Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tying Together Chouteau's Pond

Tying Together Chouteau's Pond

Yesterday morning I drove to work, and tried to figure out some route to enter downtown from the south instead of South Tucker. I admit it wasn't really that congested at 7:30 AM, but I just wanted to try it.

Of course, I ended up going all the way east to South 7th Street, because no other streets between 7th and Tucker (AKA 12th St.) connect through.

Instead, we have gigantic surface parking lots in the area where perhaps there used to be railway switching operations, but not really much to speak of anymore.

For years, city planning and major developers have discussed recreating a prettier, less cholera-infested version of Chouteau's Pond in this vicinity.

Of course, it would be a very different version of the Pond, which originally was formed by a grist mill that dammed Mill Creek near 9th and Poplar (roughly where MetroLink passes under Highway 40 today) and extended as far west as Union Station.

But my thought is a bit different. Why not re-create the streets, at least to a limited extent, through this area? Rather than a linear park / office park alongside the lake, you could have a waterway that coursed under low-water bridges or something of that nature. The thing that's intimidating about development in the entire Mill Creek Valley (other than parking lots which, seemingly, can be put anywhere) is the overbearing presence of the viaducts. But if you re-insert human scale streets, it becomes a bit more inviting. Indeed, east of Tucker that should be more feasible anyway, as there are no major street overpasses. Fourth, Broadway, 6th, and 7th all pass underneath the railway trestles.

The big obstacle is that NestlePurina PetCare has a massive complex in this area with a beautiful courtyard included, a kind of urban oasis, but one that is most definitely a private space. I would not expect that to change.

I know there are probably plans already in the works for this area, because it's only a matter of time before the landowners realize that overpriced surface parking for stadium patrons (and, the rest of the year, discount parking for downtown workers) is not the highest-and-best use for this property.

I just think extending the street grid southward, even if you couldn't reach Chouteau Ave itself, would be a far better fate for South 9th, 10th, and 11th Street than their current pathetic terminii into surface parking lots underneath Highway 40 and its access ramps.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Left Turn on Red

No Left Turn on Red

This morning I just about got creamed twice walking along Chestnut downtown by motorists (including a FedEx truck) making left turns from one one-way street to another while the traffic signal facing them was red.

But in Missouri it is illegal to turn left on red from one one-way street to another. I know I'm still an inexperienced driver, but nowhere in the Missouri Revised Statutes nor in the Missouri Driver Guide does it say this is ok!

Yes, you can turn right on a red, after stopping and looking for traffic (including pedestrians). That is, unless it is a location that has a "No Right Turn on Red" sign for whatever reason; i.e., Magnolia and Grand by the Missouri School for the Blind.

But according to both Wikipedia and this very detailed web site, Missouri is one of eight states (as well as D.C. and Guam) that still bans left turns on red from one one-way street to another. The maneuver is legal in Illinois... which might explain why I was so confused crossing the street in downtown Chicago. Or at least, that's my excuse for today.


PS: Happy 25th Anniversary, Smiley!

Monday, September 17, 2007

It Wasn't Me!

It Wasn't Me!

From the Post-Dispatch:

"A one-car accident on Interstate 55 claimed the lives of a man and woman Saturday, St. Louis police said. Another man was injured.

Killed were the driver, Joseph Frank, 24, of the 7500 block of Michigan Avenue, and a 37-year-old female passenger. Both were thrown from their 2000 Ford Explorer, police said. Police have not made public the name of the woman."

KSDK has a photo.

It wasn't me! I'm alive and well. I was driving a lot this weekend, but not at noon on Saturday on I-55. Of course, this did occur very close to my house, so it is a bit too coincidental. But I'm just fine.

I think I was probably somewhere near Chippewa and Hampton at that time on Saturday, in fact. So nowhere near the accident scene.

I did drive a lot this weekend though. Kelly and I hung out with her mom much of Saturday, eventually driving her home from South City to North County. Then we headed out to Troy MO for an anniversary party of one of her uncles, in a relatively new subdivision off a narrow, winding country road. I guess that's what happens in a county without planning & zoning.

Sunday morning we bought a mattress on North Broadway. Then we spent much of the day visiting with my brother, along with my sister and mother, at his apartment in Chesterfield. He also works in Chesterfield, so it's not like he has a long commute at all.

Anyway, we had a busy weekend so I didn't hear about this story until this morning, first from a colleague in the office (also named Joe, as it happens) and then from Alderman Schmid.

So, everybody, I'm OK!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fish and Chips Plaza

Fish and Chips Plaza


Why it that when misting, the metal sculptures on the plaza across Clark Avenue from Scottrade Center smell so strongly of vinegar?

