Saturday, May 27, 2017

City Garden's Latest Restaurant Tenant Hits The Nail On The Head

I've been spending a lot of time lately at Kiener Plaza and City Garden taking photos and enjoying the spaces. When you have kids, this place is even more exciting. They love hanging out in both places.

City Garden opened in July, 2009. This lushly landscaped outdoor art and fountain area has been a hit for visitors and residents as well.

It bills itself as an "urban oasis" and it lives up to the claim.

Here's a 2007 Google street view image to illustrate what was there before (grass).

Today, the two block area is alive and vibrant, a must visit for tourists and residents alike.

One of the less consistent offerings within City Garden were the restaurant tenants.

Since it's inception in 2009, the beautiful restaurant space and setting has seen four separate tenants starting with Terrace View, then Joe's Chili Bowl followed by Death In The Afternoon which occupied the space from June, 2014-November, 2016 when the owners decided to focus their efforts on another business. Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, their endeavor was profitable and running well, they just shifted gears.

But it is the current tenant that feels like the perfect fit for the space.

Kaldi's Coffee recently moved in and I've been there twice. On both occasions, there was  a line to order and many of the tables were occupied. 
The vibe is good, the service is good, the offerings seem perfect for a quick visit to the parks or on your way home, back to the office or to a ballgame.

The setting is peaceful, and the al fresco space opens up to sculpture surrounded by a cool pool of water.
I think Kaldi's hits the nail on the head with this location.

I wish them all the best and will continue to support them on my visits.

You know while I'm on the Kaldi's tip, they have some pretty impressive spots in St. Louis, with five separate locations if you include the Roastery on Gratiot, near the Vandeventer exit off of I-64 east. 

Their St. Louis locations include Kayak's on Skinker, a BJC location on Euclid, a Children's Hospital location on Children's Place, the gorgeous Gerhart building on Vandeventer and now City Garden (source).

The latter two are catalysts for their respective areas. I spend a lot of time at both locations and can righteously say the coffee shops have invigorated the areas.

Kaldi's also has several other locations in the suburbs outside of St. Louis and other Missouri cities including Colombia and Kansas City, as well as Georgia.

The world can always use more coffee, no?

There are so many places to sit and admire a quality hot cup of Joe in Downtown St. Louis.
Great job Kaldi's! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Kiener Plaza - 2017 Version

When I blogged on all 108 St. Louis parks, my visit of Kiener Plaza took place in May, 2014. This was the 1980's version of the park that was dedicated in 1962 complete with Reagan-era amphitheater. This version of the park was dead nearly year round aside from some really hot days when families came there to cool off in the fountain, or when there was a programmed rally or event. But make no mistake, this was yet another dead zone in Downtown St. Louis. You can read all about that 2014 visit and see "before" photos, including some historic info on the popular runner fountain HERE.

Kiener Plaza just went through a massive ~$23M redo and was re-opened to the public in May 19, 2017.

Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The project was funded mostly with private money raised by the CityArchRiver Foundation and with about $8.2 million in public money, allocated by the trail-building public agency Great Rivers Greenway.
My first visit took place on May 21st.
The new Kiener is gorgeous, and is more or less an extension of City Garden just a block to the west.

City Garden bills itself as "an urban oasis". Kiener went from a cold 1980's choppy design to a contiguous, beautiful oasis in it's own right. It's more wide open; hence, more amenable to programming (live music, demonstrations, food truck gatherings, etc).

The vibe is alive, contemporary, clean and modern. 

The choice of landscape and hardscape is impressive.

The plant species selected for the landscape is top shelf and reminiscent of City Garden. Catalpa, bald cypress, oak leaf hydrangea, itea, bloody cranesbill, no expense was spared and the park's landscape is nearly mature and fully realized.

I'm going to keep the commentary to a minimum as it takes time to visit on multiple occasions to really give a fair shake at criticism.

The pluses so far (in addition to the landscape) are the whimsical sidewalks, playground and fountains. 

Bike racks, bike lanes, dedicated bus lane, on street parking, porous foundations for good drainage in the cafe table seating area "under the lights"...and some of the most beautiful park benches in the entire city.

The curving benches were the most striking big city upgrade. Those along with the cafe chairs and tables are so Boston/NYC.

First impression? LOVE IT!!!

And there will be plenty of critics and naysayers. This is a lot of money to spend when we are bleeding residents, downtown jobs, businesses (the AT&T tower is vacant). I get it. But, if we want public spaces that attract people (and Kiener was teeming with people on both my visit) vs. repel people (the old Kiener) we have to buck up.

I've never seen so many people riding bikes downtown.

The park takes on a totally different feel at night since there is some really well-place lighting in and around the fountains, landscape and seating areas.

I've included both day and night photos interspersed to give you a fuller appreciation for the overall look and feel.
 looking east 
 looking east
looking north
 looking north
looking west
Some nice infrastructure/amenities:
bike racks safely illuminated at night

Multimodal transportation/parking features:
Angled parking along Market (some will need to adjust to this method of parking)

Creative, mature landscaping hugs the curved benches providing shade and interest:
The various shades of grey sidewalks are striking and become a prominent feature. They surround the porous chat surface where the cafe tables and chairs are set up under string lights:
The large grassy burm is intended to accommodate large crowds for gatherings as well as casual picnics.
The Runner statue is prominently placed near the center of the park.
The children will certainly love the playgrounds and spray fountain on the west side of the park.
What do you think?