Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tiffany Park

Tiffany Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks.  Placed into ordinance in 1980, this 1.1 acre park is a gem.  It is laid out nicely, but just needs some more respect and love from the neighborhood.

The park is in the Tiffany Neighborhood bordered by McRee Avenue to the south, the alley between Folsom and Blaine to the north and S. Spring Avenue to the east.  The western border is not a street, rather the neighborhood because the parks doubles as a barrier to a "through" Blaine Avenue in an effort to slow traffic and dealing that peaked in the 1970s - 1990s in this part of town.

The park once had a basketball court on the south end of the park, but the goals have been removed.  You can tell how the stairs leading down to the basketball courts were designed to double as seating areas to rest or watch folks playing B-Ball.  I wish people understood that basketball is a healthy and fun sport and a great pastime for kids.  If asshole adults and dealers were making the courts unfriendly and annoying places, get rid of them, not the courts.  Kids love playing ball and I can't tell you how many times I've had kids tell me how thankful they are for the new courts in Fox Park.  Sports aren't bad, adults that take over these "kid/teen" spaces are.

The park has nice landscaping, handsome fencing along the north, east and south borders and street trees edging it.

need a new tree here

The centerpiece of the park is a tiered concrete semi-circle.

There is a circa 1980's (in a good way) pavilion to the south of the semi-circle and a playground to the north.

The park has a "private place feel"; yet, opens up it's arms to the neighborhood to the east and west in a way I love:

The neighbors sadly have taken to trashing the park with junk food, "snack juice" (what the kids around here call Vess) and other trash.

The housing stock in this neighborhood is absolutely gorgeous.

When Shaw and Botanical Heights start getting "built out", I think this will be an area folks will choose to embrace and elevate.  This park is a great little space that should serve the neighborhood well.

Mestres Park

Mestres Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks.  It is a narrow 2.61 acre strip of land that runs along Tucker Boulevard between Park and Chouteau Avenues:

It was placed into ordinance in 1937 and is within the LaSalle Neighborhood.  The park is just south and west of the Nestle Purina campus, known to most in the area.

While there is no information on the city website related to who the park was named after, I will assume it was named after Joseph J. Mestres, (1874-1941) former St. Louis Democratic City Committee Chairman and friend and political ally of the Tipton family of the Cuckoo Gang, one of the most notorious bank robbing gangs of the early 20th Century (source).

There is really not much to see here, but the park does provide a green space for the subsidized housing complexes of Peabody-Darst Webbe and LaSalle Park.

There are tasteful street lights along Tucker, a sidewalk running down the center which recently got new benches and some nice new trees planted to provide some additional shade and interest.

It would be great to see some low maintenance landscaping and wild grasses in several key areas to decrease the amount of mowing/trimming and create natural areas to break up the monotony of this strip of land/park space.

These small areas would be perfect candidates:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Terry Park

Terry Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks.  It makes up 4 of the total 2,956 acres of dedicated park space.  A 4 acre parks seems to be just about the perfect size for the area.  I really like the layout of the park.

The park was placed into ordinance in 1945 and was named in honor of Dr. Robert James Terry, a man well known nationally and locally for his contributions to medical literature. He was also one of the founders of the association which later became the St. Louis Audubon Society (source).

Robert James Terry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 24, 1871. He finished his pre-medical education at Cornell University in New York in 1892. Terry was accepted into the class of 1895 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. However, after one year of study, financial troubles forced him to leave Columbia University. He returned to St. Louis and completed his medical education at Missouri Medical College, graduating cum laude in 1895. Following graduation, he established a private practice in St. Louis and was appointed as Assistant Director in Anatomy at Missouri Medical College....
Dr. Terry went on to work at Wash U.
In addition to his work at Washington University and his dedication to anatomical education, Terry was also an active member of a number of local and national organizations. He was a founding member of both the American Journal of Anatomy and the American Association of Physical Anthropology, an organization for which he later served as President and Associate Editor of the affiliated journal. Terry also served as president of the St. Louis Academy of Science and the editor of the Washington University Medical Alumni Quarterly. He was also very active in naturalist circles, founding organizations such as the St. Louis Naturalist Club in 1898 and the St. Louis Bird Club in 1901. He also collaborated in the establishment of a migratory bird treaty between the United States and Great Britain and assisted in the founding of the St. Louis Bird Sanctuary. Due to his dedication and passion for nature, Terry was recognized by the City of St. Louis in 1959, when a park at the corner of Eads and Compton was named for him. Dr. Terry remained an active member of both the medical and naturalist communities until his death in 1966. (source)
The park is located in the Gate District and is bordered by Eads Avenue to the north, Louisiana Avenue to the est, Henrietta Street to the south and S. Compton Avenue to the east.

