In the last post I casually mentioned the concept of a retail bridge for Grand Boulevard. It took me a while but I finally found the example that I had referred to. In 2004 a developer added retail to both sides of a Columbus Ohio bridge spanning a major interstate that created a pedestrian barrier.
St. Louis is planning to rebuild the existing Grand bridge by adding a landscaped median as well as wider sidewalks and bike lanes. The intent is to make it more pedestrian friendly so that St. Louis University to the north and their medical center campus to the south are better connected. You can dress up a bridge all you like but it is still hundreds of feet of dead space. No amount of median planting will make it pedestrian friendly.
In Columbus a developer was granted the right to basically construct two new bridges over the interstate highway, each on the side of the existing bridge. By doing so pedestrians and drivers alike don’t really reailze they are on a bridge at all — it simply becomes a city street.
The Grand bridge spans railroad tracks, the existing MetroLink line and the eastbound lanes of I-64 (hwy 40 to locals). The actual width of the tracks and highway is quite short. The rest of the bridge just spans industrial land.
Forget the planted medians on the bridge. They add weight, require maintenance and widen the distance from one side to the next. The do create safe crossing zones but I’ll address that in other ways.
Have four lanes of traffic, two in each direction. This is basically what is on Grand to the north and south of the bridge already.
Allow on-street parking just as you would on any other urban street. You might have some bus areas near MetroLink but otherwise make it urban.
Add one “intersection” along the span. This would ideally be at the MetroLink stop so as to create a proper street crossing.
One additional intersection might do well further south that would allow for car entrances into parking garages on both sides. Drivers could pull into a garage that would basically be built below the street-level retail, about 4-5 levels worth. At grade the structure could have street-level retail to serve the future greenway development area. This would provide more than enough parking for the retail above and adjacent to Grand.
In addition to building structured parking the area could have office and condo uses to compliment the street-level retail. The office space could include high-tech bio-med facilities as part of the CORTEX plan.
This bridge turned retail street could serve as a needed campus hangout area for both SLU campuses. It could include a coffee house (or two) as well as a copy center like a Kinko’s.
With plenty of structured parking, on-street parking, bus routes and MetroLink this could be a happening spot! With land on each side of the tracks and highway we’d be building not bridges but buildings that happen to have a floor that aligns with the bridge sidewalks.
Here is my proposal:
Before all the naysayers try to explain why we cannot be urban let me try to address a few points. The area has already been blighted and is going to be redeveloped. Building new buildings up to the existing bridge is feasible, perhaps more so than the plan to add width and medians to the current structure. Also, we can be urban and what better place to create an urban street than at a location with a MetroLink light rail stop and between two major university campuses.
Biz Journal story on Grand bridge project
Cap at Union Station, Columbus OH