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ULI Report Reinforcing Need to Improve Grand MetroLink Station Connectivity to Advance Momentum of Nearby Development

The Grand MetroLink Station in Midtown St. Louis is “an island.”  It is disconnected from exciting new developments while transit riders, other pedestrians, and bicyclists have limited options for mobility around the area.  If momentum in innovative development is to be advanced in the surrounding area, the Grand MetroLink Station must offer greater connectivity.  That’s the assessment of the Urban Land Institute St. Louis (ULI STL) which collaborated with Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) and St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation in studying the area’s potential for future development.

The just-released report is the second Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) study by ULI of the Grand MetroLink Station.  Nearly 10 years ago, ULI delivered a TAP of the Midtown station at the request of CMT.  Some of the 2012 TAP recommendations were adopted, including the formation of a redevelopment corporation and the development of Chouteau Greenway, now known as the Brickline Greenway.  Since then, surrounding neighborhoods have been energized by historic redevelopment, such as the Armory and City Foundry, and the development of new residential options just south of the MetroLink station.  But the area remains difficult to traverse as a pedestrian, lacking key connections to and from Grand, transit, and what are or will be key development sites. “The car reigns supreme on Grand Boulevard and throughout the surrounding area,” commented Chris Beard, of Lochmueller Group, who served as chair for this latest TAP.

The area studied in the TAP is bordered loosely by Interstate 64/40 to the north, Chouteau Avenue to the south, South Theresa Avenue to the east, and South Spring Street to the west, and generally encompasses what should be a five-minute walk from the Grand MetroLink Station.  Much of the study focused on connectivity surrounding the station, but it also looked at optimizing the marketability of the area.  Among the TAP recommendations:

  • Improve connections to the surroundings along Grand, especially the connections to and between the forthcoming Brickline Greenway, MetroLink light rail service, and the MetroBus service on Grand;
  • Fully capitalize on the area’s rich in transit options by improving access. Movement between light rail and bus lines is currently limited to an elevator ride or stair climb. The report recommends improved bus waiting areas and additional options for more open and visible vertical movement. Additionally, the installation of a crosswalk across Grand to link the stops for the north and south bus routes would make safe a path that many bus riders choose to traverse today;
  • Capitalize on multi-family residential options under development in the study area where the market has proven strong for market-rate rental units in this part of St. Louis;
  • Broaden already strong communication and relationship building in the immediate area to reach further north and south into neighborhoods home to commuters who might move through the area on a daily basis. Communicate that services and amenities in or coming to the district are for everyone, not just those living or working in the immediate area;
  • Expand connectivity north and south on Grand for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-vehicular traffic. Optimize Grand for multi-modal transportation, including strategies such as narrowing or removing the landscaped median, narrowing the existing traffic lanes, and buffering the sidewalk and bike lanes from moving vehicles;
  • Establish development guidelines and/or create a form-based code for the area.  This would help direct development in a manner that can enhance connectivity throughout the district and even promote connectivity to the Grand roadway by encouraging or incentivizing development up to and connected with the street. Reducing parking requirements, using parking maximums, or requiring the prioritization of transit, walking, and/or biking in new developments will reduce the vehicular traffic in the area and encourage more people to use the sidewalks, trails, and greenway;
  • Fully leverage the Saint Louis University (SLU)-inspired new name for the district – Prospect Yards. Feature the name on enhanced wayfinding signage and branding and align with the identity as much as possible.

Leading the effort in collaboration with ULI were Kim Cella of Citizens for Modern Transit, and Brooks Goedeker of St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation. ULI members conducting the TAP included:

  • Chris Beard, director of traffic engineering and planning, Lochmueller Group;
  • Justin Carney, principal, Development Strategies;
  • Erica Henderson, economic development consultant;
  • Toyin Oduwole, broker/owner, St. Louis Realty Partners;
  • Bonnie Roy, partner, SWT Design; and
  • Will Smith, director of asset management and investments, New + Found.

The full report can be found at this link.

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