Thursday, October 23, 2008

Arch Plans for Memorial Drive and the Depressed Lanes


The content of this post has been updated to reflect clarifications about the Arch design process as described at the Platform editorial page of STL Today.

The original STL Rising post discussed language in the National Park Service's "Alternative 5 - Park in the City". In Alternative 5, there is reference to rerouting Memorial Drive, and in its place developing urban plazas. With the new sculpture park on the Gateway Mall, the plaza on the north side of the Old Post Office, and the Arch itself, downtown already has significant areas dedicated to plazas and open space.

Hence, the idea of developing more urban plazas and open space downtown is a rallying point for opposition among urbanists. Many downtown advocates are calling for increased density in the form of more residential, employment, and retail uses.

STL Rising has been an advocate for exploring the potential of vacating the depressed lanes in front of the Arch and improving Memorial Drive as a grand urban street. The west side of a new Memorial Drive might be an area to provide sidewalk cafes and storefront space with views of the Arch.

At STL Today's Platform blog, the National Park Service provides clarification regarding design options possible under the proposed design competition for the future of the Arch.

The Platform is reporting that according to official statements released by the National Park Service, vacating the I-70 depressed lanes and rebuilding Memorial Drive are possible alternatives for consideration in the design competition.

To read the full Platform editorial click here.

Thanks to the Platform for helping to clarify this issue.


Doug Duckworth said...

The only solution is to remove the highway. Building the highway through Downtown was a mistake. Removal of the highway might increase my travel time, as I live on the South Side and work on the North Side, but it would enliven Downtown. It's time we thought of Downtown first and our selfish laziness second.

Anonymous said...

Agree but the highway is not part of the Arch grounds. The problem here is the main players (NPS, Modot and the City) are at odds and guess which of the two that govern our roads is the strongest?

Danforth Report: "the aggregate cost [is] $418 million... the Mayor's vision of a distinctive world-class destination and activity center is not feasible."

Danforth now: "This language appears to create possibly insurmountable barriers to creating the world-class destination attraction we recommend."

The Chesterfield mindset wins. Slay wants to serve them more than a theory about urban design.

Rick Bonasch said...

Technically, the highway *is* part of the Arch grounds. The Memorial extends all the way across to the western edge of Memorial Drive.

The highway has a right of way over it, but if it were to abandoned, the underlying owner of the real estate is the National Park Service, not MoDot or the City of St. Louis.

One of the challenges facing this design process is the determining of timing and priorities. Connectivity is a huge challenge. It's a problem with or without new programming.

Should we focus on first getting the best possible solution to connectivity concerns (things which can be done without any real disruption to the Arch), see where we are, then proceed from there?

Another challenge is sustaining energy and interest in this issue. Are people getting worn out by the process, or are they getting mroe energized?

The idea of major design competiton could bring great interest in our city, and be a way of marketing our ongoing renaissance to the rest of the country and world.

Who cares about St. Louis? Invite the world to a design competition linked to a world class iconic landmark, and we will see.

GMichaud said...

The arch grounds is so disconnected from the surrounding city that it is an urban planning nightmare.
A world architectural competition would be great.
Included in the competition should be a discussion of how the arch should fit with a larger vision downtown including north, south and the river.
They could not have made the grounds more inaccessible if it had a moat and castle walls surrounding the arch.
An architectural competition, if handled properly, should become a debate on city planning problems and solutions.
This, rather than the predetermined, trophy public hearings that are designed to exclude the public. This is the norm, take for example the sculpture park in Gateway Mall or Highway 40 Project.
It seems to me it is time for serious change. Creation of cities that make sense, with a strong central city transit system and a
sustainable, energy efficient foundation. This is much talked about, with little action.
Everyone is worried about MoDot etc, hell with them, they are the problem. We can never build an effective city while waiting for the likes of MoDot to give their blessing. Find new partners, and with new ideas, the new partners will be there.
If an arch competition cannot be used to open a debate about the city, then an architectural competition would be useless.

Ted Y. said...

With the McKinley bridge coming online and a new cross Mississippi bridge being planned, I think that cars shold once again be taken off the Eads Bridge. The historic bridge could then be turned into a pedestrian plaza with restaurants, shops, viewing areas, etc. which are missing around the arch.

I also believe that a design competition could bring a lot of positive attention to the area. Perhaps a discussion of the history of the property could be included to determine how and why some decisions were made, and what effect these decisions had on the larger surrounding area. A design competition also allows us to reach out to new partners in new ways. How about partnering with Google and their Sketch Up software to allow as many people as possible to submit their ideas and plans in a more concrete format?

Anonymous said...


The McKinley Bridge has been open for almost a year now. The Eads Bridge carries over 10,000 cars a day and its reopening to traffic cost MO and IL a fortune -- we can't afford to close it.