Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) recently hosted a virtual “Talking Transit” event to take an in-depth look at the results of a study completed by the ULI St. Louis Technical Assistance Panel (TAP), which brought together the finest experts in the fields of real estate, planning and development to address possible development opportunities around the Grand MetroLink Station.
The panel featured Justin Carney, principal of Development Strategies; Brooks Goedeker
Executive Director of St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation; Toyin Oduwole, broker/owner of St. Louis Realty Partners; Bonnie Roy, principal of SWT Design; and Will Smith, director of asset management and investments at New + Found. It was led by Chris Beard, director of traffic engineering and planning for the Lochmueller Group.
Attendees were first briefed on the abundance of redevelopment efforts underway in the Midtown area, including a new Fresh Thyme Marketplace; City Foundry STL, which features a Food Hall, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and more; an Elements by Westin hotel; The Armory District, featuring the REC HALL drinks and recreation venue; and a number of mixed-use development spaces that consist of apartments, lofts, restaurants and other businesses. From there, the discussion transitioned into the importance of establishing an identity of connectivity in Midtown through a “Community Mobility Hub,” promoting multi-model transportation options centered around the Grand MetroLink Station – which offers access to MetroLink, MetroBus, I-64, and the Brickline Greenway and boasts walkability features. This hub would position Grand Avenue as the primary north-south linkage for all modes.
To accomplish this, ULI St. Louis TAP is looking at ways to repurpose the Grand viaduct to calm traffic and create safe areas for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders; improve transit access by providing a more open, visible and vertical means of mobility with ramping, crosswalks and enhanced MetroBus waiting areas; and update the Grand MetroLink Station with overhead LED lighting, restored lower-level street grid and integrated services for those using the Brickline Greenway. Experts also discussed interest in pursuing redevelopment of the Metro parking lot, creating an at-grade intersection at Forest Park and Grand, working with MoDOT to lessen impacts of freeway, providing a vertical pedestrian/bicycle connection between Grand and Gratiot, and more.
The discussion ended with each panelist providing final insights. Following are some key highlights from their closing remarks:
“We are at an important crossroads between north-south transit and east-west transit that we don’t think gets the attention it deserves because of the physical configuration of the Grand MetroLink Station and the micro-connectivity to the immediate area. There is tremendous opportunity to leverage what we have and build upon it by creating the right framework for successful development and the right framework for connectivity. There are all kinds of amazing anchors and amenities within a 10-minute walk of the Grand MetroLink station, but people don’t intuitively think to do that because it’s difficult and it’s not comfortable. We have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of what is here and get it right moving forward.”
– Chris Beard, director of traffic engineering and planning for the Lochmueller Group
“From my perspective, we need to demand a development pattern that fosters connectivity. It needs to connect to the Grand Avenue bridge elevation that enhances and embraces the Brickline at the lower elevation, transcending that grade change in a way that it no longer becomes a barrier. So, you can weave from SLU’s South Campus over the Grand Bridge down to the Armory across to the Foundry and really make an interconnected, public infrastructure network that can then leverage transit and other connectivity at that macro-scale. Defining that micro-scale is critical.”
– Bonnie Roy, principal of SWT Design
“We thought about what was possible to access from a macro and micro scale if we can figure out ways to increase micro connectivity. With transit and better connectivity, someone living at SLU or someone working at SSM doesn’t have to drive to immediate spaces. If we can increase micro transit level – workers, students and people living in the area can have access – not via car – to the entire region. Creating a node like this is a way to create a transit first – by choice – type of experience in St. Louis.”
– Will Smith, director of asset management and investments at New + Found
“How much of an impact can the right investment into this site make in the lives of those living in the immediate area from a daily life standpoint to an entertainment standpoint? It’s definitely a site that needs this type of attention put on it. I think it could have a really big impact on people’s lives moving forward.”
– Toyin Oduwole, broker/owner of St. Louis Realty Partners
“What is the impact of parking and parking requirements on development and development feasibility? Do developers want to build good quality developments with a lot of parking? Or is there an opportunity to really lean into this micro connectivity and transit connectivity to reduce the parking needs. What type of additional development opportunities come from not requiring people to park and drive all the time? Does shared parking, parking management and transit connectivity create new opportunities for development? Do we get different types of development in this district?”
– Justin Carney, principal of Development Strategies
“We are finally being given a chance and an opportunity for St. Louis’ Midtown to be a place like other cities’ midtowns, where it’s not just a place to go to for education or healthcare. But, a place for a host of different services – including retail, entertainment and additional jobs. All of these recommendations will help connect the city and the region to the Midtown area.”
– Brooks Goedeker, executive director of St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation
Click here to view the slides from the presentation.