The Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council (SDCC) will vote this month on the issue of supporting the Delmar Form-Based District. The council’s support (or lack thereof) will most likely determine whether the city adopts the FBD.
In November, SDCC discussed the Delmar FBD and held a lengthy debate. As a result, the Delmar FBD steering committee updated its FAQ to address several of the questions that were raised. You can read the FAQ, which was pulled from the Delmar FBD website, below.
The Delmar FBD will give teeth to a decade of planning along Delmar and DeBaliviere that promotes an inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous future for the surrounding neighborhoods. I expanded on those thoughts in my email (which I also published to NextSTL here) to SDCC last month. As a website focused on the development, transportation, productive land use, and public policy in St. Louis, NextSTL encourages anyone who supports the FBD to vocalize that to the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council by emailing Executive Director Mike Reid at [email protected]
- What is a Form-Based District?
Form-Based Districts are a type of zoning overlay. Unlike traditional zoning, which primarily focuses on property use, Form-Based Districts prioritize physical form. FBD promotes a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use, and transit-oriented neighborhood.
FormBasedCodes.org defines the five main elements of form-based code:
- A regulating plan designating the locations where the building form standards apply
- Public standards specify elements in the public realm: sidewalks, travel lanes, on-street parking, street trees, and furniture, etc.
- Building Standards control the features, configurations, and functions of buildings that define and shape the public realm.
- Administration to provide a clearly defined and streamlined application and project review process.
- Definitions to ensure precise use of technical terms
- Delmar FBD FAQ: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- Why is a form-based district being planned for Delmar and DeBaliviere?
The Form-Based District was identified as a priority initiative in both The Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (often referred to as the “Master Plan”) and the Transit Oriented Development Plan For the Delmar Loop and Forest Park- DeBaliviere. In keeping with the Master Plan, the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council is working to implement a Form-Based District in partnership with the City of St. Louis and other stakeholder organizations. Implementation of the Form-Based District is the capstone of a decade of planning within Skinker DeBaliviere. For a timeline, reference Is this new for us? What is the background on form-based district planning?
The proposed Form-Based District will prioritize transit-oriented development, while we work toward
new economic development opportunities, sustainability, and equity. Through appropriate regulation, we can ensure the type of community we want to build, with greater certainty.
- Transit-Oriented Development: TOD_SAP_DDB_Final-Report_Compressed.pdf (stlouis-mo.gov)
- “Master Plan:” Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (stlouis-mo.gov)
- How can the FBD address neighborhood concerns about uncontrolled development?
Current zoning for Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue fails to support market demands for commercial development that also aligns to Skinker-DeBaliviere strategic initiatives. Almost every new large build in recent years has required ad-hoc neighborhood and city approvals of zoning variances, which has resulted in inconsistent development and outcomes. Developers and investors also shy away from going through a lengthy approval process without consistent standards for development. The proposed FBD concentrates commercial activity and neighborhood services along Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue while supporting incremental, contextual infill. It provides a standard set of criteria for commercial development to streamline the approval process and provide clear guidance to decision-makers.
The FBD is designed to minimize redundancy with existing and increase coordination with existing and proposed new special assessment districts, including the Loop Special Business District (SBD), East Loop SBD, Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (TDD), and the East Loop Community Improvement Districts (CIDs).
- Delmar FBD FAQ: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- SDCC “Master Plan”: Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (stlouis-mo.gov)
- Why is there such a focus on increased density?
Density promotes efficient use of resources such as land and building materials, reduced dependency on private transportation, economic development, a broader customer base for our small businesses, environmental sustainability, and social and economic diversity in our resident population.
- Who is involved?
Planning for the Form-Based District is being managed by the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council,
with H3 Studio serving as the planning and design consultant. The team also includes staff from the City’s Planning & Urban Design Agency and the Zoning Section of the Board of Public Service, who have been providing support since the project’s inception.
Current neighborhood stakeholders and community organizations include:
● 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard
● 28th Ward Alderman Mike Gras
● Former 28th Ward Alderwoman, Heather Navarro
● Bi-State Development
● DeBaliviere Place Special Business District
● East Loop Community Improvement District (CID)
● Park Central
● Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council
● Washington University in St. Louis
● West End Neighbors Association
● West End Redevelopment Committee
Funding for the Form-Based District was provided by area stakeholders, including the SDCC, and a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Response Source: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- What are the boundaries of the district?
Broadly, the boundaries cover the parcels fronting DeBaliviere Avenue moving north from the Forest Park DeBaliviere MetroLink station to Delmar Blvd, then west along Delmar Blvd. to the city limits and north on the west side of Skinker to Olive.
