Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Is Time We Reopen Our Front Door

Construction of the Gateway Arch and Interstate 70 in 1964

For the first 200 years of its existence, St. Louis was well connected to the Mississippi River.  Through much of the 19th century the riverfront remained the center of commerce and the lifeblood of a growing metropolis.  Even after demolition of 40 square blocks of buildings in 1940-42 to make way for a new memorial to westward continental expansion, connection to the riverfront, while weakened, was not completely severed.  In 1964, as St. Louis was celebrating it's 200th birthday, construction began on the Gateway Arch.  At the same time that the elegant ribbon of reinforced concrete sheathed in gleaming stainless steel began to rise into the skyline though, another larger and not so elegant ribbon of concrete, steel and asphalt ripped gashes through the landscape of St. Louis cutting us off from our new national park, with its gleaming centerpiece monument, the neighborhoods to the north and south and from the river itself from whence our City was born.  Forty six years later we remain physically and psychologically separated from our riverfront.

Welcome to St. Louis!... or is it Berlin, circa 1985

This morning City to River, an all volunteer citizen group launched its website which illustrates how St. Louis can reopen its front door.  City to River has been active since early 2009 looking at ways to improve connections to the Arch grounds, Laclede's Landing, Chouteau's Landing and our riverfront.  We came to the conclusion that real reconnection could only come with the of complete removal of Interstate 70 from the Poplar Street Bridge north to Cass Avenue and replacement with a new pedestrian friendly Memorial Drive at street level.
Graphic by Kara Clark Holland, who also built the C2R website

The map above shows how the City's street grid would once again connect with the Arch grounds and the riverfront neighborhoods to the north and south.  Reclaimed land form the former Interstate right-of-way could be available for construction of new pedestrian friendly buildings facing the new boulevard or extensions of the existing buildings which now mostly turn their back to the Interstate. 

Rendering of the New Memorial Drive at Spruce St. by Andrew Faulkner

Take a tour of the site and see the possibilities for yourself.  Please consider joining us and how we can transform what is currently an unwelcoming series of barriers into a new front door for St. Louis.  


bob said...

wow, look at that, very creative and inspiring, I wish I could design something like that

Anonymous said...

That modern streetlight in the rendering about is ridiculous. No way do I want something like that downtown. We have too much of it on Washington Avenue the way it is.

john w. said...

It's about much more than streetlights.

john w. said...

"Please consider joining us..."

What can those interested expect from the City to River group itself? I'm sure many are now quite interested.

Term paper said...

It’s great to see good information being shared and also to see fresh, creative ideas that have never been done before.

Vanishing STL said...

Thanks. This has actually been done in many cities including San Francisco, Portland, Milwaukee and other. Many more cities are considering removing portions of highways to transform their environment as well.