Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Planning for the future of the Arch and downtown

Preferred alternative for Arch seeks program expansion, better downtown connections

"Preliminary Alternative 3 - Program Expansion" is the National Park Service's preferred alternative for the General Management Plan for the Arch. Highlights of the Alternative 3 include the possibility of expanded programming at the Arch and increasing the connectivity between the downtown, Laclede's Landing, and Chouteau's Landing neighborhood.

An open design competition will be held to determine the best solution to accomplishing the priorities set out in the preferred alternative. The area targeted for the design competition is bounded by Memorial Drive, Washington Avenue, Poplar Street, Luther Ely Smith Square (the small park between the Old Court House and Memorial Drive), and the north and south reflecting ponds on the Arch ground.

By selecting Alternative 3 as the preferred alternative, the National Park Service has created flexibility in the planning process. A wide range of possibilities exist, and will ultimately be decided through a(n) (international) design competition. Given the stature of the Arch, we can expect the best designers from around the world to enter the competition.

The Arch is beautiful geometry, as is the overall Jefferson National Memorial site. Likewise, the Old Courthouse has beautiful lines. The planning process for its future has been taken in a new, exciting direction, with the National Park Service inviting participation from the best minds on earth to rethink the future of the Arch for the next 50-100 years.

The Arch site is located at the original settlement of St. Louis. The city expanded from this site. Given the opportunity to rethink the way the Arch connects to downtown, should St. Louis match this opportunity to think about the way the city connects to the riverfront? Is their a synergy possible at this once in a lifetime planning process for our downtown and riverfront?

By selecting Alternative 3 as the preferred alternative, the National Park Service appears to be seeking a broader perspective in the planning approach for the future of the Arch and the adjacent downtown area. That is a very encouraging sign.

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