Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mansion House owner on highway removal

From today's Post Dispatch:

"An economic boost"

Five teams have unveiled their visions for revamping the Arch grounds and riverfront, and it's encouraging to see that all five teams support the eventual removal of Interstate 70 through downtown. This plan has been strongly promoted by the volunteer group City to River and will be the key to reconnecting downtown, the Arch and the Mississippi River and spurring downtown economic development.

As an owner of the Mansion House complex on Fourth Street, my New York-based company has invested and re-invested in downtown over the past 21 years. As a father, I have fond memories of traveling to St. Louis from the East Coast with my family to visit the Arch grounds.

Being a New Yorker, I have a unique perspective. I witnessed the elimination of the Westside Highway in Manhattan and the creation of a grand boulevard south of 57th Street, joining the city with the Hudson River and creating a myriad of residential, tourist, recreational and business activities. In St. Louis, I-70 is creating barriers for tourists and residents looking to gather downtown and is hindering future investment by property owners along the eastern edge of downtown.

Should City to River's proposal to replace I-70 with an urban boulevard move forward, the property across from the Arch could be transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly venue, providing a significant economic and tourism boost for the city.

Louis Tallarini • New York

Monday, August 30, 2010

Framing the Question

All five Arch design teams have stated their support for highway removal as the ultimate best solution for reconnecting downtown to the Arch grounds and riverfront. So where do we go from here?

The issue now becomes a challenge to planners and civil engineers. How to frame the question? Is highway removal a "go" or "no-go" proposition? Is the program subject to an "either/or" determination of feasible or infeasible?

Or, do we take the can-do approach of how do we make this work? Problems and challenges need solutions, which is the whole point of the Arch competition: to find solutions to problems and challenges, especially challenges of reestablishing lost connections.

Traffic people speak of "levels of service" (LOS). They strive for acceptable levels of service (ease of traffic flow), with an understanding that the LOS will fluctuate according to various times of day and demands on the system.

Ultimately, our course on highway removal will depend on the will of the community. The design teams have all said highway removal is the best solution. So now will St. Louis support or call for such a change?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Arch Redesign - More than Just Building Stuff

Architects as community developers

As the details begin to emerge in the Arch design competition, and the jury carries out its role, it's becoming clear that this effort to reconnect the city, the Arch, and the river is about more than cool new designs and structures on or about the Arch, it's ultimately about the life of a city, the region, and its people.

The jury is asking questions about markets, sustainability, phasing, and feasibility. The teams are talking about budgets, community participation, and public support. The builders of the Arch created a great structure and landmark. Today's designers are trying to create community.

The teams, the jury, and ultimately St. Louis is challenged to build community back into our riverfront, the east bank, and downtown. It's a huge challenge that rivals any in this region's history. It's about building a sustainable future for St. Louis. Creating connections and leveraging of effort will be a key factor of success.

This project is as much more about us as a community as it is the Arch grounds as a physical environment. What an exciting challenge indeed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Front and Center in St. Louis

Today at the America's Center in downtown St. Louis, the five finalist teams in the Arch design competition will make their case before a jury of national community design leaders. The jury is charged with choosing the winning team design that will lead the remake the Arch grounds and reconnection of downtown St. Louis.

Front and center in St. Louis is the Arch. The Arch is both a national monument and the international icon of St. Louis. The Arch stands between the Mississippi River and downtown. However, running down the middle of the three is an obtrusive interstate highway. As the highway has long been identified as the number one barrier dividing downtown from the Arch grounds and riverfront, this blog, along with many other writers in St. Louis, have pushed for planning the removal of the downtown lanes of the interstate as a key part of the conversation in the reworking of downtown connections.

Meanwhile, planning for highway removals, as part of an overall economic and community development strategy for downtown areas, has become a national movement. STL Rising has identified over fifteen other completed or concurrent highway efforts. With the Arch design competition the catalyst, and a nationally seated jury deciding the course, St. Louis could lay a further foundation for possibilities of highway removal efforts around the country.

Proponents of highway removal suggest that these highways through the hearts of our nation's cities were mistakes in the first place. As they now are surpassing their useful lives, cities are revisiting ways to reimagine their downtowns. St. Louis is in the forefront of this effort with the Arch design competition and efforts to reorient the city to face its riverfront.

The design teams will be front and center before the Arch design competition jury today. The jury is front and center in setting policies for how St. Louis will work for the next century. And the St. Louis community stands at the threshold of making all this happen. The Arch stands for discovery. Today St. Louis is on an historic odyssey of discovery. The outcome is sure to be outstanding. These are great times to be part of St. Louis.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STL has lots of company in quest for highway removal...

