Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chouteau's Landing - Connections Waiting to Happen

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?

3 comments:

Greg G. said...

I'm curious to hear idea's for this area that actually tie it into the rest of the city. It has the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the city by way of the convergence of 64 and 55 along with the train tracks that run through the area and the massive electrical tower.

I know Stephen Murphy has tried to redevelop this area, but it appears that will not occur. There is a very nice group of buildings that could serve as a "village" of sorts to a new community there and a better connector to the memorial and the removal of some of those raised tracks (if not in use) could serve the area well.

Rick Bonasch said...

Greg,

Thanks for your post. I'm thinking the same thing, and just did a new post to focus on that topic.

RB

Brian said...

I have to think there is some very creative and highly unconventional way of connecting Chouteau's Landing with the Arch grounds and the rest of downtown, but it will certainly be difficult. Maybe some sort of "arts walk," that could incorporate the pillars from the highways - use them as sculpture, decorate them, etc.