Sunday, May 31, 2009

Magic Wand

If you are like me and you loath the appearance of drive through fast food restaurants and you could make one of these joints magically disappear and replace them with your ideal vision of a replacement what would it be? Here are a few of mine/ours:
  1. The Jack in the Box on Grand near Shaw/Compton Heights. With those cool new condos just to the south, wow what an improvement over the Shoney's that used to sit on that property. Look across the street at the beautiful Compton Heights gates. The Pelican Place, this place will be blooming once again. Now if I could make that Jack in the Box disappear and fill it in with some modern, slender, 3 story condos.....

  2. The Church's Fried Chicken at Skinker and Delmar in the Loop. This is such a high profile, high traffic area. Lots of potential here. The East Loop is my favorite stretch of Delmar, as it's in the city and the west side is the gateway to the suburbs. I'd like to see a library built hear. I realize there is a branch just south of hear on Skinker, but it's really small. I think this area deserves a bigger branch. And I like how libraries bring heavy foot traffic (see Schlafly, Carpenter branches). I think it would add diversity to the Loop. Check out a book, walk to an outdoor cafe....nice. There are lots of out of towners, tourists and musicians/artists passing through here. If they could just witness how incredibly top notch our libraries are, they may walk away even more impressed with the area. Heck, they might even want to move here. I like the idea of the east Loop becoming more of a neighborhood styled stretch vs. the more entertainment destination feel of the western Loop. I'd also like to see a drug store and/or grocery in the East Loop.

  3. My wife has fantasized about the Ponderosa, Long John Silver, Burger King, Pizza Hut (Indian Restaurant) on Hampton being razed and replace with an Ikea.
There are so many others. I could think of the shuttered Hardee's (florist?) on Broadway between Soulard and Choteau's landing. The crappy looking former Burger King just northeast of the Soulard Farmer's Market. The crappy looking former Burger King on South Grand in Dutchtown. The crappy looking Burger King on Jefferson/Gravois across from Trader Bob's Tatoos. The crappy looking former McDonalds at Chippewa/Grand. Man is it just me, or is it clear that these don't work very well in the city. Even reuse for these comes hard. You can't polish a turd. See the aforementioned Pizza Hut at Fyler/Hampton, the Captain D's (now Bosnian pizza joint on Gravois, so. of Bevo Mill), former Pizza Hut, now Bosna Gold restaurant so. of Bevo. They just don't fit in with their surroundings.

However, they may be one exception. All things considered, I like the remodel of the former Pizza World on Kinshighway. Granted, this was not your typical chain fast food joint with in store dining and drive through, but it was a chain nonetheless. Here's the kind of ??Mediterranean?? styled redo this building has recently gone through. There is a notice for a liquor license, maybe it will find new life as a Bosna/Croat dining establishment. Man, I could do without the Depot Door, but still, a net gain over the previous place.Are you aware of any fast food restaurants in the city that fit in well with their surroundings? How about a successful redux of a drive through fast food joint in the city?

Naysayers: act or pack your bags

Here's a quote from "publiceye", a frequent poster on, in reply to a comment made about not being able to get anything done in this town:

"I would argue that (1) plenty gets done in this town, and (2) nay-sayers are more responsible for inertia than people who actually do things."

I completely agree with this sentiment. Amen to that! In my limited endeavors, I've never experienced roadblocks from the city; so to those out there who like to complain about St. Louis and the insurmountable roadblocks keeping you from getting things done, or advancing your agenda I ask you to cite some specifics. How did you go about your pursuit, and how were you shot down.

You think it's hard to get things done in St. Louis? Try your luck in Chicago or New York or San Francisco and if you do any better. Best of luck.

Another comment from an anonymous poster from a blog entry I did awhile back:

"People that bitch about anything, anybody or anyplace without having tried whole-heartedly to improve or understand whatever they're bitching about are boring and unfortunate."

I agree. Bitching and moaning is exhausting to listen to. I have 3 kids under 8 years old...I am exposed to my fair share of whining. It's not fun to listen to. I want to make it stop; or in some cases, I want to teach them how to make it stop on their own...find a solution, get to the heart of the matter and fix it yourself.

