Curb Appeal and Infrastructure in the Shaw Neighborhood

The Shaw Neighborhood

 caught my attention recently with some noticeable infrastructure upgrades along Shaw Boulevard. I'll start with the decorative cross walks at the intersections between Grand Boulevard and Tower Grove Avenue; but there is more.

The crosswalks welcome you to the historic Shaw Neighborhood:

The crosswalk below gives tribute to the beautiful

Mullanphy Investigative Learning

Center that has served the neighborhood at Klemm and Shaw since 1915.

The intersection at Lawrence Street recognizes the presence of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic grade school:

St. Margaret's recently completed a new middle school building to accommodate their growing enrollment. The building has an urban form and was built atop a former surface parking lot.

The good news doesn't stop with handsome crosswalks. There were also some much welcomed pedestrian infrastructure and traffic calming improvements as well. Bump-outs were installed at several intersections. Why are these important? I looked to the invaluable Urban Landscapes blog to find out:

Bump-outs (also known as “curb extensions“) have become commonplace in many subdivisions across the country.  They are also common in the existing neighborhoods as a means of traffic-calming.  The purpose is to provide an additional element in protecting the vehicles parked on the street and enabling shorter, safer crossing for the pedestrian at the intersection. (source)

Bump-outs also provide additional permeable ground between the sidewalks and the street that can serve to reduce storm runoff lightening the burden on the sewer system, all the while affording an opportunity for native landscaping vs. asphalt. Notice the young tree planted in this bump-out and the added protection the row of parked cars get:

Trash receptacles were strategically placed at high volume pedestrian intersections:

The crossings are ADA compliant:

Shaw Avenue was also repaved from Grand to 39th Street. Hopefully we will see painted bike lanes and protected parking lanes.

So where did the money come from? Who came up with the design and executed the work?  Why Shaw Avenue and not another street in the neighborhood?

To help me answer some of these questions, I reached out to the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation's executive director Sean Spencer. Who gave me some great background information and a taste of what is ahead for his organization.

First a little background on the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (TGNCDC) history and mission:

Established in 2013, the TGNCDC is a consolidation of the former Grand Oak Hill Community Corporation, Southwest Garden Housing Corporation, and Shaw Neighborhood Housing Corporation. The three organizations served the Tower Grove South, Southwest Garden, and Shaw neighborhoods, respectively, for over 30 years. Recent changes in community development funding allocations from the City of St. Louis and a renewed focus on outcome-based community development initiatives necessitated that these three organizations combine resources and service areas to more effectively serve the community and leverage existing resources.

To view the full service area for the TGNCDC, click 

here

.

The work I've highlighted above is part of a goal within the 2015-2019 Strategic Plan set forth by TGNCDC through comprehensive community input. This goal is to 'Revitalize and Strengthen the Long-term Stability and Growth of the TGNCDC Service Area (Area-Wide Improvements)'.

Specifically, what I've described above falls into the Infrastructure Improvements bucket, set up to:

  • Improve public spaces, infrastructure, signage and landscaping
  • Work with Neighborhood Association and Alderperson on infrastructure improvements
  • Promote commercial facade, 50/50 sidewalk, LED lighting and ADA improvement programs

How about the actual crosswalk pattern and design?  Per Spencer, the scalloped mosaic design and fonts for the crosswalks were selected by the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association's beautification committee. These are not just the temporary decorative painted crosswalks you see across the city, these are the longer lasting (~8-10 year lifespan), reflective types. The technology is called DuraTherm®:

DuraTherm® is a specially-designed preformed thermoplastic material that is inlaid into an imprinted asphalt surface and thermally bonded using specialized infrared heaters. Engineered to lie slightly below the asphalt surface, DuraTherm® is protected from wear, ensuring effective service life while maintaining its attractive contemporary look for years. A specialized pavement heater softens the existing asphalt. Templates are pressed into the surface to create the imprinted pattern. Pre-cut sections of DuraTherm® are set into these impressions. The specialized heater is used again to bond the material to the asphalt surface. (source)

Why was Shaw Boulevard the focus for this project? Spencer explained that through neighborhood charrettes and surveys, the participants wanted to focus energy on Shaw Boulevard and DeTonty Street as target areas for reinvestment. This makes perfect sense, because if you've lived here for more than 20 years, you are well aware that many properties on these streets had seen better days as time wore on. With the high visibility of DeTonty Street from I-44 as well as Shaw being a major east-west street connecting Grand to Kingshighway, it is easy to understand why these two streets would be target areas to uplift and invest with new brain power, volunteer/grant writing efforts and city investment.

The crosswalks and infrastructure upgrades described above were largely paid through Ward 8 funds allocated annually across the city with spending typically through the discretion of the publicly elected alderman.

I'm told that other upgrades are in the works providing more fodder for continued excitement including replacement of the dim cobra head street lights with high efficiency LED lights through a community development block grant as well as a group working hard to consider landscaping options for the streetscape through a grant from a large bank.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for DeTonty Street as well, with the recent plans proposed for a $4M 8,000sf education center focused on urban food production, nutrition, and science education for elementary school students at Lawrence and DeTonty.

This educational effort will be led by local private, charter and public school leadership and faculty at St. Louis University and will serve thousands of students at

Mullanphy Investigative Learning Center

,

St. Louis Language Immersion School

,

Tower Grove Christian Academy

and

St. Margaret of Scotland School

. It is great to see such collaborative efforts among the various schools in the area. NextSTL reported on this proposal in October, read the full story

HERE

.

NextSTL also reported earlier this month on a proposed $10M 84,000 square foot development that will bring apartment and town homes to a long vacant stretch of land along DeTonty Street between Thurman and Klemm. Read the full story

HERE

.

So keep your eyes on Shaw, Southwest Garden and Tower Grove South for future improvements and excitement.

Cheers to all those working hard to make St. Louis the great place it can and should be.