The Winner of the What Should Be at Grand and Lafayette Design Competition is …

The Winner of the What Should Be at Grand and Lafayette Design Competition is …

A big thanks to our entrants for putting in the time and summoning the courage to subject their proposals to the scrutiny of our audience. Their entries all “eliminate facilities that create the image and reality of the Redevelopment Area being obsolete and blighted,” whereas a gas station does neither. And thanks to everyone reading for engaging on the matter.

NextSTL – What should be design competition for Grand and Lafayette

The Entries

Entry #1 by Dylan Kennedy

Entry #2 by Elek Borrelli

Entry #3 by Cameron Strickland, Marcellus Johnson, Hallie Nolan, and Karl Schulz

Entry #4 by Kara Clark

Latest News

December 9th QuikTrip submitted a demolition permit application for 3616 McRee, a house it owns adjacent to the site to the west. It’s in the Tiffany Neighborhood National Historic District, so should go for Cultural Resource Office (CRO) review. If it goes before the Preservation Board, be sure to submit your comments in writing and/or testify at the meeting. I believe new construction here wouldn’t go for CRO review since there is no city historic ordinance covering the site.

Also QT would pay the upfront cost to move the onramp to I-44 to the east, approximately $300k, to alleviate some of the highway blight experienced by Tiffany residents. A CID would be created to pay back the cost so QT customers would be charged an extra sales tax to make them whole, well not on gasoline of course, can’t have that.

QuikTrip demolitions over the decades

The Tiffany Community Association is expected to vote on whether to support the proposed gas station soon. At their last meeting, Ald Davis was quite clear that whether this moves forward was entirely up to them. Given the successful lawsuit in Creve Coeur, I worry that’s not really the case.

Polls

Polls on Twitter and Reddit, the sum of which determines one vote in the judging.

EntryTwitterRedditTotal
156460
2661682
3171138
423427

Twitter Town and Redditburg picked entry #2. Also noteworthy is entry #4 received the most pageviews followed by entry 2, 1, and 3. Entry 4 elicited the most comments on the various platforms. We heard several times that there is a QuikTrip in Atlanta that doesn’t have gas pumps. It opened in 2016. Have any more been built? That might be an indication of its favor or lack thereof within the corporation.

Judges’ Comments

Michael Allen Director of the Preservation Research Office and Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at Washington University in St. Louis –

I chose Entry #3 because it is the only entry that digs deeply into social dynamics on the south side, using the design to both infill a vacant site and resolve a need for immigrant housing. Also, as more and more projects in St. Louis place everything on larger sites into single, sometimes hulking forms, the separation of forms here is splendid and interfaces with the historic neighborhood to the west best of all of the entries. My only question is why there is not some form of the proposed QuikTrip store here, because this section of Grand Avenue lacks any similar amenities.

Entry #4 has a compelling merit — it actually engages the proposed QuikTrip. People forget that QuikTrip has deep utility to a city where corner stores and diners are in woefully short supply. I’m not thrilled with the generic building form, and I think that the gas pumps could not be safely located inside the form, but the QuikTrip could also be built without any fuel pumps. A “C store” without pumps would be a novel urban model for St. Louis, and could help QuikTrip develop a model for similar urban sites where density is desired. \

Entry #1 has a nice scale, and Entry #2 is quite impressive. However they both lack place-specific traits and neither addresses social dynamics.

Mark Groth of Groth Guides and St. Louis City Talk fame – I am choosing #1 as it is the most likely to be built. It has excellent urban form, is elegant and the size complements the Salus Center across Grand. The largest massing is at McRee and the smallest section nearest I-44 (the loudest, most unsightly part of the area). While this one is likely the most predictable, it would easily work.

Thoughts on #2: this one is eye catching and quite a bit bigger at 10 stories. I think it would dwarf the neighbors, causing internal pushback from nearby properties, with significant shadows when the sun sets in the west.

