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Will the Loop Trolley Really Spur Development? Transit Blogger Says No; Joe Edwards Bristles

Categories: Community
TheLoopTrolley.JPG
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If you build it, will they come?
Writing just days after the Loop Trolley route was finalized, prolific urban-issues blogger Yonah Freemark over at The Transport Politic is trying to debunk a big claim made by project backers: That the new trolley will spur development along its path:
even if developers are intrigued by the idea of building along the streetcar corridor, St. Louis' project is likely to attract little actual construction because of city regulations that limit new construction. Developers wanting to build large structures will be limited by low height limits and requirements to get special permits to provide a mix of land uses.
That's dense. Let's break it down: Freemark is  saying that on the western (or University City) half of the trolley line, zoning forbids new buildings higher than 35 feet, AND requires a conditional use permit.

Meanwhile, on the eastern (or City of St. Louis) half,  zoning that forbids new buildings higher than 50 feet or three stories.

When we called Joe Edwards and confronted him with this argument, he said, "I think that's short-sighted."


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Loop developer Joe Edwards
Edwards disagreed with Freemark's implied definition of "development."

"It doesn't have to be the tallest building," Edwards said. "A three-story building can accommodate a lot of IT companies and artists' lofts. And there are always variances available for the right kind of project."

Like what?

"The Moonrise Hotel has eight stories," he said. (Which Edwards owns, in case you didn't know.)

Edwards continued:
What does [the blogger] want? To have it stagnate and get worse? We're very fortunate that these funds - which  had to be spent on transportation - came to St. Louis. We're among only 5 cities [to receive the funds] out of 65 cities that applied.... and it's coming to us at no extra cost to local taxpayers.
Businesses in the Loop will have to put up with some noisy construction, we pointed out.

But Edwards reminded us that it will only be done one block at a time, and will be "well worth" the hassle.

For the sake of the Loop -- Daily RFT's own neighborhood -- we hope so.

Addendum: Yonah Freemark has e-mailed us back. He says he's based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has never visited St. Louis. "Take that as you may," he writes. Fair enough.
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44 comments
Nicholas Phillips
Nicholas Phillips

I suspect people will see it more as a ride than transportation; but if that's true, you'd only go on it a few times...

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

We are about to see massive corruption unveiled in the Park-the abuse of tax money for decades by the crooks that run the museums and the zoo and the other money-sucking 'two'. This is as dirty, selfish, egocentric and shows that a postage stamp-sized 'swatch' of the region from grand avenue to Skinker and Delmar to Oakland Avenue control and manipulate the economy to their will. St. Louis is not a destination attraction. This 2miles trolley is sure as hell not a destination attraction. It moves money from Bob Archibald's place to Joe's place and vice versa. Could it not do that on rubber tires and save $30 million?

flyingember
flyingember

@UrbanReviewSTL @RiverfrontTimes but as a tourist mover to extend metrolink it's fine. a jobs and residental driver? to be seen

flyingember
flyingember

@UrbanReviewSTL @RiverfrontTimes I don't get the loop trolly. It may bring more "The Loop" businesses but it's not in a good spot otherwise

cloudconsulate
cloudconsulate

The Loop Media Hub is what is going to drive the development of The Loop Trolley right of way. Once Gigabit Internet access is available to everyone along the The Loop Trolley right of way, The Loop is going to enter into a new era of community development that should last 15-20 years. Take a look at https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/26984/media_hub_091212

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

it will keep crime victims in nice little containers.

Robert Winkelmann
Robert Winkelmann

I think it will because parking in the Loop is absolutely horrible.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Making traffic more impossible on the Loop will not spur business. The idea that people will park elsewhere and ride public transportation to their destination is complete folly. Some do, must do not. this project is for someone's fantasy that a trolley is cute. Sure, it'll get plenty of riders the first few years, but in the future, it will be a hassle. People will simply visit another neighborhood without the hassles.

jbradhicks
jbradhicks topcommenter

Yonah Freemark has raised a valid issue about laws that will probably eventually have to be changed. Transit works better when there's higher density per square mile of both residences and jobs, when there are more residences and jobs that people can walk comfortably to from the transit line, from transit stops. That's always been true.