Nationwide Downtown Highway Removal Projects - Completed or Proposed:

I-64 along the Ohio River - Louisville

I-84 Aetna Viaduct - Hartford

Alaskan Way Viaduct -Seattle

Sheridan Expwy - Bronx NY

The Skyway and Route 5 - Buffalo

Route 34 -New Haven CT

Claiborn Expwy - New Orleans

Interstate 81 - Syracuse

Route 29 - Trenton

Gardiner Expwy -Toronto

11th Street Bridges and Southeast Fwy - Washington DC

Downtown lanes of I-70 - St.Louis

Milwaukee Park East Freeway (complete)

Portland waterfront (complete)

Embarcadero - San Francisco (complete)

Central Freeway - Octavia Boulevard
San Francisco (complete)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Arch Competition Public Comment Period Closes Today

Commenting is easy. Click here and post your comment today.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Time for a riverfront traffic study?

If you've ever driven the surface streets of downtown St. Louis which connect to the central riverfront and Arch grounds, then you know first hand the barriers created by the elevated and depressed lanes of I-70. Streets are confusing; there are few good connections; and, routes are frequently cut off, sending unwitting drivers over bridges they didn't intend to take.

With Arch Competition finalists joining City to River in the call for downtown highway removal, and as we ready for major improvements to the Arch grounds and east bank, it's time for St. Louis to examine traffic issues of our downtown, Arch, and riverfront areas. In so doing we can identify traffic solutions, including possible highway removal, so that we will fully enjoy and connect with the benefits of our revitalized riverfront and Arch grounds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Phasing in the new boulevard

Support is growing for City to River's vision for removing the downtown lanes of I-70 between the riverfront and downtown after the opening of the new I-70 bridge.

The challenge of solving logistics is high on the priority list of planning this project. How would you like to see construction of the new boulevard phased? Here are some ideas.

Opening of the new I-70 bridge is scheduled for 2014. With the slow economy, it's possible the project will be completed ahead of schedule.

Starting in the Fall of 2010, planning and engineering for the new boulevard and highway removal begins. City to River works to engage interested parties in keeping project on track.

Upon opening of the new bridge, close the former I-70 downtown elevated lanes between the new I-70 bridge and the Poplar Street Bridge. I-55 traffic is directed onto Memorial Drive or across Poplar Street Bridge. I-70 traffic is rerouted across the new bridge or onto city surface streets.

Demolish the old elevated lanes and grind the rubble for clean fill. Recycle structural steel from the elevated lanes. According to engineered plans, begin process of filling in the depressed lanes. Bring the void of the depressed lanes up to grade. During this time, Memorial Drive remains open.

Once depressed lanes are brought to grade, demolish the transition between the old walls of the trench and Memorial Drive. According to engineered plans, compact the entire area creating the roadbed for construction of the lanes of the new Memorial Drive, on-street parking, and landscape medians and other amenities.

Schedule all work to be completed within one year of completion of opening of the new I-70 bridge. With this schedule, the new boulevard is open nearly on the same schedule as the new improvements to the Arch grounds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arch Design Competition Public Comment Window Open

Competition comment period open this week. To celebrate the ongoing effort, City to River is hosting a community event tonight at the Schlafly Tap Room

Yesterday, five exciting visions were revealed that point toward a bright future for the Arch Grounds and downtown St. Louis.

The proposals unveiled make clear that the teams agree with City to River’s supporters that highway removal is the ultimate solution to fully reconnecting the city with the Arch and riverfront.

From four of the five finalist teams:

“City to River articulates an enormous number of benefits arising from such a scheme…”

- SOM Team

“..the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear...”

- MVVA Team

“Full Circle’s grand loop of transportation facilities could be easily integrated into its [City to River’s] design."

-Weiss-Manfredi Team

"We predict fanfare should the elevated highway that cuts off Laclede’s Landing be removed."

- The Behnisch Team

Come to the Schlafly Tap Room Club Room tonight (7:30 p.m., 2100 Locust Street) to show your support for highway removal! Have your voice heard on this pivotal regional issue. The event is FREE.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Invasion from the north

Saturday night the Minnesota Vikings paid a visit to St. Louis. They played the St. Louis Rams in the first pre-season game of the 2010 season. The Vikings won the game handily, giving rookie Rams QB Sam Bradford a dose of NFL medicine. With the holes in the Rams offensive line, this might be a long season for Bradford and the Rams. But the real question is whether the Rams are long for St. Louis? Can St. Louis compete in the NFL game?

The Rams are for sale and the top bidder is minority owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke has been cagey in his responses about his commitment to keep the team in St. Louis. Meanwhile, in 2014, the Rams have an escape clause in their lease for the Edward Jones Dome. If the Dome is not considered in the upper eschelon of NFL stadiums, the Rams are free to move. A lot has to happen in order to meet that requirement.

For this pre-season matchup, the Rams played in a stadium that was only about 70% filled. Of those in attendance, a large number had driven down from Minnesota to watch the game. Given the lack of a sellout, the game was not broadcast live in St. Louis. Last year, many regular season Rams games did not sell out, preventing the game from live television broadcast in St. Louis. Low attendance at games combined with a lack of local live broadcasts feeds on itself in a downward spiral of dwindling fan interest.