I'm sure it's not harmful, but it makes me feel like I'm at a fish and chips stand somewhere in London. Or more accurately, I am the fish and chips!

The official name of this plaza is Kiel Triangle Park; it opened in 1999. You may remember years ago there was a restaurant and bar called The Jury Room facing 14th Street on part of the site.

Look at this curious statement from the FY2000 Annual Report of the Bi-State Development Agency Board of Commissioners.

"During Fiscal Year 2000, we opened the Kiel Triangle Park, a magical passageway to city government offices and special evening and sporting events. MetroLink passengers arrive at a bench-lined promenade flanked by a bald cypress forest and a burr oak prairie. At the top of the promenade is a unique arc of stainless steel boxes that radiate light, fog, and steam, animate the plaza and create an interesting, exciting atmosphere that serves as a welcome mat to the vicinity."

Wow -- "a magical passageway to city government offices." If only it were truly magical, as in a passageway that rained down quarters, exactly enough to pay all your court fines, parking tickets, license fees and earnings taxes... and of course your MetroLink or MetroBus fare as well.

Instead, it just transports you to jolly ol' England... or perhaps into a giant ketchup bottle.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where Have I Been?

Where Have I Been?

I know, I haven't been on the blog for a while. I suppose I have been busy.

Since I last posted, among the things I've done include:

  • Went to Steve Wilke-Shapiro's going away party, certainly an interesting experience with a mix of wide ranging personalities from across his contacts over the years in the city;

  • Spent a full week in Chicago attending a class on Federal Contracting offered by ESI International;

  • Met with or somehow contacted tons of clients.

  • During the Chicago trip, I was in class most of the work day, from 8:30 to 3:30 most days. But I was very happy I didn't drive the entire time! I stayed at the hotel where the class was held, a Hampton Inn three blocks north of the Chicago River, not far from The Loop. I did at least take a few longer trips on CTA than I had in the past; I even made it out to the PACE suburban bus system on a whim.

    But mostly, I focused on the area from Lincoln Park to The Loop. I walked around a lot on North Michigan (The Magnificent Mile) and all over downtown. Most days, the weather was amazing! I know that's unusual for Chicago, but it was also striking just how many people were on the sidewalks at all hours of the day, but especially at lunchtime downtown.

    I rode Amtrak to and from Chicago; it was, of course, a little bit late but it wasn't too uncomfortable for the most part.

    On my first day there (Sunday), I took the #151 Sheridan bus up to Lincoln Park Zoo, which was just packed with throngs of people. Later, I took the very busy bike/ped bridge across Lakeshore Drive to explore the beaches along Lake Michigan.

    Somehow, I doubt St. Louis will ever have a waterfront like that. The Great Lakes, as polluted as they are, still look much prettier than the Mississippi.

    Later I poked around Navy Pier, which was moderately interesting (and very busy) on Sunday night. I was really struck by just how many different places there are to eat and shop, in and around the downtown. Yeah, I didn't go to the Southside. I did go out onto Northerly Island a little bit, just to explore that part of the lakefront, via the express bus to Adler Planetarium. I didn't visit the museums though, because I didn't want to shell out all that cash when it was already past 4:00 when I got there.

    Anyway, for some reason I think on Monday afternoon I decided to hop on the Red Line northbound from Grand/State all the way to the end at Howard. Those "slow zones" on the CTA can get really annoying. Also, it's curious to see how many windows adjacent to the El are either bricked or concrete-blocked in closer to downtown, but as you get further north, they are more likely just views of cardboard boxes in attics and storerooms.

    Then I caught the Purple from Howard to Davis, in Evanston IL. There, I just got off and decided to board the #250 Dempster Street PACE bus, a very long route that traverses Evanston, Skokie (lots of synagogues), Morton Grove, Des Plaines (where I saw floodwaters held back by sandbags lining the road), then turns southward from downtown Des Plaines passing the Allstate Arena before ending at the O'Hare "Kiss-n-Fly" station.

    I then boarded the surreal O'Hare transportation system, then wended my way through the terminals to catch the CTA Blue Line for the long ride back into downtown, with way too many slow zones.

    Anyway, with what free time I did have, I tried to make it somewhat interesting. I probably shouldn't have eaten at McDonald's so much -- once, three times in one day, at three different McD's all within walking distance of the hotel! Of course, a couple of those were trips to the Rock N Roll McDonald's only a few blocks northwest.

    One of these days I need to go to Chicago for something other than a conference or class! Like, an actual vacation maybe?