 

On the other hand, laws can be changed. When Joe Edwards needs them to be changed, they tend to get changed. And there is this: when has Joe Edwards EVER been wrong about real estate? Every single project he's ever invested in was one that people (and this used to include me!) said, "That can't possibly work." And yet instead of going broke, he keeps expanding.

Brian Bradley
Brian Bradley

Coming from a blogger who has never been to the Loop, better yet St. Louis, I think his points are invalid. The only way we will find out if the trolley will spur development is if we build it.

Barry Bean
Barry Bean

I'm looking forward to riding it!

UrbanReviewSTL
UrbanReviewSTL

@flyingember @riverfronttimes to justify the capital costs it must do more than move folks. In other cities new dvlpmnt occurs along rail

matthewmourning
matthewmourning

 @base212assm The most visit-worthy neighborhood across the country are a "hassle" to visit precisely because they're worth visiting. People think traffic and congestion are symptomatic of decline -- they're symptoms of success!

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm There is almost ZERO reason to drive down Delmar, look for a parking spot? You have to drive down the main strip to get to a parking spot? That is silly, everyone that visits Delmar Loop knows where to park, drive straight there, no need to cause traffic driving down the main strip during peak times... I would say the automobile-centric approach is dying, need more bikes, more pedestrians and more public transit to make the area more economically viable, that is what MAJOR stakeholder Joe Edwards is doing. 

NP_DailyRFT
NP_DailyRFT

 @jbradhicks So I guess the question for ambition development (that goes above and beyond zoning constraints) would be this: Can ANY good project get a variance, or do you have to be Joe Edwards? 

flyingember
flyingember

@UrbanReviewSTL @RiverfrontTimes if it was just for development why end at history museum? waste of money for that goal.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @StL__T , if the Loop will survive, it needs more than a few locals or regulars to keep it alive. It needs people coming there for the first time. They will circle the place, and leave in frustration when driving and parking because a huge issue. "everyone that visits Delmar Loop knows where to park"? That is silly, short sighted, and a clear call for excluding anyone outside the current little clique. Sorry, but you might have a good couple years of fun, but it is doomed if that is the mentality used for development.Bikes? Locals. Plus the crime rate is high on stealing bikes. I would not take the metro and ride my bike there, only to walk back. So, riding the metro from other parts of the county, well, you have to drive to get to the station to ride it, and once in your car, you might as well drive to the Loop. Metro has not linked up well with population centers.Like many Saint Louisians and college students, you are not thinking past your neighborhood. What high school did you go to?

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @NP_DailyRFT  @jbradhicks , no the question is why would anyone place such zoning restrictions? Clear them off the books, then graft and other the table deals will not be required to obtain variances.

UrbanReviewSTL
UrbanReviewSTL

@flyingember future expansion will go east on Delmar, hopefully making its way to downtown. Ok for a small start streetcar route

flyingember
flyingember

@UrbanReviewSTL @RiverfrontTimes if you wanted development turn east, not west. it's connecting to a tourist spot on purpose, for riders

UrbanReviewSTL
UrbanReviewSTL

@flyingember @riverfronttimes disagree, there's lots of development potential along the route but as pointed out zoning will prevent it

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

 @StL__T

 The same points I have been making since 1998-a few people controlling St. Louis-what it is and what it offers and where.

Hasnt worked.

StL__T
StL__T

 @egolterman What point are you trying to make? If it is just an opinion, feel free to air it not in response to me. 

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

 @StL__T

 Thank you for clarifying. Can we just go right to the 'umbrella' over this-greed, selfishness, territorialism and power? Can we cut to that? As north and St. Louis St. Louis and County crumble?

StL__T
StL__T

 @egolterman They were transportation dollars "not for roads" There is no option to get Federal Transportation funds that are "not for roads" and use them for roads... Not for roads, not for saving baby kittens... not for saving the Earth from a huge asteroid. 

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

 @StL__T

 Federal highway funds are for federal highways of which-those into and out of Downtown are in ill-repair, caused chaos this afternoon, and it is going to get worse..

StL__T
StL__T

 @egolterman Save who 30 million? The funds are federal transportation dollars that at least 60 other cities tried to get and Joe made it happen here. You can't use it for police... or even saving baby kittens. 