Response Source: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- Is this new for us? What is the background on form-based district planning?
Support for Skinker DeBaliviere implementing a Form-Based District has been in progress for over a decade.
2012: The St. Louis Board of Alderman approved Bill No. 79 in July 2012 to enable new Form Based District zoning overlay districts in the zoning code. The purpose of the Bill was to encourage sustainable infill development and to establish areas of a particular desired scale and siting relationships. The Form-Based Districts are intended to effectively regulate improvements and enhance the vibrancy and atmosphere of a neighborhood or commercial corridor by providing a cohesive form and character.
2013: The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plan was completed by the St. Louis Development Corporation, and called out the need for a Form-Based District to support the Delmar Loop and Forest Park–DeBaliviere MetroLink Stations. The Transit Oriented Development planning process included multiple public neighborhood meetings.
2014 to 2018: FBD initiative was further supported in the Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (often referred to as the “Master Plan”). The “Master Plan” was completed for the Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood on behalf of The Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council and based on extensive neighborhood engagement. It was approved in 2014 and then updated and approved in 2017 by the SDCC. The “Master Plan” was adopted as a Neighborhood Plan and a supplement to the City’s Comprehensive Plan by the Planning Commission on September 5, 2018.
2019 to Present: Fundraising for the Delmar DeBaliviere Form-Based District plan began in 2019, and formally kicked off with the first Steering Committee meeting in February of 2020. The process was slowed by the pandemic, with the committee shifting from in-person meetings to Zoom. The first public meeting was held in March of 2021 and subsequent neighborhood meetings in July of 2021 and September of 2022. Multiple representatives from the Skinker-DeBaliviere community council and board have been active participants in FBD planning throughout the last two years.
- FBD Bill: FBZ-Enabling-Legislation-Ordinance-69199.pdf (stlouis-mo.gov)
- Transit Oriented Development: TOD_SAP_DDB_Final-Report_Compressed.pdf (stlouis-mo.gov)
- “Master Plan:” Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (stlouis-mo.gov)
- Delmar Form Based Code: https://delmarfbd.com
- What is the timeline for city approval and adoption of the Form-Based District?
The Form-Based District Plan is currently in DRAFT format. After approval of the draft by the SDCC, it will go to multiple city-led boards for further discussion, adjustments, and approval, with multiple public hearings. These steps include:
-Review of the proposed FBD document by the Zoning Division
-Endorsement of the FBD document by the Planning Commission
-Introduction of a board bill by the Board of Alderman to pass the zoning legislation.
We hope to have full adoption by the Board of Aldermen completed in 2023.
Response Source: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- What are the benefits of the FBD for my community?
Benefits for our community include:
- Furthering the initiatives laid out in the Skinker-DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (also known as our “Master Plan”)
- Standard modernized code for development
- Preservation of our Historic District
- Suitable new housing that addresses the evolving needs of residents
- Appropriate Parking
- New opportunities for commercial investment on our main transit thoroughfares
- Increased customer base for local businesses
- Property value Sustainment
- Increased rental unit availability and stabilized costs
- Improved streetscapes
- Streetscape Sustainability Standards (EV charging, Trees, Trash Receptacles) (this will be a first for St. Louis)
- Creating a walkable neighborhood where neighbors may live, shop, eat out, enjoy entertainment, go to school, access transportation and engage with other neighbors, without needing a private vehicle.
Response Source: https://delmarfbd.com/faqs
- What is the composition of the FBD Steering Committee? Some neighbors have expressed concern that their views are not represented.
Neighbors have already directly impacted the composition of the draft Form-Based District plan. There are two paths for representation – through Steering Committee Members and through community meetings.
For detail about the steering committee membership, go to Who is involved?
The Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council participation and support was voted upon and approved in 2019. After raising funds to support the involvement of professional planners, the Form-Based District Steering committee was launched in 2021 and draws from a range of stakeholder organizations. The SDCC Executive Director, SDCC Board President, and two SDCC Committee chairs are on the steering committee, as well as the Alderwomen and Alderman representing the 26th and 28th Wards (future 10th and 12th Wards).
Since the launch of the Steering Committee, three public community meetings have been conducted to solicit direct neighborhood feedback. As a result of feedback from those meetings and other engagement activities, the steering committee has adjusted the Draft Form-Based District plan to respond to neighbors’ concerns, while maintaining the integrity of the plan. As such, the draft plan now includes lower height requirements on the south side of Delmar. Additionally, setbacks were added to the upper stories of tall buildings to address aesthetic concerns. And, the initial off-street parking minimum that was proposed has been increased to respond to concerns about parking.