Note the nice density of buildings to the south and east and then to the north it is getting more spotty as many of the homes have been razed.  Then to the west it is completely empty.  That space is near St. Louis University and likely is owned by them (my guess is based upon the "No Trespassing" signs that dot the vast fields of SLU in these parts.  

It is a dumping ground of sorts and detracts from the nice residential to the east.  

This is an exciting part of the Gate District right now as CF. Vatterott homes is building an additional 25 single family homes (at market rate).
This fantastic location offers quick and easy access to Highways 44 and 40!  Located between SLU Medical Center/Cardinal Glennon Hospital on South Grand and CF Vatterott's St. Vincent community of 100 new homes, and just north of HWY 44 - you can't get more centrally located than Terry Park Place!  Minutes from Wells Fargo Advisors and within sight of the medical centers with easy access to both Hwy 40 and 44 - leave the drive behind and live in the middle of it all!   
Terry Park Place will consist of just 25 Single Family homes that have impressive architectural features with all new exterior elevation designs! (source)

Prices range from $179,900 to $297,300, so this is great for the neighborhood and Terry Park will serve the new resident quite well.  Vatterott previously built quite a few homes in the Gate District.  

infill on Eads Avenue, overlooking Terry Park

The park has a nice basketball court, playground, multi-purpose field and a couple pavilions that are rather odd in design as they don't really provide any shade or shelter.  I've not seen this design yet anywhere else in the city.

There are some mature trees that provide nice shade around the playgrounds.  And newer trees including bald cypress along S. Compton Avenue have been planted and will look great as they mature in the next 10 years or so.

The park has a good feel.  If I were living in the neighborhood and could fix one thing it would be to remove the dilapidated chain link fence that surrounds much of the park.  It is in poor condition and cheapens the look of the area.  

I've never understood fencing a that meant to say "keep out"?  Why not have the park's department remove them and you immediately simplify the care of the park (less weed whacking) and greatly improve the perimeter of the park and allow easy access for the current and future residents of the area.

Terry Park should serve the new residents quite well.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Cortona in the Cheltenham Neighborhood

The Cortona at Forest Park is a ~278 unit apartment complex rising in the Cheltenham neighborhood.  Visible from busy streets like Oakland and Hampton Avenues, and even Interstate 64, the apartment complex is scheduled for a February, 2014 completion.

This is an exciting part of town right now as there are several large projects in the works in the Hampton/I-64 area.  One is the construction of the Tri-Star Mercedes dealership that is underway.  This ~45,000 square foot project is an exciting addition to the former property of Fox 2 News at Berthold and Hampton that has been abandoned and empty since they left town for the staid burbs around 2008.

image source: nextSTL

The other exciting development is the St. Louis Zoo's purchase of the former Forest Park Hospital across Hampton.  The demolition of the hospital is underway right now and is making way for a 19 acre addition said to include a zoo-themed hotel, additional animal habitat and major new exhibit, pedestrian bridge and gondola going over I-64 (source).

So it is exciting to see additional housing options popping up in this part of town. Additional residents will only boost the activity seen around here.  And hopefully the addition of residents and visitors will boost the happening business and entertainment district around Clayton and Tamm in Dogtown...led by my favorite soup joint in westside St. Louis at Nora's at 1136 Tamm Avenue.

