BEVO MILL – There’s nothing wrong with the Gravois Avenue business district around the Bevo Mill that a little LOVE and some tall buildings won’t fix. That’s the view that a consulting group threw out at a recent meeting held to discuss developing plans to reinvigorate the area.
Douglas Farr of Farr Associates told about 60 people at a meeting on April 16 that adding some three-to-five-story buildings in the “Bow Tie” of Morganford Road and Gravois around the Bevo Mill might give the area more of an urban scale. As it is, the area is an uninviting flat place with one lonely tall building in the middle.
The meeting at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 4200 Delor St., was part of the Bevo Great Streets Project designed to improve the economic potential for Gravois in the neighborhood. Farr Associates, a Chicago architectural firm, is the project consultant and leader for the effort, which is funded by $500,000 from such sources as the federal government, funds controlled by local aldermen, the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council and the Bevo Community Improvement District.
“What we have here now is an aircraft carrier space of desolation,” Gwendolyn Murray, president of the Better Bevo Now Neighborhood Association, told those at the meeting. Farr had noted that it’s about 900 feet from the Bevo Mill south to the nearest building, a house. That’s almost as long as an aircraft carrier.
Farr also said a good slogan that might attract people could be “Bevo Love.” He showed a picture of four giant sized letters L, O, V, E, in front of a possible new three-to-five story building in the parking lot between Gravois and Morganford south of Bevo Mill.
“We’re proposing with the best of our professional judgment a way to make it special,” Farr said.
The buildings would be mixed use, with commercial on the bottom and dwelling on the upper floors. Using electronic clickers, the largest number of those at the meeting indicated they wanted any buildings to be a medium height. After that, the lowest height was favored, followed by the highest one.
Farr said his group would recommend closing the east-west Delor Street in front of the Bevo Mill as a way of reducing congestion at that corner. That would cut the number of cross streets at that corner from three to two. But it would be fairly expensive to do, he said.
Some people who live east of Gravois don’t favor that because it would force them to make time-consuming detours at the Bevo Mill.
Also, the consultants proposed adding three more crosswalks at Gravois and Morganford.
In another survey by clicker, 75 percent favored having the bike trail go along Gravois, then turn south along Morganford. that would remove the trail from Gravois south of the Bevo Mill.
On another topic, Farr said that two bridges over the Gravois viaduct north of the Bevo Mill are badly in need of repair. One option might be to tear them down and not replace them. The bike and sidewalk might be placed on one side, higher than the streets.
A final proposal will be presented in June at a date to be set. But that won’t be the end of it, said Rob Bennett, CEO of EcoDistricts, which is working on the Gravois Great Streets project. EcoDistricts is a national nonprofit promoting sustainable and equitable development.
Once a plan is finished, there is a question of how much a community wants to implement it, Bennett said.