In September SSM Health officials announced plans for a new Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital at the corner of Grand and Chouteau in the Tiffany neighborhood. It would replace the current facility further south on Grand. They submitted a $300M building permit application last week. They plan to have it complete in 2027. Unfortunately the rendering distributed with the announcement shows an unforced error.
The storied site has been vacant since the Pevely building was demolished in 2017 after a pitched battle to preserve it was lost when SLU and SSM were granted Chapter 353 redevelopment rights under the Midtown Redevelopment Corporation by the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Slay which included power over demolition review cutting out the Preservation Board. Its destruction left the major intersection with no buildings at the sidewalk. At its creation SLU said in 2016 “SLU’s strategic plan calls for the University to become ‘a leader in just land use and responsible urban design.'”
NextSTL coverage of the Pevely saga
I’ve often expressed hope that someday somehow at least one of the corners of the intersection would have a sidewalk-meeting building oriented towards people and not cars in harmony with the location’s proximity to the Grand Metrolink Station, the region’s most used bus route- the 70 Grand, and another bus route on Chouteau and SLU’s promise to the community. When viewed from afar it is a desolate place with the Doisy building seeming to stand back in anxious hesitance from touching the intersection. Up close it is a terrifying car sewer whose dangerous conditions are palpable to anyone outside or within a car.
Wide open land near a street encourages speeding. Parked cars, street trees, other sidewalk furniture, and buildings with little to no setback signal to drivers that it is a complex environment, not a highway away from everything. They need to focus; the friction slows them down. The absence of all this along Grand and Chouteau contributes to speeding. The loss of the Pevely added to these dangerous conditions. The addition of a dangerous slip lane on the southeast corner in 2010 didn’t help either.
NextSTL – Imagining St. Louis Without Slip Lanes
University of Connecticut – Study: Street Design Affects Driving Speeds
A former quarry at the southeast corner makes a tall building more costly, but something short could go there. At least there once was something there until the turn of the century. The auto-oriented restaurant on the northeast corner is getting a $600k rehab after a fire, so it appears it will endure for the time being. The Iron Hill proposal on the northwest corner fell through a while ago and with high interest rates may be vacant for a while longer. That leaves us with the opportunity on the southwest corner with the ghost of the Pevely lingering. What is dead may never die.
The new hospital is an opportunity to turn back the erosion of city into auto-orientation here. Disappointingly the rendering shows the building set back from Grand and Chouteau with surface parking in between. Setting aside the problems with surface parking in and of itself, such as contributing to the heat island effect and wasting land, at the very least it could be to the south and west of the building. It appears access to the emergency room and the parking is from La Salle Street, so the parking would still be close to the entrance. Putting the building at the corner also shields more of the property from the noise and air pollution from the streets creating opportunities for more calm spaces for patients, families, and workers to use on site.
If not the tower, a single story with the gift shop and coffee shop with access from both inside and the street would be a wonderful way to meet the sidewalk and integrate with the neighborhood, complimenting the Steelcote developments and whatever may come to the Iron Hill parcel.
The new Ronald McDonald house serves the same families. Cardinal Glennon should take note.
Given that car crashes up until recently were the leading cause of death of children, lead in gasoline poisoned children for generations, noise, exhaust, and fine particulate pollution from cars exacerbate childhood ailments like asthma, and children will inherit a planet made warmer in part by cars, Cardinal Glennon should be a leader in efforts to reduce car dependency and the public health crisis that comes with it. They can lead by example through applying basic urban design principles by putting the new building at the corner.
Update 2024-02-16 – Site plan and new rendering. What a missed opportunity. The building is 250 feet from Grand. They might put surface parking on the vacant lot south of LaSalle.