You and your neighbors care deeply about your place. There’s a planning process to shape what could come for your place over the next decades. You all attend the meetings, the charrettes, read the draft documents, mark up the posters, affix the Post-It notes, talk with your neighbors, your neighborhood association, the consultant, city staff, and alderman. Maybe not everything in the plan is just how you’d like it, but at least the terrible things you don’t want aren’t in there. The plan seeks to serve those living there and not those driving in or through from elsewhere. It seeks walkable urban form in new development. It prioritizes people over cars. You walk away relieved that you and your neighbors hard work, values, and vision for your place are codified in the plan and especially that your place will be protected from what you don’t want. You can pay less attention, because why worry? That negative stuff isn’t going to happen.
Then you hear that a proposal is afoot that contradicts the plan you all worked on. It feels inevitable.
We’ve seen this happen thrice recently (please share more examples. Yes, Northside Regeneration).
University City Big Box
The Market at Olive development in University City- The RFP for the area now being developed into a big box with even more auto-oriented strip malls than the present ones and seas of parking, called for under “Community Vision and Preferred Uses”:
Olive Boulevard should be a unique corridor that reflects the unique “personality” of University City – not a clone thoroughfare
It should be more than just a transportation channel; it should be a practical destination corridor, with regionally and locally attractive nodes
It should contain a variety of uses and different character areas
It should be a multi-modal transportation corridor that is safe, efficient, and well-connected for all users regardless of age or ability
What has come to pass has failed miserably at almost all of the goals of the RFP, but what was most important ultimately was securing a “significant retail anchor” to shift sales tax base from other municipalities to University City.
MLS Parking Garage
The parking garage for the MLS stadium. The downtown neighborhood plan called for rehab and infill of the 1900 block of Olive.
Downtown West – to complement investment in the MLS stadium, underutilized property in Downtown West can serve as the ideal location to build a range of new townhomes, stacked townhomes and apartments of all sizes to build up Downtown’s population and create critical connections between the Stadium and Washington Avenue and, between Downtown West and Midtown.
NextSTL – 1900 Olive Post Mortem: Policy Failure
Not So Grand Gas Station
And lastly the QuikTrip development on Grand at Lafayette- The St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation (MRC) Master Plan seeks to-
Eliminate facilities that create the image and reality of the Redevelopment Area being obsolete and blighted.
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.
In the press release announcing the plan SLU said-
SLU’s strategic plan calls for the University to become “a leader in just land use and responsible urban design.”
We learned the train had been rolling on this for quite a while-
The university sought in the spring to distance itself from the potential sale, saying only it had told the company to work with the adjacent Tiffany Community Association on the potential for a QuikTrip and referring questions to the company.
But documents filed with the real estate sale in September show QuikTrip has had the SLU land under contract since February 2019.StlToday – http://Despite plan calling for ‘signature development,’ SLU sells prime Midtown land to QuikTrip
Meanwhile Pier Property Group’s Michael Hamburg, who has been developing in a place more challenging than this location nearby says, “We see a lot of demand for housing that has not been supplied.” Tearing down the Pevely and selling prime land for a gas station were short-sighted.
NextSTL – Pevely Debacle
Lucy took away the football again. The plan, the guidelines, the maps, the tantalizing images of CITY was a bait and switch. What to do now?
It takes more hard work, participation, and getting out in front of it.
Ever wonder why the southeast corner of Delmar and Skinker isn’t a paid parking lot, a Ferris wheel, or a single-story drive-thru bank? Long before the Parkview Gardens Neighborhood Plan, The Loop Area Retail Plan and Development Strategy – Action Plan, the Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Plan, the Delmar and Forest Park Station TOD Plan, and the Delmar DeBaliviere Form Based Code, neighborhood stakeholders and Aldermen Irving Clay and Dan McGuire introduced a redevelopment ordinance, the Delmar Link redevelopment area, in 1994. It’s a chapter 99 finding of blight and redevelopment plan. If forbids-
pawn shops, adult bookstores, x-rated movie houses, massage establishments, auto and truck dealers (new or used), auto and truck repair shops, motor fuel pumping stations, car lubrication facilities, car wash and detailing facilities, storefront churches, pinball and video arcades, pool halls, second-hand junk shops, tattoo parlors, truck or other equipment rentals requiring outside storage, for profit – commercial blood donor facilities, free standing package liquor stores, establishments selling alcoholic beverages by the glass which do not have a restaurant license in addition to a liquor license, check cashing centers, restaurants with no indoor table service which are strictly drive-through or carry-out, and open storage yards.
Add on a strong neighborhood organization, aldermen who are on board, and an institution on the same page (WUSTL leased the vacant fast food building to break the continuity of use), and you have the means and courage to say no until a good idea comes along. The struggle to heal the wounds of the failed auto-orientation experiment at Delmar and Skinker that divided the area for decades has finally borne fruit recently with Link in the Loop (it took a TIF and eminent domain to boot the gas station there.) and now the proposed Opus building where a low-productivity drive-thru fast-food building stood for over 40 years.
This level of community capital isn’t the case everywhere of course. In the case of the potential QT on Grand, the institution that was supposed to be the steward of the vision of CITY is complicit. Ald Davis said in May said it was up to the Tiffany Neighborhood Association. The ED of MRC told a Tiffany resident that they would go along with what the neighborhood decides as well. The resident also said QT had offered to donate $5,000 to support the organization and move the ramp to I-44 of off Lafayette closer to Grand. A gas station does many times more damage to a place than $5,000. Tiffany residents take note of the developments at Delmar and Skinker- don’t accept something over nothing. You are worthy of better.
To vote on the matter one has to pay dues to TNA ($60 a year per homeowner, $30 a year per unit per property owner and $20 a year per renter). Let’s say you aren’t and they approve. At this point you have to look for opportunities to make your thoughts heard elsewhere. It usually isn’t the case that the proposed development can be done by right. A zoning change is needed, or a variance, or demolition is subject to review because it’s in a preservation review area or historic district. Some historic districts have regulations on new construction.
In the case of the potential QT on Grand, meeting the city’s regulations on gas stations is pretty easy (26.40.027). The land is already zoned H Area Commercial, so no zoning change necessary. Not sure about other variances. They probably won’t seek tax incentives. If they seek a property tax abatement, the Midtown Corp can give a tax abatement without BoA approval. If they don’t try to demolish any buildings to the west, there is no CRO/Preservation Board review.
The only opportunity may be in the vacation of McRee. The vacant area bounded by Lafayette, Grand, McRee, and existing buildings is smaller than the smallest QTs built recently. They’ve also acquired 1625 S Grand across McRee. Incorporating it and the street in between would give them about as much space as their old location at Bayless and Lemay (another QT debacle) and at Big Bend and Manchester. Unlike a change to a city park which requires a city-wide vote, a street vacation takes a board bill by the Board of Aldermen. A board bill comes with committee hearings (Streets, Traffic and Refuse Committee), a vote of the committee, a vote of the full board, and signature or veto by the mayor. All opportunities to share your thoughts on the matter.
Another potential leverage point is how traffic will be accommodated. Lafayette is one-way westbound west of Grand. This means entry from Lafayette and exit onto Grand at a point to the north. This could be at where McRee is now or at the northern extent of the property. The latter more likely because they’ll want a traffic light to manage left turns from QT to northbound Grand.
We’ve had some disappointments lately, the ship has sailed on the first two, but in the case of the not so Grand gas station all is not lost yet.