- What about Parking?
The proposed Delmar-DeBaliviere FBD specifies minimum off-street parking requirements that are approximately one-half of what is required under the current City of St. Louis Zoning Code. This reduction in minimum off-street responds to walkable access to transit and other community amenities within the Delmar-DeBaliviere corridor. Reducing off-street parking requirements also helps to encourage density and more efficient land uses, while keeping overall building heights reasonable and achieving the overall community vision for the corridor, as articulated in both the Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan and the Transit Oriented Development Plan for the Delmar Loop and Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Stations.
It is important to note that the parking requirements are only minimums, and do not dictate how much parking can be provided beyond the minimum. Other FBDs nearby show how this can work in similar areas of St. Louis. For example, the Forest Park Southeast FBD has no minimum off-street parking requirements. Despite having no minimum parking requirements, developers working under the Forest Park Southeast FBD are providing parking according to the market demand for sizes and types of housing units being built, and the intended lessee/resident. For example, projects built under the Forest Park Southeast FBD provide residential parking at a rate of 0.66 spaces per dwelling unit to 1.05 spaces per dwelling unit, even though this area is not particularly well-served by transit as is the Delmar-DeBaliviere corridor.
- Gateway Lofts (4400 Manchester Avenue): 55 units / 58 parking spaces – 1.05 spaces per unit
- 4321 Grove (4321 Manchester Avenue): 20 units / 20 parking spaces – 1 space per unit
- Chroma / Hue @ Chroma: 346 units / approximately 230 parking spaces – 0.66 spaces per unit
Feedback from neighbors about parking minimums has been divided. Some neighbors are very concerned about parking availability. Some residents point to numerous available spaces that remain empty today, including those in the free public parking lot at the corner of Westminster and Skinker. Residents on the border of the neighborhood are most likely to be impacted if there are overflow parking needs due to increased density or construction. These residents are encouraged to transition their streets to permit parking only, as has been done in other areas of the neighborhood, such as the 5700 block of DeGiverville. Our Alderpeople have offered to help in that process. Parkview is already a private neighborhood and has permit parking and mechanisms for enforcement.
- Concerns were raised that there is not enough data on current density to be able to determine the impact of additional density. Questions ranged from current residential density, business density, public transformation usage, etc.
The Skinker-DeBaliviere population has dropped by 30% (1,700 residents) over the past thirty years. The DRAFT Form-Based District plan is designed to first draw more residents to our neighborhood so we may begin to regain population losses from the past three decades, while also promoting environmental sustainability and commercial growth. Additionally, new residential units will be located closer to public transportation along the Delmar and DeBaliviere corridors.
It is important to note that housing vacancies have reduced over the same three decades, which reinforces the evidence that populations are shifting from larger families in single units to smaller family or single/couple residents. Washington University has also reported that the number of students living in Skinker DeBaliviere has been consistent for several years.
- Concerns about gentrification and pricing out neighbors
The Form-Based District is designed to reduce gentrification, not increase it. Adding more supply to the rental markets by building larger mixed-use apartment buildings will help to stabilize rent prices will stabilize at rents that are affordable to a broader set of residents. Skinker-DeBaliviere values our student population, and also wants to balance its population with long-term renters to reduce turnover year over year. By stabilizing prices, we can attract:
- Older residents who want to downsize and stay in the community long-term
- Families who are not ready or looking to buy a single-family house
- Residents who want to move from other areas of the City/County and are drawn to the benefits of living in Skinker-DeBaliviere
The FBD will also help to decrease the financial incentives to convert single-family homes to short-term or long-term rentals and encourage owner-occupied residencies, preserving and enhancing the values of homes in the neighborhood.
- Building Height Concerns
Population density necessitates taller buildings along Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue. Original FBD plans supported 12-story buildings on the south side of Delmar, which was reduced to 8 stories after public comment. Additionally, there is a requirement for further setbacks on upper stories street side and alley side to help transition from higher to lower density areas.
- Traffic on our main thoroughfares (Delmar, DeBaliviere, Skinker)
Any new development will cause temporary traffic concerns during construction. However, the long-term goal for the FBD is to orient new development toward transit use and thereby decrease dependence on cars, which has proven an effective model in other residential areas. Mixed-use models, such as the Fresh Fields being developed in the Expo building, are great examples of how residents may walk vs drive to stores for essential items, all in a development with convenient access to transit.
