Sunday, May 23, 2010

On Our Way to Reopening Our Front Door: One Down, One to Go

Friday marked a monumental milestone in undoing the planning mistakes of the past with the ceremonial first blows of the wrecking ball to St. Louis Centre bridge over Washington Avenue.  Once the St. Louis Centre bridges are history though St. Louis should continue this momentum of re-connectivity eastward with removal of the final barrier between Downtown and Laclede's Landing, Arch grounds and Chouteau's Landing as is being promoted by the volunteer citizen group City to River.  

The removal of the St. Louis Centre sky bridges will open up a quadrant of Downtown that has seen little revitalization over the last decade as most projects have tended to be concentrated in the Loft District, Post Office Square, or scattered south of Locust Street.  Much potential lies in this once isolated corner of Downtown, especially with the proximity to the convention center and Edward Jones dome.  To truly reopen the front door of a revitalized Downtown St. Louis to the riverfront though replacement of the soon to be former interstate (I-70 will be re-routed across the new Mississippi River bridge) with a pedestrian and retail friendly boulevard is essential.
As our region competes for major conventions, including the upcoming 2012 Democratic National Convention, creating an environment that is an attractive place to visit and walk around is critical.  For decades we have invested in major infrastructure including the convention center, the airport, the dome, etc to attract major conventions, but we have failed to look at at the environment where visitors will spend their time walking around Downtown on their free time.  With the Arch and riverfront as major attractions, it only seems logical that the areas surrounding them should be attractive and desirable places to be.  It is time we reopen the front door of Downtown to these amenities for which St. Louis is known world wide by saying goodbye to the highway.

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