Located just 1,000 feet from MetroLink’s Grand Station and across the highway from City Foundry (another huge success), the pedestrian experience is a complete afterthought for the Armory.
The Armory opened at the end of 2022 to much skepticism about how successful it would be. Advertised as a massive indoor entertainment venue, the new concept felt like a redundancy of Ballpark Village. However, it has quickly become an overnight sensation as one of the busiest nightlife spots in St. Louis. It was so popular during its first month of operation that its monthly attendance numbers were greater than two MLB teams.
A substantial rehab of a historic St. Louis building that had been long forgotten in the shadow of the elevated Highway 40, it was nice to see the building preserved. The development received substantial tax incentives – joining other entertainment concepts – and corresponding criticism. This article focuses on neither its unbounded success, nor the controversy around TIFs and other tax incentive measures, but instead the pedestrian experience we fail to create with projects like this.
Much commotion has been made in the news and on social media about the parking nightmare – both in access and security – at the Armory. But few are talking about how the Armory actively discourages people arriving via the conveniently located public transit next door. The image at the beginning of the article shows the pedestrian experience arriving via MetroLink’s Grand Station. You can’t fault anyone for not wanting to use that means of transportation when that is what the streets look like.
Even worse, the Armory’s FAQ page makes no mention of MetroLink or Bus and fails to include station locations on its map. They would rather advertise parking at the Ikea lot and shuttling over to the Armory than advertising MetroLink. In an area seeing significant development, the Armory needs to consider how it can reduce dependency on car traffic.
Tens of thousands of St. Louisans ride the MetroLink daily. The least the Armory could do is show it as an option. But ideally, the Armory would improve access to Metrolink and highlight it as a preferred method for arriving to their venue – both because it would alleviate the parking concerns and reduce opportunities for drunk driving. The Armory also has ambitions to develop residential on some of those parking lots, or at least some rumors have suggested that. The feasibility of such development will be improved if parking isn’t the dominant concern of the district.
There were also once suggestions that a pedestrian bridge would be built to connect the Armory to City Foundry and the rest of Midtown. Both projects completed construction without that coming to fruition. Hopefully it’s still on the table and a possibility. All four alternatives, including the no-build one, in the Future64 planning called for the pedestrian bridge. It would provide an important pedestrian link between the two buzzing venues.
It’s a low bar: asking developers to consider the pedestrian experience when building in the city. But it’s one that is time and time again overlooked and disregarded. When projects like the Armory receive nearly $5 million TIFs, it would be nice if they’d at least ensure basic urban infrastructure to access their facilities.