

He’s been getting around town a lot lately. The Grim Reaper has been seen lurking near Grand Avenue at Lafayette and McRee in the Tiffany neighborhood. QuikTrip’s rampage on the built environment continues. They plan to build a gas station across the street from Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice. Ironic given how the highway has damaged public health and exacerbated social justice issues which could soon be compounded by the gas station.

1600 Block of South Grand

The land fronting Grand is vacant, owned by SLU, but it’s not enough for the auto-oriented land use. QT acquired 3616 McRee last November. Now evidence suggests 3619 Lafayette, a four family called Aida, has sold. The daily date in the Assessor’s recodes is March 3, 2021 indicating a sale. Word is that QT has acquired it hired a property management firm to manage it, and are not planning to demolish it for now. Best keep a close eye on it.

3616 McRee Planned to be razed
3619 Lafayette Aida. Safe for now

Luckily these buildings are not in the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation’s area where demolition wouldn’t be reviewed and are in the Tiffany Neighborhood District created in 1984 on the National Register of Historic Places. That means they should be reviewed by the Cultural Resources Office and, if denied by staff and appealed, would go before the Preservation Board. We’ve seen CRO staff let us down before, most notably at 1900 Olive. Some of the same justifications could be applied here.

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3619-27 Lafa ette Avenue Cit Block 2122N The festive, two-story, four-family, red brick Aida Apartments one of three so-named in St. Louis) were built in 1916 for Charles Garavelli and designed by architect Edward Milhofer. (Photo #18, right.) Built at a cost of $17,000, the cost per unit of $4,250 exceeded that of many single family residences built in the District at this time. Timbered gables supported by bold brackets project over the terracotta-faced balconies. The entrance and balconies are enlivened by multi-colored terracotta patterning in blue, pink, purple and green; the name Aida appears over the door in blue terracotta. First story porches are stone. Milhofer was also the architect of a two-family flat at 3627 Lafayette (Photo #18, far left.) built at a cost of $5,500 in 1915 for a relative of Garavelli’s, Irene Freschi. It resembles a large, single-family house with its bracketed cornice below the gable end and porch across the facade. In the center of Photo #18 is a two-family flat built in 1925-26 which exhibits Tudor detailing. It was designed by architect Thomas P. Saum and cost $9,000.

Tiffany Neighborhood District Nomination

The Tiffany neighborhood plan lists one of its assets as “Environment: Tiffany Park, trees, green space, gates that surrounds the neighborhood, a water tower, attractive housing stock (architecture).” Another tell as to what the neighborhood values is that the BP gas station does not appear anywhere in the plan document.

According to the survey, residents expressed what they liked most about the Tiffany were:

•Great location that is accessible to public transportation, medical facilities and job opportunities

•Affordable and attractive architecture that is historic and family-friendly

•Tiffany Park and green space that is accessible and centralized in the neighborhood

Tiffany Neighborhood’s 2016 Needs Assessment and Action Plan

47% of residents who responded tot he plan survey cited easy acces to public transportation as an asset for the neighborhood. The region’s most frequent bus line, the 70 Grand, runs by Tiffany. 45% cited affordable housing, no doubtably made more affordable by access to transit. A land use at Grand that allows more people to take advantage of those strengths would be much better for the neighborhood and the city than one meant to serve mostly those arriving by car via the highway. Places to live wherein residents could walk to work in the medical complex rather than live elsewhere and drive in with all its negative externalities would be better in many dimension.

54% cited a service that children need as one that addresses academic achievement. Perhaps a land use or at least a part of one could include something geared towards that. A gas station and the cars it attracts are incompatible with healthy children. Maybe a SLU-led after school program. When SLU was trying to demolish the Pevely up the street years ago they claimed they were going to build an ambulatory care center to serve underserved populations (while also threatening to leave the city altogether). Here could be an opportunity to do that. None of the needs desired by residents listed in the plan for children, adults, or community-wide were a nicer convenience store or gas station. One would exacerbate the concerns of crime and safety.

The plan recommends creating a Development Review and Public Infrastructure Committee. None of the objectives of the proposed committee would be met by a gas station-

Objective of the Committee:
•To ensure development activities happening in and/or near the neighborhood are congruent to the needs and vision of the neighborhood.
•To ensure development activities will do no harm and benefit residents and businesses.
•To preserve and maintain the historic nature of the neighborhood architecture.
•To improve the aesthetic and infrastructure of the neighborhood’s public spaces.

