St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Inaugurated Half A Century Ago

 

 Fifty years ago today was the inauguration of the Gateway Arch, 10 months after the trams began taking visitors to the top: . The arch’s visitor center opened on June 10, 1967, and the tram began operating on July 24. The arch was dedicated by [VP Hubert] Humphrey on May …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen, One New Board Bill Week 6 of 2018-2019 Session

 

 Because of the Memorial Day weekend the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, rather than on Friday. This is their 6th meeting of the 2018-2019 session. Today’s agenda includes one new bill: B.B.#67 – Coatar – An ordinance to terminate and dissolve the Orpheum Theater Community District pursuant …

Opinion: Wholesale Demolition Has Not Served St Louis Well, Yet Many Still Think It Is The Solution

 

 I applaud KMOV’s Doug Vaughn for raising questions about the appearance of the riverfront to the north & south of the Arch grounds. Yes, we can and should improve these areas. If you’re  unfamilar, see the following three Doug Unplugged videos: Urban Decay We can preserve historic buildings and still revitalize the riverfront …

Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

 

 Enclosed walkways over public sidewalks are generally a bad idea — removing pedestrians from the public realm. However, with these elevated walkways often comes the real culprits to killing sidewalk life: blank walls, inward focus, etc. A prime example of what not to do in a downtown was downtown St. …

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St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Inaugurated Half A Century Ago

May 25, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Inaugurated Half A Century Ago
 
Looking toward the Arch from 4th Street, July 2014

Fifty years ago today was the inauguration of the Gateway Arch, 10 months after the trams began taking visitors to the top: .

The arch’s visitor center opened on June 10, 1967, and the tram began operating on July 24.

The arch was dedicated by [VP Hubert] Humphrey on May 25, 1968. He declared that the arch was “a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday with the richer future of tomorrow” and brings a “new purpose” and a “new sense of urgency to wipe out every slum.” “Whatever is shoddy, whatever is ugly, whatever is waste, whatever is false, will be measured and condemned” in comparison to the Gateway Arch. About 250,000 people were expected to attend, but rain canceled the outdoor activities. The ceremony had to be transferred into the visitor center. After the dedication, Humphrey crouched beneath an exit as he waited for the rain to subside so he could walk to his vehicle. (Wikipedia)

Here’s an abbreviated  timeline leading up to the inauguration:

  • December 15, 1933: Proposal to raze original village for a riverfront memorial
  • December 21, 1935: President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an executive order approving a riverfront memorial
  • January 27, 1939: With 82 acres of property taken via condemnation, demolition of 40 city blocks began
  • May 30, 1947; Design competition opened
  • September 1, 1947: Submissions received
  • February 18, 1948: Design jury unanimously selected Saarinen’s design
  • February 12, 1963: Construction started
  • October 28, 1965: Final piece of Arch set into place
  • June 10, 1967: Visitor Center opened
  • July 24, 1967: Tram rides began
  • May 25, 1968: Inaugurated

The landscaping wasn’t done until the early 1980s.  Work is wrapping up now on phase 1 of a project to fix connectivity flaws with the original design,

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen, One New Board Bill Week 6 of 2018-2019 Session

May 24, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen, One New Board Bill Week 6 of 2018-2019 Session
 
St. Louis City Hall

Because of the Memorial Day weekend the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, rather than on Friday. This is their 6th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes one new bill:

  • B.B.#67 – Coatar – An ordinance to terminate and dissolve the Orpheum Theater Community District pursuant to the Community Improvement District Act, Sections 67.1401 – 67.1575 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Wholesale Demolition Has Not Served St Louis Well, Yet Many Still Think It Is The Solution

May 23, 2018 Featured, Media, Planning & Design Comments Off on Opinion: Wholesale Demolition Has Not Served St Louis Well, Yet Many Still Think It Is The Solution
 

I applaud KMOV’s Doug Vaughn for raising questions about the appearance of the riverfront to the north & south of the Arch grounds. Yes, we can and should improve these areas.

If you’re  unfamilar, see the following three Doug Unplugged videos:

  1. Urban Decay
  2. We can preserve historic buildings and still revitalize the riverfront
  3. Clean up the eyesores

Vaughn repeatedly used the term “eyesore” which is highly subjective. It means “something unpleasant to look at”Different people can see the same thing very differently. What Vaughn views as unpleasant I see as beautiful, historic, with great potential.

While I agree a problem exists, I strongly disagree as to the best solution to solve the problem(s).

Vaughn’s proposal is tear down what exists and plant grass.  This is been St. Louis’ answer for well over a century, we’ve been tearing down our city for generations. Luther Ely Smith, who has a square named after him in front of KMOV’s building, was the one who championed the project that would erase 40 city blocks of our city’s origins. He was also instrumental in hiring Harland Bartholomew, who spent decades tearing down many hundreds pf acres of St. Louis, ignoring calls for commuter rail to the new suburbs, and making a car a requirement. Bartholomew famously miscalculated the impact of his massive tear down and rebuilding projects — population dropped rather than increase, as he had thought.

KMOV’s Doug Vaughn wants to continue generations of removing the old from view. Yet it’s the renovation of the old that we celebrate today and has been shown to boost population. Forty years ago Vaughn would’ve spoken in favor of razing Union Station  — it was such a vacant eyesore it was used in the filming of the post-apocalyptic film Escape From New York.