I am not saying that verbal dissent doesn't have a place. I agree with the sentiment that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. It's important to disagree with the rich and powerful. However, if you're gonna complain (see 3:03 minute mark of this video), and want to be taken seriously, you have to also lay out your backup plan, your alternative solution. What are you going to do to turn the tides.

St. Louis is a very fixable place. There's a lot of open ground and cheap buildings to fix up. Get your butt out there and own one of them. Make it your perfect place, make it special, fix it up. Bring it back to life and you may find that bitching and moaning about this town is harder to do once you accomplish something.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sonic Youth @ Live on the Levee

Here's the announcement from the River Front Times.

July 17th. I don't think I've ever seen them live, but have liked them since the late 80's. One of my favorite songs is "Jams Run Free" from Rather Ripped. Kim Gordon is ice cold. Here are my favorite Sonic Youth records:

Rather Ripped
Washing Machine
Day Dream Nation

Sunday, May 17, 2009

La Tropicana

One of our favorite places in the city: La Tropicana at 5001 Lindenwood. The alfresco dining is tops. The food is amazing. This place, along with El Burrito Loco are fresh and delicious. The plantain torta, spicy fried plantain chips and spicy chicken quesadillas and cactus salad are my favorites. This is not your average, run of the mill place; it's tops for Latin food in my book. Not only is the food great, the people are nice too.

A St. Louis Public School in the neighborhood, Kennard Classical Junior Academy, has a unit on community and the 1st graders get to walk from their school to La Tropicana to learn about a local business in the neighborhood. The kids learn Spanish too, so they each introduced themselves (in Spanish) to the owner, told them where they live, how old they are, what languages they can speak and what they want to be when they grow up. 25 or so kids are in the class and the owner graciously listened to each and every kid's spiel. He fried up some plantains and made chips for the kids to taste. He gave them guava jarritos, showed them around the market, talked about where the food comes from and how they prepare it. Each class got a bunch of those mini bananas to take back to class.

I never did anything like this in school. Of course, I went to a private Catholic school in a small town where no one offered or spoke anything other than English. My high school didn't even offer Spanish. It was either French, German or Latin. I am so happy my kids are getting exposed to the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, local-family owned businesses and multiple ethnicity's. Heartwarming stuff really. The owner really went out of his way to educate the kids and show them a good time.

Back to La Tropicana. This food is fresh, delectable and affordable. If you're not into fresh Latin food, you can always sit outside under the tent and enjoy a cocktail or a delicious Mexican beer with lime (mmmm Modello) and watch the neighbors walking around and tending to their homes/yards. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.

You can't go wrong supporting places like this.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exciting Projects

Back in September, 2008 I did a post on my most anticipated projects in St. Louis:

The proposed Drury Inn at Kingshighway and I-64. *This could extend the CWE, Barnes money and activity south to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.

Bohemian Hill development in Lafayette Square. *The addition of a some needed services in that part of town could be a main boost for that neighborhood.

The CVS drug store in Boulevard Heights. *they are new to this market. If they can build an urban drug store (to the street with parking in back), I'll never go to Walgreens again.

The Great Rivers Greenway pedestrian trail *The Morgan Ford to I-55 extension is nearly completed, the next step is from I-55 south to Loughborough Commons.

*I'm still optimistic it will add activity to this part of Downtown. I'm hoping it doesn't end up a TGIFridays, and a nail salon & instant check cashing strip mall.

So what's the progress been in 8 months?

Drury Inn seems to be a go, and will be quite an improvement to the area. Most interstate passers by and out of town'ers will be impressed with the new I-64 interchange at Kingshighway. Think of these twin towers rising to the south and the behemoth that is Barnes-Jewish/Childrens to the north. Here's an excellent summary of the project from March.

Bohemian Hill has broken ground. The Walgreen's pharmacy is being constructed right now. I was visiting with a family member last night at the Georgian, right across the street and he's very optimistic about the development. All in all this is a good development. I know there are nay sayers. Maybe I'll have to eat crow when it's all said and done. But, I think this is a decent development. At least they are going to try to fit in with their surroundings. It seems like a softer landing for Walgreens than their typical search and destroy tactics such as Gravois/Hampton (I miss you Red Bird Lanes), Kingshighway/Arsenal (I miss you Carriage Bowl), Kingshighway/Chipppewa (I miss you Famous Barr).CVS pharmacy in Boulevard Heights. I know this isn't a project with a big impact on the city. But, as a resident of this neighborhood, it's good to see the old Amoco/BP site get redeveloped. It's good to see Walgreens get a little competition. The demolition is nearly complete and construction likely will begin shortly. Will it be built to the street? with parking/drive through in back?

