Construction along MetroLink in Maplewood

Construction near the Sunnen MetroLink stop in Maplewood on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Construction began a few months ago on a $100 million project on Hanley Road south of Manchester. It includes a 174-unit apartment building, a Maserati and Alfa Romeo dealership, and a Porsche dealership. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

Other than a sea of parking and a few vending machines, the North Hanley Metro station near Interstate 70 offers little for those waiting for buses or a MetroLink train.

Plans already are in the works for big improvements to the area around the station. The University of Missouri-St. Louis is in discussions with private landowners near the station, and by the UMSL South station, to develop additional housing or retail nearby. The university owns land near the stations and is trying to come up with a plan with other landowners to build more densely around them — it could be months away from finalizing a plan with other landowners and developers for construction around the Hanley station.

Later this month, the station itself will get a closer look. It will be the first MetroLink station to get a three-hour “walk audit” to help determine what can be done to make it a place where people want to go for more than just boarding and exiting transit.

The goal is for such a station to become a destination for things to do such as maybe meeting friends for coffee, buying groceries or taking time to relax and unwind, said Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.

“We’re not looking for a to-do list for Metro,” she said, although Metro Transit is involved in the project being spearheaded by Cella’s group, which advocates for light rail expansion, and AARP in St. Louis. Other groups involved include Washington University, UMSL and the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council.

Instead, they’re looking for immediate things that can be done to make the stations better places to be — and for groups that might take on a project to improve a station, whether that’s a government group or area employer. Once they have ideas, they can pursue funding that could be from grants.

Sheila Holm, community outreach director of AARP in St. Louis, said those ideas include everything from adding more benches to new parks, as well as bringing in food trucks and providing places to buy fresh food.

Food trucks would be nice, said Sharron Smith as she waited for a train at the North Hanley station on Friday. So would a cafe like the one in the North County Transit Center, which opened to bus riders in March.

But what she really wants at the station are more basic amenities.

“A bathroom would be the No. 1 thing,” said Smith, of Moline Acres. She also wishes more security officers would be at the station, saying she sometimes doesn’t feel safe.

Cella said better lighting and landscaping also will be examined as part of the project.

“We want to create a sense of confidence in the safety and security of the station,” she said.

The North Hanley station, which is near Express Scripts and the NorthPark business park, is the first of three MetroLink stations to be examined by the architecture and design firm Arcturis. The station will get its audit Aug. 24. Additional analyses will be done at the Forest Park station on Sept. 16, and at the Delmar station Oct. 14.

To join the groups who will be looking at the stations call Citizens for Modern Transit at 314-231-7272, or visit bit.ly/WalkAudit. You can email your comments to info@cmt-stl.org.

A final report is hoped to be completed by mid-November.