With the Danforth Foundation continuing its pursuit of a major new downtown attraction at the Arch grounds, STL Rising has a suggestion to add to the conversation. Given the ongoing redevelopment of the City of St. Louis - and the industrial midwest - what about establishing a national institute for community renewal, and headquartering the project right here in St. Louis?
When it comes to community redevelopment, St. Louis is a national leader. In the Arch, we have one of the most dramatic redevelopment projects ever. And while St. Louis is a pioneer in the area of redevelopment, we still have a lot of work to do. The institute could become a working center to promote the best in redevelopment practices, with St. Louis serving as both host city and implementation practitioner.
One possible location for the institute is the Bottle District site on the north side of downtown. If I-70 were removed through downtown (another ongoing renewal program - and emerging best practice), the Bottle District site offers unobstructed views of the Arch - possibly from multiple floors of a new dramatic, "green" building. Imagine conference rooms with windows facing downtown and the Arch.
Thinking outside of the box...literally...perhaps the project could be an expansion of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and tie in with the Danforth Foundation's plans? This way, the new attraction proposed by Danforth would not alter the landscape of the current Memorial, yet would still be an intergral part of the national park. The park would be crossing I-70 (or perhaps a new Memorial Drive) into downtown!
Such a facility would have natural ties to business, government, and academia. Local universities and national corporations would have much in common with the institute's mission. For government, smart redevelopment is an ongoing challenge and national priority. The institute would provide an important public purpose and service.
The site connects to downtown, the riverfront and Metrolink, giving it excellent locational advantages. Architecturally, such a facility would be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the creative reuse of an abandoned industrial site.
As an institute for community renewal, the facility would have long term significance, since we will always be looking for new and better ways for solving the challenges of community redevelopment.
There would be opportunties to explore social issues, community design approaches, legal and organizational models, and historic preservation and green building techniques.
Imagine entering St. Louis from the north side of downtown. Somwhere around Cass Avenue, I-70 gracefully transitions into a major urban boulevard, with the skyline of downtown in the background. As you approach downtown, one of the first buildings you see is a beautiful, modern institute, built of steel and glass, home of America's "Institute of _________". What a welcome center that would be!
First off, the center needs a good name...