When you exit northbound 55 onto Memorial Drive, you have two options, continue north on Memorial Drive past the Old Cathedral, or make an immediate right turn to the east, heading down the levee toward the riverfront.
Making the right turn, you're driving along the southern edge of the Arch grounds, the Mississippi River flood wall is a couple of blocks ahead, and on your right side is the sea of concrete support columns for the Poplar Street bridge. It's a sort of no-man's land now. But is there potential for something better?
Chouteau's Landing lies across the divide created by the Poplar Street bridge. You can see it from the Arch side, but you're looking through the eerie landscape of a mostly abandoned area with dozens of cylindrical concrete columns holding up the PSB. The original city street grid under the bridge is intact. The space between the columns is paved with asphalt, striped for surface parking, and is mostly empty and fenced off with 6' cyclone fencing.
It's sort of a haunting feeling, driving the original riverfront street grid, under the PSB, between the support columns holding up the bridge, seeing mostly vacant or underutilized warehouse buildings in the Chouteau's Landing area, and being directly adjacent the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
With so much dead space, existing road network, and underutlized building stock, redevelopment of the area and connection with the Arch and the rest of downtown doesn't seem so much a question of if but how and when?
Planners like to talk about buildings or neighborhoods having "good bones" for redevelopment. In this case of the southern edge of the Arch grounds and its connections to Chouteau's Landing, driving through the support columns of the PSB feels like you're in the middle of big, dry, urban bones. Is there life in those bones? Can the planning for the future of the Arch help bring back the area and improve the vitality of the Arch and downtown in the process?