Meanwhile, out in LA, plans are in the works and financing is coming together for a brand new $1 billion dollar football mecca, replete with all the luxuries desired to put LA on the dance card to be a regular Super Bowl host city. Can St. Louis compete with that? Not likely.

St. Louis is a metro of 2.5 million. The greater LA area has 15 million. Whether for filling the stadium with fans or setting ad rates for televised games, LA has huge market demand to offer the new Rams ownership.

LA is the sentimental hometown of the Rams. The playing years of many of their Hall of Fame legends are based in LA. The Warner, Bruce, Holt years in St. Louis made great history. But with the soon to be voided stadium lease in St. Louis and tempting conditions shaping up in LA, does St. Louis have a prayer in keeping the Rams? If we lose the team to another market, will St. Louis ever be home city to an NFL team again?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illinois Gems

Illinois is a state filled with rare treasures. The small towns and farms, and beautiful court houses hold many wonderful surprises.

Adorning a small conference room in a central Illinois municipal office, is a work of art completed as part of the Public Works of Art Project, also known as the Federal Art Project.

It's interesting to note that over 70 years ago, at a time of economic stress, the federal government intervened not only in providing public works projects but also public art projects.

The work pictured above was completed in 1934. A brass plaque at the bottom of the frame reads, "Public Works of Art". The painting is signed "John Stephen 34". I wonder what the subject is? The mood is an awesome reflection of the times.

Beers for a Boulevard

No, we're not talking about Boulevard Ale, it's City to River along with STL Style sponsoring an event at the headquarters of St. Louis' largest locally owned brewer, Schlafly, to celebrate the culmination of the Arch design competition.

Join friends and neighbors for a fun evening in a beautiful setting in support of efforts to reconnect the City, the Arch and the River. For more information, check out the Facebook invitation here:

Facebook Invite

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Riverfront, Arch poised to be downtown's next hot spot?

Washington Avenue led the way through the late 90s and early - mid 2000s. Will the riverfront area and Arch grounds be the center of excitement for the next big wave of downtown renewal?

Check out the list of downtown stakeholders supporting City to River's proposal to open up the downtown/riverfront area through highway removal and creation of a new Memorial Drive:

City to River releases it's expanded list of supporters

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Gateway to a new legacy"

That's the title of a recent City to River blog entry. The Arch design competition is reaching its final stage.

Soon the five finalist design teams will unveil their proposals and St. Louis will face a decision that will redefine her downtown and the region for the next fifty to one hundred years.

Much has been written about the planning mistakes of the past. Actions now will lay new foundations for our future. Not since the passing of the riverboat era has St. Louis had such importance placed on its riverfront.

The projected budget for the total program (low estimate, for Missouri and Illinois) is over $300,000,000. When it was first built (1960s dollars) the cost of the Arch was about $13 million.

Will you work to make dreams reality? We are on a community odyssey setting course for a new future. Will hope and vision prevail over cynicism and naysaying?

It's up to each of us to make a difference. We can do this. Let's watch and work for great things.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Outpouring of support for highway removal at Arch design competition website

From the City + Arch + River Design Competition website "Community Connections" page, there is a huge outpouring of support for City to River's vision of removing the highway between the Arch and downtown and replacing it with an at-grade, urban boulevard. Below is a sample of the comments. Click on the highlighted text to read them all and add your own.

"I support removing the section of I-70 between Cass Ave and Poplar Street and replacing it with a boulevard. I support the City to River plan. www.citytoriver.org"

- Jill M.

“I would like to voice my support of City to River’s concept of removing Interstate 70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to Cass Avenue and replacing it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. I believe that a new Memorial Drive would reopen the front door for St. Louis and connect the city, the Arch and the river more completely. As citizens of Saint Louis, we have an unique opportunity to revitalize our Mississippi riverfront during the renovation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the construction of the new Mississippi river bridge. Let us use this opportunity to create a more vital connection with our city’s grand lifestream. Please incorporate this concept into your design! ”

- Mark C

"I grew up in St. Louis and am among those that have always considered the I-70 crossing through downtown as a near fatal gash through the heart of the city. For a city that boasts a history with the river, we have isolated ourselves and our downtown from that source of so much rich history. This is an opportunity that I did not think would come in my life time; the chance to remove the highway from blocking access to the river, and the Arch, from downtown. I implore the designers to incorporate a new Memorial Drive and removal of I-70 from downtown as part of rejuvenating St. Louis and giving us back our river. Without direct access to the Arch and the River, I’m sorry but we are not a river city and should refrain from calling ourselves as such. Thank you for the chance to voice my opinion."

- Dennis N

"I like this plan and since I moved here 9 years ago I have wondered why it hasn’t already been done."

- James W