By. Chris Stritzel
Today, the City of Kirkwood released a 180 page Master Plan document for their Downtown which addresses everything from parking to housing to stores and the pedestrian experience. First off, the study concluded that parking in Kirkwood is already scarce and packed once the weekend rolls around and during normal business hours. The amount of parking lots and structures should solve this issue, but they are always filled. One thing that can be blamed for this is how a majority of Kirkwood's residents do not work ion Kirkwood they work elsewhere in the region which means more people need cars to go places which makes the parking lots and garages full.
This parking issue will not be fixed easily as a new Performing Arts Center at 240 East Monroe Avenue has been proposed (which will further add to the stress of the lack of parking). It will also remove some City owned space from the Southeastern End of Downtown which will help draw people to this end of Downtown. The theater is proposed to be 500 seats in size and will move the existing theater from Geyer Avenue to Downtown.
Elsewhere in Kirkwood, the plan to make the area more walkable and welcoming to Millennials is quite ambitious. Tons of parking lots will be displaced for new structures ranging from Boutique Hotels to missing middle housing to shops and more parking. This plan especially comes to life around the train station and the soon to be built Performing Arts Center. All of this space will basically be displaced for the new uses specified above and to make Downtown Kirkwood more walkable and enjoyable.
One unique aspect of this proposal is a think called "Kirk-Walk" which will be a pedestrian oriented street (even though there is a small alley running through it) which connects a new Jefferson Street parking garage to Argonne and the train station which will include shops, restaurants and more. Furthermore, the parking lot to the West of the train station currently would be replaced with a boutique hotel and retail building to fully connect the "Kirk-Walk" to the train station and beyond. To the East of the train station, the old farmers market will be redeveloped and made larger while the parking lot over there sets up nicely to be a mixed use development with ground level shops being top priority.
The only curb cuts here are for the train station drop off zone and pick up zone along with a small alley street in the "Kirk-Walk"
Down by the Performing Arts Center, the desolate area will become lively with housing and shops in what will be known as the "Midtown-Theater District". This area will be home to a boutique hotel, apartments and some missing middle housing developments which will provide Kirkwood with the much needed housing for that category. All of this infill development will have their own parking (one spot per housing unit). It is going to be crammed but it is worth it in the long run.
One last aspect of the Master Plan is the Road Diets which will come out of it. Kirkwood Road will be completely redone so that the sidewalks are wider by 3 feet, they are landscaped with trees and that parallel parking buffers pedestrians from the street. On Argonne, the median will grow and sidewalks will grow while angled parking is removed for parallel parking. Once again, this is to make the walk across the street easier and quicker, it will also provide a pivotal link for the "Kirk-Walk".
Along with this, the UMB Bank building in Kirkwood is being eyed for a Grocery Store which would take some stress off of Global Foods and provide more options for residents in Kirkwood. This store would be connected via the cross block passage as seen in the first image which would be a pivotal link between Taylor and Clay avenues.
Overall, this plan lays the groundwork through 2035, about 17 years and based on how Kirkwood is going currently, I see this getting done before 2035. The demand for the new housing and boutique hotels is there, but it is just a matter of getting it done in an orderly fashion while retaining Kirkwood's character and charm. The first piece of the puzzle to make everything work out correctly, is solving the parking issue then building the Performing Arts Center to get the ball rolling on this truly great Downtown Master Plan.
DPZ Company Design of Miami, Washington DC, Portland and Berlin is the planner.