Thoughts on #3: This is not without merit, but is the weakest of the 4. It is more suburban with a lower density and stretched out area with atriums or seating areas like a mall. It seems lazy that the housing was put right by the I-44 on ramp. I would flip it and put the hotel by the Interstate. This one would, however, fit in the best with the current low density and suburban buildings like the Animal Hospital and BP/fried food restaurant up the way.

Thoughts on #4: a fascinating idea of a C-store without gas. Or, the first EV charging station in STL. The EV idea is brilliant and could attract mixed uses as travelers off the Interstate would pull in, charge up and need something to do for an hour. they could get a book, a magazine, a coffee, a light snack/dessert, of a full meal…right on site. The design of the residential floors look the least inspiring of all 4 entries, but that could be refined. This was a close second due to thinking outside the box.

Anonymous Tiffany resident – First place – Entry 1 it is realistic, I wouldn’t like something taller than five stores, it is designed as a combination of residential and retail which is a great idea, it has a reasonable number of apartments that can affect the area very nicely (without overtaking the neighborhood), it has parking space within the parcel.

Second place – Entry 2 looks stunning, it is mixed-use, so it is great; however, it is too tall and would easily overpower the neighborhood, cause extra traffic; but I wouldn’t protest against it.

Comments on Entry 3 – I am not convinced that this proposal would enhance the neighborhood; also, it seems relatively small; it would probably work better closer to SLU north campus.

Comments on Entry 4 – might be a good compromise; however, this would need to be just a QT store, no pumps; otherwise, it makes no sense. It would still pollute the neighborhood, increase traffic, bring crime, etc.; this time it would be just hidden behind a nice looking building.

Richard Bose – They all “create an image that reflects a successful and progressive business, commercial, and development district,” in great contrast to a gas station.

Entry #1 looks like it would be most agreeable to the neighbors. It would offer views of the Compton Hill Water Tower for those at the south end including the restaurant with the second floor patio. Residents at the north end would have a view of downtown and the Arch. The tall part is mostly at Grand, not so much next to the shorter buildings to the west.

Entry #2 best fits the “signature development” the Midtown Reverlopmet Plan envisions. It for sure “take[s] maximum advantage of development opportunities afforded by land that is currently vacant or underutilized.” It achieves the highest land productivity and population increase of the entries, both things the city needs bigly. It’s the boldest architecturally. It steps down to the west towards the shorter buildings. The tallest bit is on the eastern half of the property. Given recent reactions in neighborhoods lately to proposals, I’m a bit gun-shy. With the reported $2M price tag on the land, this is likely the most economically feasible.

Entry #3. It has the most developed plan of uses. Serving immigrants and greenway travelers is great. The patio might help with street activation, something in very short supply on Grand between the two highways plagued with fences, parking lots, grass lawns, coarse-grained development, and large setbacks. I suspect this would have to be built and run by a non-profit, so the site would likely be tax-exempt.

Entry #4 splits the baby. It mitigates some of the negatives of a typical gas station. Land productivity is high, it has places for people, and it makes a street wall. It doesn’t mitigate others. It’d still be a car magnet with all the dangers, noise, and mess that come with them. Having EV charging only (no gas pumps) would eliminate the carcinogenic benzene and some other pollutants that come with gas stations. You’d still have lots of vehicles coming and going, which need curb cuts, conflicting with people. If it was just a convenience store like the oft-cited QT location in Atlanta, that could be a useful amenity for residents, workers, and patients nearby. Though that could be in the retail space of the other proposals. It’d still be non-local though. I’d wager QT’s main interest here is the traffic on Grand and I-44, and it would be a deal breaker for them without visible parking and/or gas pumps.

With that I vote for entry #2

Results

That’s two votes for entry #1, two for entry #2, and one for entry #3.

Huzzah! A tie! We’ll split the $500 prize money among them. Congratulations!

Thanks again to the participants. They’ve offered us some ideas fo what should be that are far “more than a gas station.”

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