Construction of the Gateway Arch and Interstate 70 in 1964
Photo from the Western Historical Manuscript Collection
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.
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.