The beauty of Carl Milles’ work with Union Station in the background

Thirty years ago Vaughn likely would’ve advocated razing all the vacant warehouses just West of the downtown business district, the streets around these had also been in the 1981 film. Thankfully few were razed, and most have been converted into condos & apartments. It took the city investing in narrowing Washington Ave. to get long-stalled loft projects off the drawing boards and under construction. Private investors needed to see the city was committed. Once they saw the commitment, they invested.

Formerly vacant eyesores now fully occupied, Washington Ave at 16th
A 2011 interior photo of our loft, where I’ve lived for over a decade.

The North & South riverfronts have had no such commitment from the city. In fact, the city has repeatedly sent the message to investors the North riverfront is expendable. You can’t blame developers for not investing in an area the city doesn’t care about.

In one “unplugged’ segment Vaughn suggested tearing down the old elevated railroad trestles.

Doug Vaughn is obviously unaware these elevated rail lines are still in use. Yes, the auto lanes on top of the old MacArthur Bridge has been abandoned since 1981 — but the rail level is used daily by freight and Amtrak. . The bridge and elevated lines are owned by the Terminal Railroad Association — acquired in an exchange for the Eads Bridge. These rusty old trestles are part of what I love about St. Louis. Their repetition is pleasing to my eye, the shadows they cast intriguing.

Razing and planting grass hasn’t worked yet for St. Louis yet those without vision who like vinyl-clad boxes with faux “shutters” too small to cover adjacent windows continue to advocate this failed strategy. Sadly, for too long people have listened. Our city & region can’t afford to continue listening to those who espouse a tired failed strategy.

Each Sunday’s poll typically gets about 32 votes — plus or minus 20% depending upon the topic. I could tell right away the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was being hijacked but I decided to let it go — I wanted to see how far they’d go to defend failed ideas — and I wanted the ad revenue.

Q: Agree or disagree: KMOV’s Doug Vaughn is right, the old vacant buildings on the North & South riverfront should be torn down.

  • Strongly agree 120 [65.57%]
  • Agree 23 [12.57%]
  • Somewhat agree 13 [7.1%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [1.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [1.64%]
  • Disagree 7 [3.83%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [8.2%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

The vote total in 12 hours was 183 — 571% more than usual for a typical week of regular readers. Clearly someone orchestrated a campaign to get the results that support their view.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a “preservationist.” I’m an urbanist — someone who loves urban environments,  which is best when it’s a mix of old & new. The North & South riverfronts could be incredible neighborhoods — if we renovate the remaining buildings and fill in the holes with new construction. Perhaps we can organize a charrette to brainstorm a vision for these areas beyond…grass.

— Steve Patterson

Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

May 21, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone
 

Enclosed walkways over public sidewalks are generally a bad idea — removing pedestrians from the public realm. However, with these elevated walkways often comes the real culprits to killing sidewalk life: blank walls, inward focus, etc.

A prime example of what not to do in a downtown was downtown St. Louis’ St. Louis Centre indoor mall.

Blank walls faced the public sidewalk, under the walkways it was dark.

ABOVE: Looking east on May 27, 2010

It was 8 years ago today that a big event was held to begin the removal of the very oppressive walkway from over Washington Ave — the first step in transforming the inward-focused mall into outward-facing MX retail with the interior becoming a parking garage.

See:

 

Two other walkways have been removed in the last year, one on each side of the former Southwestern Bell headquarters, later an AT&T building on Chestnut between 9th & 10th. The walkways connected the now vacant tower, now longer owned by AT&T with an older Bell building to the West and a 90s data center to the East.

Former walkway over 9th Street, 2009 photo
Similar walkway over 10th St, also a 2009 photo

These walkways were very different than those at the former St. Louis Centre — up high, small, transparent, These allowed employees to walk to/from all 3 buildings without having to keep going through security. With AT&T’s significant reduction in the number of downtown employees the center towner became unnecessary. The tower’s new owners needed to reconfigure the tower from a single-occupany headquarters into a multi-tenant building. For them and AT&T that meant disconnecting the three buildings.

In SEptember 2017 the walkway over 9th was gone, though work remained to fill in the hole in the West side of the data center created by removing the walkway.

The exteriors are all repaired now, though all three buildings are lifeless at the sidewalk level. This us by design. The removal of these two walkways won’t have the dramatic results we’ve seen at MX.

St. Louis has systematically killed street life block by block, neighborhoods by neighborhood. Attempting to bring back vibrant sidewalks for more than a few blocks here or there is likely a waste of time at this point.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Is Doug Vaughn Right About St. Louis’ Riverfront?

May 20, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Is Doug Vaughn Right About St. Louis’ Riverfront?
 
Please vote below

After technical difficulties with the poll software last week I’ve added a new plugin to display the polls. This week it should work fine. Should…

In a trio of segment KMOV’s Doug Vaughn has commented on the St. Louis riverfront — both immediately North & South of the Arch ground. In short, he feels the large vacant buildings, old train trestle, etc are eyesores that should be razed.

I couldn’t find a way to get the videos to display within this post, but the three Doug Unplugged videos I’m talking about are linked below:

  1. Urban Decay
  2. We can preserve historic buildings and still revitalize the riverfront
  3. Clean up the eyesores

Please watch the above videos and then vote in today’s poll:

This poll will close automatically at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts on this subject.

— Steve Patterson

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