I am all for infill.  If we are ever going to see a gain in residents (which we haven't seen since the early-mid 20th Century), we need to meet the housing needs for a diverse set of people seeking all kinds of different lifestyles.  I am of the opinion that new infill does not always need to be historic in appearance, in fact I think we need modern new designs melding with the old brick, stone and wood classics.  Take UIC's work in Botanical Heights as an example.

The Botanical Heights Neighborhood

Or the many examples of quality construction and design from various eras in the Central West End.
photo source:  Toby Weiss-CWE Mid-Century Modern: Lindell Boulevard

Nothing is more beautiful than the best of two era complementing each other.

We need diversity in housing that offers people modern living amenities that compete with what is available in the suburbs and newer Midwestern cities that offer much more contemporary options than St. Louis.  Many people just don't like living in old buildings.  They can be drafty, inefficient, laid out weird, wired with antiquated electric, etc.  Some people want the newest, most efficient kitchens, baths, windows, HVAC, lighting, floor plans, etc.

I think that is what the Cortona will bring...and with some interesting finishes to give the development a modern look.

The site is not a typical neighborhood setting like you can get in most parts of town, it is part of the larger Highlands office park that exists on the spot of the former St. Louis Arena.  There are a couple residential buildings called "The Lofts", a hotel and restaurant, a building housing BJC operations and two other buildings with various tennants including financial, media and construction firms, etc.  A Jimmy Johns, Yoga studio and Comet Coffee and Microbakery are in the first floor facing Oakland Avenue.

I'd use this greenspace for soccer

 Hampton Inn hotel

 Office space with 1st floor retail

The wavy contours of the buildings are intended to emulate the roller coasters of the Highlands amusement park that once sat here.

"The Lofts"

So there will be those who'll certainly criticize this as contemporary "business park living", and I see the point, but I live in a traditional turn of the century St. Louis neighborhood and I don't have as many walkable amenities as this (yet).  The location is awesome as one of the greatest urban parks in the country is across the Interstate.

The property manager for the Cortona, Mark Milford, reached out to me and gave me a sneak peek of the Cortona.  He shared a lot of great info on the development, like the name which was a nod to Cortona, Italy one of Steve Brown's (Balke Brown) favorite places when he studied in Rome.  Mark is a suburban St. Louis guy who'll be living here soon.

The complex was still under construction upon my visit, so I'll spare those photos.
The first floor is scheduled for completion in February, 2014 and an additional floor will come online each following month.

The building is 5 stories, sits on 4.79 acres and has many, many modern amenities including an awesome 0.5 acre center courtyard area with a pool, outdoor 24' fire table and center pit, BBQ grills, cabana with showers, bar and 3-tiered pool (lap pool, tanning ledge and hot tub).  Modern stuff like USB ports on the electrical outlets, recycling and trash chutes, etc.  There will be an Enterprise car share on site, and private covered/structured parking for its residents; there are 314 parking spots for the 278 units.  There is a dog run, a common space for parties that overlooks the courtyard, fitness center, multi-purpose game room, etc..

 future 3-tiered pool 

 Private cabana in background, outdoor grills/bar, social lookouts

 Accordion glass opens from courtyard to social space

parking structure and dog run in the foreground

Apartments range in size from studio/1 bath 575 sq. ft. to 2 br/2 bath 1299 sq. ft. All the luxuries of modern living one would expect are here, including great views of the city to the east.

This development is coming on line about the same time as The Aventura Phase II in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood to the east.  The styles are quite a contrast.  The Cortona is interesting and modern, the Aventura...well, if you pay attention to early commentary from the outspoken St. Louis lovers, you will have heard it referred to as "Straight Outta Ballwin", plastic suburban schlock, cheapest possible, a private complex closed off from the surrounding neighborhood, etc.  I have chosen to keep my opinions of the Aventura off the Internet, but will gladly share if you buy me a beer.

 a little bit of the burbs right here in the middle of St. Louis

Aventura phase I

The worst thing about this development is it is highly visibility along I-64 and it's lack of context in a really cool neighborhood that is on the rise and has St. Louis' beauty and soul all over it.

Anyhow, congrats to the Cortona for adding a fresh, modern element to St. Louis' new housing scene.