- Impact on current zoning
FBD fosters predictable urban form by specifying a range of minimum and maximum building heights, relationships between buildings and the public realm, and uses at both ground floor and upper floor locations, which are not able to be specified within the standard zoning code. Zoning does not go away. Anything regulatory not specifically addressed by the FBD defaults to the existing zoning code. The following responds to a few specific areas of concern identified by neighbors.
Liquor Licenses: Liquor licenses are the purview of the Excise Division, not the Zoning Division, and the Zoning Code does not address liquor licenses. Thus, the FBD does not address liquor licenses. Establishments selling alcohol by the glass that do not have a restaurant permit would be indicated as a Conditional Use, following the convention set forth in the two (2) existing adopted FBDs. The FBD would not change the process of opening a bar, tavern, or tasting room and obtaining a liquor license from what it is today under the current zoning on Delmar and DeBaliviere.
Package liquor licenses: Package liquor stores would be indicated as a Conditional use, following the convention set forth in the two (2) existing adopted FBDs. The FBD would not change the process of opening a package liquor store and obtaining a liquor license from what it is today.
Noise Control: Noise control is not addressed in the current Zoning Code. Existing noise control ordinances shall remain in effect and not be changed by the FBD.
Private Dormitories: Private dormitories are classified as a special use and are therefore either prohibited or indicated as a Conditional Use, following the convention set forth in the two (2) existing adopted FBDs, depending on the specific Building Envelope Standard classification. Permitted residential uses DO NOT include dormitories, based on the established City of St. Louis definitions for both “Dwelling Unit” (§ 26.08.115, City of St. Louis Code of Ordinances) and “Family” (§ 26.08.160, City of St. Louis Code of Ordinances).
- Impact to Historic District
The Form-Based District is designed to protect Skinker DeBaliviere’s Historic District. Increased density on the commercial edges of our neighborhood promotes economic sustainment of the neighborhood core. By promoting sustained housing values, we reduce the risk of dilapidating houses. Notably, the FBD does not apply to building renovations, only new construction or building additions would be subject to the FBD building envelope requirements.
- I’m concerned my property taxes will increase
As house values increase, property taxes may increase. Currently, the low supply of available housing has significantly increased home values. This is great for some residents but also increases the tax burden on others with limited resources. By incentivizing commercial development through the FBD, we diversify our tax base away from dependence on single-family home assessments. Increased available housing also stabilizes house values by modestly increasing the overall size of the housing market.
The Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council has also launched a Community Benefits program to assist some residents. The program is early in development, but it is our goal to continue to work to achieve more equitable development outcomes from projects that seek our community’s support. This could include inclusionary housing requirements that set aside a certain number of affordable units in a new development,, or creating a home repair program to support repairs for low-income senior and disabled homeowners.
- Sustainability of New Development. Will new complexes remain financially viable?
Large development initiatives require extensive multi-layer reviews for financial viability by corporate developers, their investors, banks providing loans, and city officials. Through ongoing careful review of development projects and their sponsors, which is already undertaken by the Commercial and Community Development Committees of the SDCC, the community can encourage high-quality developments with strong sponsors.
- What is the Transit-Oriented Development Plan?
The City of Saint Louis has adopted a comprehensive, triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability planning. The triple-bottom-line approach acknowledges the three pillars of sustainability—environmental stewardship, improved social equity, and increased economic development—as equally important in their contribution to a sustainable future. Transit Oriented Development is intended to promote holistic and sustainable development.
Published in 2013, the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plan for the Delmar Loop and Forest Park–DeBaliviere MetroLink Stations (“the Plan”) establishes an actionable, 30-year plan for new development supported by access to transit. The Plan outlines market-based development programs supported by pro forma analysis for recommended station area development. The Plan includes recommended improvements to existing streets, parks, and infrastructure to maximize access to the stations and achieve environmental best management practices. The Plan describes the estimated costs of these public infrastructure improvements and outlines available mechanisms to provide incentives and aid in implementation funding. Finally, the Plan proposes regulatory tools for the City to pursue in the implementation process. In total, the Plan sets forth a market-based, community-supported vision for Transit Oriented Development around the Delmar Loop and Forest Park–DeBaliviere MetroLink stations, and a road map for the City of Saint Louis to make this vision reality.