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I covered the detrimental effects of gas stations on a neighborhood in regards to the proposed one on Von Phul. In short public health, public safety, neighborhood quality of life, kids, keeping more wealth local and gas stations are mutually exclusive. In all likelihood the BP two blocks to the north will close if a QT opens. The population of the city, the county, and the region is pretty much stagnant. Driving is down due to the pandemic and may stay lower than pre-pandemic levels due to more work-from-home.

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Let’s take a look at the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation Master Plan. [PDF]

Action Area 14 — The eastern portion of City Blocks 2122.05, 2123, and 2124, comprising approximately 2.5 acres (excluding rights-of-way). This relatively small area contains parcels fronting on Grand Boulevard that include a parking lot, a veterinary clinic and a gas station [BP]. It is proposed that his [sic] area be retained for commercial uses that support the mission and activities of the larger Redevelopment Area.

St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation Plan

Does a gas station here support the mission and goals of the plan?

The predominant land uses within the Redevelopment Area are anticipated to be private mixed-use development, which could include residential, designed to take advantage of the location of the Redevelopment Area in the central corridor of St. Louis, as well as medical and institutional related uses designed to support the operations of Saint Louis University’s North and South Campuses and SSM Health’s health care and related facilities

A.2 Purpose of the redevelopment plan – St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation Master Plan, p. 6

No mention of single-use auto-oriented land uses.

4. To create development opportunities and a physical environment that are
conducive to expanding existing businesses, and attracting and incubating compatible new businesses.
· Incorporate convenient and compatible business services, retail shopping and
services, dining, hotel/meeting facilities, entertainment and recreational facilities, and residential at a scale and character appropriate to support the primary businesses and institutional uses in and adjacent to the Redevelopment Area.
· Provide for a wide variety of development opportunities that include new urban scale and density construction, infill buildings, and the reuse of existing buildings that are attractive and can be adapted to the needs of new businesses and institutions, with special emphasis on the City Foundry Saint Louis Redevelopment and redevelopment of the St. Louis National Guard Armory.
· Eliminate facilities that create the image and reality of the Redevelopment Area being obsolete and blighted.
· Take maximum advantage of development opportunities afforded by land that is currently vacant or underutilized within the Redevelopment Area with particular focus on the significant development opportunity presented by the vacant land on the northwest corner of Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue.
· Facilitate signature development and attractive streetscape features throughout the public realm along Grand Boulevard and at key entry locations to the Redevelopment Area to create an image that reflects a successful and progressive business, commercial, and development district. Key locations include Grand Boulevard at I-64, Chouteau Avenue at 39th Street and Compton Avenue, and Grand Boulevard at I-44.
· Seek to connect to and complement the proposed Chouteau Greenway that is
designed to flow through the center of the Redevelopment Area along the historic alignment of Mill Creek Valley.
· Improve the image and attractiveness of the Redevelopment Area through
enhancement of lighting, street trees, signage and quality building and site design along major access routes serving the Area – Grand Boulevard, Chouteau Avenue, Compton Avenue, and Forest Park Avenue in particular.

A.5 Key goals and Strategy for the redevelopment plan – St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation Master Plan, p. 10-11

A gas station is neither “new urban scale and density construction” nor eliminates blight. In fact is would be a source of blight. One certainly isn’t “taking maximum advantage of development opportunities,” nor creating “an image that reflects a successful and progressive business, commercial, and development district” at the key location of Grand Boulevard and I-44 with a gas station, nor following through with “quality building and site design” along the major access route of Grand Boulevard.

What about how the redevelopment area connects with surrounding neighborhoods like Tiffany?

9. To catalyze redevelopment of the adjacent properties and neighborhoods surrounding the Redevelopment Area, including facilitating better connections to nearby commercial districts and residential neighborhoods adjacent to the Redevelopment Area.

A.5 Key goals and Strategy for the redevelopment plan – St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation Master Plan, p. 11-12

A gas station certainly won’t facilitate “better connections to nearby commercial districts and residential neighborhoods.” It would be the opposite.

Be sure to contact Ald Davis to share your thoughts on the matter.

A gas station on Grand between Lafayette and McRee is incompatible with the Tiffany Neighborhood Plan and the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Plan. It’s incompatible with a walkable human-scaled 15-minute productive CITY. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

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