Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A New Hole Opens in the Loop

Last June, the St. Louis Preservation Board approved demolition of a one story building at 6118-20 Delmar in the Loop for replacement with a surface parking lot with entrance off Delmar. Recently the building came down and renovation began on the adjacent building, which formerly housed Original Cast Lighting. Demolition of the building is not an issue of losing an important historic building, it is an issue of opening a large hole in the streetscape of a vibrant pedestrian oriented retail/restaurant district.

The owner of the building being renovated claimed that a restaurant tenant for the building would not sign a lease without dedicated parking next to the building. In what is normally typical in suburbia, the owner/developer has given the complex of building with attached dedicated parking lot a special name: "Loop Center South". Maybe it would be better as "Loop Centre South"? The developments website does show the space adjacent to the parking lot as leased, although no announcement has been made of the tenant even thought he building is under construction.

The fact that the commercial leasing sign has been tagged with graffiti for some time does not give me much confidence in the leasing broker for the other spaces, nor I suspect would this give confidence to prospective tenants.

Just a hudred feet west of the Loop Center South building Chinese Noodle Cafe has been going strong for over seven years now and just west of that, Pi enjoys seemingly unending popularity, with hour plus waits on Friday and Saturday nights. Like most restaurants and retail spaces in the Loop, neither has any dedicated parking of its own. Patrons of Loop businesses who arrive by car park in one of many public parking lots (including the nearby Metro park & ride), private lots (including the large lot owned by Joe Edwards behind the Pageant & Moonrise Hotel), or U-City public garage. Of course many patrons of the loop arrive on foot from nearby neighborhoods, Washington University, and of course the Delmar Metrolink station a block away.

Here is a simple concept of economics, but amazingly some just don't get it:
If you open a retail business with a strong idea behind it or a great restaurant in the Loop, people will seek you out and you will thrive. If you open a retail business based on something that people do not want or need or your restaurant is only marginal, you will not last. Dedicated parking will not make the difference between survival or demise. If your business is of the type that will only survive with people driving up to your front door, your business does not belong in the Loop!


STLgasm said...

I agree 100%. I'd also like to add that vibrant, busy sidewalks are one of the Loop's strongest selling points. A surface parking lot directly adjacent to the commercial building will suck activity off the sidewalk and perpetuate a desolate, empty pedestrian experience. And we know that desolate sidewalks contribute to increased crime (or the perception of crime) and dull street life. I imagine that the restaurant that opens in the commercial building will have outdoor seating, and the appeal of sitting outside is to people-watch. In reality, patrons will be doing a lot more car-watching than people watching.

Kara said...

I'm assuming this lot will only be available to customers of the retail or dining in the adjacent building? This really doesn't work on a street like Delmar. Even if I do patronize this future business I won't be parking in their lot. Part of the fun of going to the Loop is making an afternoon or evening of it and visiting other shops, seeing a movie, and taking a stroll down the street. It would be too much work to park in that lot and then move my car somewhere else to visit another business.

And I agree, dining outside will be depressing if the parking lot is in view. When will people learn that parking lots are ugly and belong behind buildings, not right there on the street.

Anonymous said...

As I suggested on another forum regarding this location, it would have been just as easy to reuse the warehouse structure as a parking garage, thus retaining the building and opening up some space for parking. An imperfect solution, to be sure, but certainly a better one than this.

samizdat said...

Oops. Posted as anon @ 12.38

Vanishing STL said...

Kara, you bring up an excellent point. I would be surprised if they don't have people parking there, going to dinner and spending the whole evening in various places around the loop. What would keep people from doing this? Will they start towing customers cars? That would be a great way to build business! What would keep someone from parking there and going to Pi? Will they need to have a parking attendant watch the lot? If so, then they might as well have valet parking, which would negate the need for a lot at all!

Unfortunately since the building that was demolished was not historic, there was nothing to stop it from coming down. Yet the neighborhood's Commercial District Committee approved the plan for the parking lot, apparently not understanding at all how it degrades the street. This is why the City needs an overhaul of it's zoning code.

Daron said...

You said nothing about the sidewalk being cut up. Man, this sucks.