Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Cross County Explorations

More Cross County Explorations

This morning I happened to be walking along the Cross County corridor in Maplewood, Brentwood, and Richmond Heights. I made a few observations of interest:

  • MLP, the same firm that did the controversial Station Plaza development in Kirkwood, has cleared two former light industrial properties at 1801 and 1819 South Hanley Road to develop the long-talked-about Hanley Station mixed-use, New Urbanism development. The signs claim a 2007 opening date. We'll see.

    It's a strange location, though. After all, everything around there is typical auto-oriented suburban development. There's a fairly old building just south of the site - some kind of pencil company? - but now that "Maplewood Commons Shopping Center" is across super-wide South Hanley, there are no houses nearby.

    Further, there is no MetroLink station being built there! The tracks in this section are elevated, in such a way it would be pretty expensive to add a new station. I hope they don't call it Hanley Station though; there's already a North Hanley Station on the original alignment, after all. Apparently, MLP and Brentwood (which authorized a TIF for this project) hope a station can be built after the development opens. It certainly won't be now.

    To me, this is a silly location for a station. It's not really that far south from the Brentwood I-64 station; you could almost make a walkway to it instead. It would make way more sense to have a [South] Hanley MetroLink station somewhere near the corner of Hanley Rd and Hanley Industrial Ct. There are a lot of retail jobs / shopping places within a very short walk of that location. A stop located atop the intersection could have stairways and elevators leading to both sides of Hanley, avoiding the need for pedestrians to try and cross the ridiculously wide, busy roadway.

  • There does indeed appear to be a walkway leading to the north end of Hanley Industrial Court near Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe at the Brentwood I-64 Station. (Aerial photo of the vicinity).

    I suspect the reasoning for this design is that it allows the walkway to access a public street. The portion of the Dierbergs parking lot that is signed as Hanley Industrial Court is not really a public street. The official street Hanley Industrial Court dead-ends at that funky 90-degree turn next to the MetroLink right-of-way near the Ice Cream Specialties plant/offices.

    All in all, the new Cross County route runs through two distinctly different kinds of development patterns, which probably has a significant impact on the design of the stations - or at least it should.

  • The Forest Park Parkway corridor (Forest Park, Skinker, University City-Big Bend, Forsyth, and Clayton CBD Stations) has a fairly high-density, upscale urban quality to it. There's a lot of stuff within walking distance of most of those stations.

    I still think the Clayton station could have a much more friendly design, but at least you could walk to most of the high-rises and the courthouse within a few minutes. The other three new stations will be reasonably easy to access from WashU facilities, and a little less easy to access from surrounding neighborhoods - but I guess that's what the neighbors wanted. Most of them probably will not use it very often, but it certainly won't hurt their property values.

  • The "Virtual Innerbelt" corridor (Richmond Heights, Brentwood I-64, Manchester-Maplewood, Sunnen, and Shrewsbury Lansdowne I-44 stations) is pretty much typical suburbia. Yes, there are some historical houses near the Richmond Heights station, but they are deliberately disconnected from the station. Likewise, there are a few houses near Sunnen station, but they probably won't be there much longer.

    For the most part, the major retail, light industrial, and office park destinations in the vicinity of these stops are very very suburban and auto-oriented. Retro-fitting them for pedestrians is not really happening.

    While The Boulevard-St Louis is an impressive development, it still has a huge parking garage attached. More to the point, it is not a Transit-Oriented Development, because it is located across I-170 from the Richmond Heights MetroLink station. (Aerial view)

    Unless somebody pays for a major upgrade of the lighting and general attractiveness of the sidewalks along Galleria Parkway under I-170, this will be a major detraction from the appeal and usefulness of this particular MetroLink station. And even once you pass under I-170, you still have to walk across Brentwood Blvd. somehow - no small task, at any time of day.

    Likewise, while there will at least be some limited access to the Brentwood I-64 station from the west, that doesn't mean you can easily access the nearby shopping centers. For example, if you want to get to Target in Brentwood Promenade, you'll need to either backtrack north by northwest across the Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe parking lots, to get to Eager Road.; or go the back way, west along another of the tentacles of Hanley Industrial Court. Not a real pleasant strolling experience there.

    Anonymous said...

    The distance from the Richmond Heights station to the Galleria's door is actually no more than the interior length of the mall from Famous-Barr to Mark Shale. Still, I'd hope MODOT would improve the sidewalks and lighting under I-170, County Highways add enhancements to Brentwood Boulevard, and the Galleria actually build out or add landscaped walkways towards Brentwood/Galleria Parkway.

    As for Brentwood station, the garage and MLP's development will each be completed significantly after the Fall 2006 opening date of Cross-County, so this station will likely be far underutilized for awhile.

    Sunnen is a future TOD as Sunnen does own even the remaining older residential about that station. But Sunnen's gain is Deer Creek's loss for redevelopment potential. But maybe like MLP's "Hanley Station" development having walkways to Eager, maybe a redeveloped Deer Creek could have walkways to Sunnen.

    As for Maplewood and Shrewsbury, these stops are major bus transfer points, but the latter end of the line will also be a major park'n'ride for all of Southwest City, Webster-Kirkwood and South County. Even once a garage is added at Brentwood, Lansdowne will likely need a garage in its near future too.

    Anonymous said...

    Come to find out, MLP will seek to pay for a new South Hanley station with TDD bonds, similar to how the CORTEX area will finance a Sarah station. In other words, these new stations won't cost Metro anything for capital costs, though adding somewhat to operational costs.

    Bruno would be linked with Strassner across what is today Hanley Industrial Road. The new station would be near the new through-street. And though such station seems close to the Brentwood station at Eager, the distance between Eager and Strassner to the south is not much more than that between Eager and Galleria Parkway to the north.

    Joe said...

    The absolute distance isn't the issue with the Richmond Heights station. It's simply that you gotta walk under I-170 and across Brentwood to get there. Hopefully, improvements will be made.

    TDD does sound like a clever way to finance such a project like the station for "Hanley Station."

    I am a big advocate of the Sarah Street station; as far back as 1996 I advocated that in the Metro High School student newspaper!

    It would be really convenient not just for CORTEX, but also for folks living north of Forest Park near Sarah. Hopefully, they'd restore the existing Norfolk/Western depot there.

    Urban Review - St. Louis said...

    Darn, I meant to sign up for the tour of the cross county line but didn't get to it. Thansk for the update.

    I saw the signs for the Hanley project a month ago but was driving Northbound and couldn't make them out at Hanley speeds.

    A station right where Hanley and the Hanley Industrial Court would make sense - it can always be done later as indicated by other comments. The real pitty is the Maplewood Commons is so dreadful and doesn't really take advantage of the nearby residents or the potential of MetroLink. The money they spent on retaining walls would have gone a long way toward a station for this location.