At the time of publication, the plan recognized that ”Despite positive trends in the area, the MetroLink stations at both Delmar and Forest Park/DeBaliviere have not yielded dense, mixed-use development that would encourage increased use of transit and create a truly urban atmosphere.” A Phase 1 recommendation was that “the City should complete and adopt the recommended Form Based District.” The Expo building currently nearing completion was modeled on the draft FBD in terms of its form and transit-oriented design and uses, showing that there is indeed a market for new denser, mixed-use housing adjacent to our Metro stations. This represents a $90MM new investment in the community that was spurred in large part by the presence of the draft FBD.
Response source and for more information: TOD_SAP_DDB_Final-Report_Compressed.pdf (stlouis-mo.gov)
- What is the Skinker-DeBaliviere Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan (“Master Plan”)?
Finished in March of 2014, this Neighborhood Urban Design and Development Plan was completed for the Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood on behalf of The Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council. The “Master Plan” contains the details of the planning process; final project, policy, and program recommendations; and detailed implementation strategies to move the neighborhood into the future with a guiding vision and sound set of strategic approaches to development and policy. The Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood has a long history of success and strength in the diversity and commitment of its residents. The “Master Plan” was built on extensive community engagement and highly promoted finalizing the Form-Based District initiatives.
- How does the Form-Based District work align with and further the “Master Plan?”
The Master Plan lists twelve community priorities. The following matrix shows where the Form-Based District aligns with these priorities.
|Community Priority||Form-Based District Alignment|
|1. Continue the ongoing revitalization of Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue as a mixed-use, urban, multi-modal corridor.||Direct Alignment – The Form-Based District focuses on sustainable and consistent development along Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue. By creating an overlay to an antiquated zoning code, investors and developers have a set of criteria by which to plan new buildings in our commercial and transit corridors. Currently, most new developments require one-off approvals by the SDCC and the Zoning Division, which has resulted in inconsistent approval criteria, designs, and agreements with the community. By approving the Form-Based District, we avoid a “loudest voice” wins approach to development in our community while promoting overall neighborhood goals.|
|2. Improve Forest Park Parkway and Skinker Boulevard for visual quality, safety, and connectivity.||Secondary Alignment – The Form-Based District does not address Forest Park Parkway directly. However, by strengthening our other corridors, we promote overall neighborhood quality.|
|3. Envision Des Peres Avenue, the 4 Corners, and Lucier Park as the ‘heart’ of the neighborhood.||Secondary Alignment – By creating population density and a more diverse community of renters and owners, we create a larger population base to enjoy the amenities in the neighborhood’s core.|
|4. Incentivize and create new neighborhood business and services to achieve a mixed-use, complete community.||Direct alignment – the FBD will encourage commercial uses with residential uses on upper levels, creating a larger customer base for business as well as new spaces for them to locate.|
|5. Improve parks, community gardens, and open space amenities.||Secondary Alignment – the FBD will improve the streetscapes along Delmar and DeBaliviere, creating better public spaces in the community..|
|6. Improve safety and visual quality of streets with healthy trees, robust native landscapes, and improved sidewalks.||Direct Alignment – the FBD’s streetscape improvements directly echo the goals of the neighborhood plan.|
|7. Promote owner occupancy of single-family homes and responsible management of rental properties.||Direct Alignment – Increased rental housing supply in the commercial corridors encouraged by the FBD reduces pressure on single-family homes to be rented. Larger developments are also more likely to have professional, on-site management.|
|8. Enhance neighborhood integration, circulation, safety, and connectivity for all residents — pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and transit riders.||Direct Alignment – the FBD encourages multi-modal transportation uses, better connecting the various parts of the neighborhood. More street-level development (and fewer vacant lots) also increase people’s likelihood of biking and walking to neighborhood destinations rather than always having to get in their car and leave the neighborhood to access goods and services.|
|9. Create a multi-generational neighborhood that supports active and independent lifestyle choices for all ages.||Direct Alignment – more and varied housing options promoted by the FBD will include accessible housing that will allow people to “age in place” in the neighborhood where they currently have to leave the neighborhood to access accessible housing.|
|10. Retain and continue to attract a diversity of residents to ensure an inclusive community.||Direct Alignment – more housing at various price points encouraged by the FBD will promote inclusivity and diversity of residents.|
|11. Promote community health, safety, and environmental sustainability.||Direct Alignment – walkable, dense development promoted by the FBD will help improve community health, increase public safety with more “eyes on the street” and help reduce the need for driving to access goods and services.|
|12. Organize for implementation success and community empowerment and leadership||Direct Alignment – the FBD is an expression of the community’s collective intent that signals a strong level of community empowerment and leadership to those seeking to invest in the neighborhood.|
- Transit-oriented in action
The following are examples of success with TOD and FBD