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

 @base212assm  @StL__T

 Put it on rubber tires an save $30 million. Hire 200 more police officers and fix some streets and highways.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @StL__T , innovation in parking - some design parking into their new buildings. But not with height restrictions on the buildings. You open the possibilities, and creative solutions will appear. You also have a very limited view on using space. Some business owners know making getting to and from their business creates more business. That parking lot is a money maker for some with vision. Again, allow creative solutions to find the answer.

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm What is the alternative, make thousands of more parking spaces in lots, that doesn't create density. Only parking lots that charge money, make money... where is the business sense in that? If parking lots spurred development, than downtown St. Louis should be incredibly vibrant... 

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm There are more than a few locals and regulars visiting Delmar Loop. The trolley will go around one side of a Missouri History Museum which is at Forrest Park - you know Forrest Park has many many things to visit... WashU has tens of thousands of students that generally graduate and let in freshman afterward, I've been down on Delmar during something called "WashU Freshman get to know the loop day" or something, they all had T-Shirts. I guess not everyone does know where to park, but there is an App for that, I can't remember the last time I didn't go to Google Maps before driving somewhere for the first time. Cicero's has beer school, Blueberry Hill is a landmark (chuck berry still plays once a month, voted best local burger), The Pageant brings in tons of new people to Delmar constantly. People ride their bikes all over StL, it is growing rapidly in popularity. Believe it or not, many people ride the Metro into Delmar. You speak of people driving from the county, that's great, and they do, all the time, this is what makes Delmar great. I won't waste my time lecturing you about what makes great main streets, there are studies done by East West Gateway and others that make it clear that slowing traffic allows people to linger and visit more than one business... take it for what you will. Only time will tell if Loop trolley is a success. 

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @StL__T , the Supreme Court can overturn the Supreme Court. Precedent means a lot, but the Court overrules itself now and then. They are humans, and humans make mistakes. The 5-4 ruling today can become the 4-5 ruling the next session. Also, FDR threatened a 5-21 vote with court packing.There is also the Amendment process that can overturn the Court.

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm No court can overturn the Supreme Court. Joe Edwards owns the Pageant, Blueberry Hill and the Moonrise Hotel, he is featured in this article. Joe spearheaded the entire Loop Trolley project.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @StL__T  , no clue who Joe Edwards is. No accusation on his business practices. Just so many shady deal are done to get things moved through these zoning boards. Some illegal, but some legal - you build us a park,and we'll authorize your building variance.

 

The Supreme Court has upheld a lot of things, not all of it wise. That is not their job. They simply determine if it is constitutional. But a later court is free to overturn them on that score as well. Eminent Domain was determine legal in the sole pursuit of potentially higher tax base. According to the Court - constitutional. According to humanity, not wise.We need to take back our government from all these layers of authorities, if we wish to call ourselves free men, and not slaves to the State.

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm If you have an accusation to throw at Joe Edwards, go ahead and direct that at him. I don't think he bribed anyone, just worked hard and convinced those in power to get behind his project... I could be wrong, if you have evidence to the contrary, please present to a newspaper so they can dig into it.

Zoning has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_of_Euclid,_Ohio_v._Ambler_Realty_Co.

 

 

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @StL__T  , the reason for zoning restrictions is simple - some people want to control people's lives. Building codes are reasonable for public trust, but only in as mach as they are safety related, and not some social engineering project. I'm surprised you favor the system that makes bribes (legal and illegal ones) be the way to develop. Zoning laws are a means to control who does what with their property. If I own a piece of a property, it is mine to do as I please. Laws guarding against me polluting into your property are reasonable. If someone wants to take valuable commercial land and build a Tudor cottage, let them. It does not harm you.

 

We have more laws worrying about what others might do than we ought to, and the zoning restrictions are a huge reason way. It crawled in as worrying about what your neighbor is doing to your property value - get a clue! Your property value is meaningless unless you are moving! If you are moving what your former neighbor does is meaningless!

 

Stop putting laws on what others can do that harm no one!

StL__T
StL__T

 @base212assm  @NP_DailyRFT  @jbradhicks There are many reasons for zoning restrictions, I'm sure if someone has real $$ and is wanting to develop history has shown they get what they want at the expense of just about all else.

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