Great Rivers Bike Trail. Another fantastic extension from Morgan Ford to I-55. This pedestrian path has added so much to my neighborhood. There used to be ZERO activity in Christy Park. Now it's teeming with runners, walkers, cyclists, kids, etc. Love this project!

BPV. UUUURRRGGHHHH!!!!!!! I cannot believe there's no public protest on this one. I fantasize about a group of citizens trying to send a message to the DeWitts. A group with sandwich boards with names painted on them: "Ballpork Pillage", "Pujols Pond", "Chesterfield Commons-Downtown", etc. This is an embarrassment. Put the heat on these clowns. Embarrass them when there are ~40,000 down there at each game. I think people would respond to a silent group walking the streets protesting. I can't believe they are getting away with this.

That's enough negativity....take a breath. In an economy that has been in recession for awhile, it's great to see projects moving forward (except DeWitt's).

Here are some more of my most anticipated projects on the horizon. I hope to take a look back in ~8 months and see where they're at.

Pelican Place

City Diner in midtown

SLU law school expansion

I've been feelin' midtown lately. I like it here and it's getting better and better.

and of course the granddaddy of them all: BLAIRMONT! Quite possibly the most exciting news to hit north city in 50 years! I can't stop thinking about this one. Now, if I can just get some facts.....

What are some of your favorite projects on the horizon?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring Harvest in the City

Broccoli and red leaf lettuce is being harvested daily at Bates and Arendes in Holly Hills:
Thanks to Missouri Forest ReLeaf for the 10 river birch and 10 eastern red buds. These trees are native to Missouri and are well suited for low canopy interest in a vegetable garden.

Another dedicated Holly Hills gardener is a former strawberry farmer:Romaine lettuce for dinner tonight. This 4 year old is not scared of our newest members of the garden (in the background)Thanks to yet another dedicated Holly Hills gardener, we now have 2 hives of European honey bees to help pollinate our flowers...and of course make some delicious honey combs.

Newly Discovered St. Louis Reading

Who needs TV and print media, when you have all this great and entertaining commentary:

I'm sure there are others, too.

Novella Bookstore and a Croatian Writer's Take on Cities

There is a charming little bookstore at 5510 Kingshighway owned by a very kind woman who just happens to share my rare last name (we're no relation, though). She is from the former Yugoslavia, and carries books mainly from that part of Europe.

My wife bought me a copy of Debravka Ugresic's "Nobody's Home". She writes of some personal experiences living all over the world, and not really ever settling down in one place for too long.

Here's an entry from one of her short stories that speaks to people's personal relationships with cities:

"There are cities where I feel compelled to intervene. In these cities some devilish voice is constantly nudging me: I'd move this, smooth over that. In cities like that I feel like a self-appointed mayor.

There are cities whose former beauty brings tears to my eyes. St. Petersburg is one such city. There are cities which galvanize me, raise the level of adrenaline in my bloodstream and blur my vision. New York is a city like that.

There are cities held together by a river. Take away the river, and the city turns into an amorphous smudge. Belgrade is one such city. There are cities whose beauty lies in the promise of sea and shore. Take away the promise, and all that is left is a mega-oasis. Los Angeles is a city like that. There are cities which bring together essentially incompatible things such as power and melancholy. Berlin is that sort of city. There are cities which would need nothing more than a facelift to place them among the most beautiful cities in the world. Budapest is one such city.

The beauty of the city is in the eye of the beholder. The more beholders, the more visions of beauty."

I'd put St. Louis somewhere between the Berlin and Budapest category. I, like Ms. Ugresic, feel like a self appointed mayor sometimes. I too feel that the more beholders we have the more visions of beauty we will have. It'll take all the beauty and vision we can muster to move us out of our darkest period in St. Louis (~1955-1995) and on toward something that makes us great again.