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Grand Bridge Should Follow Columbus Ohio Example

January 30, 2006 Midtown, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation 31 Comments

In the last post I casually mentioned the concept of a retail bridge for Grand Boulevard. It took me a while but I finally found the example that I had referred to. In 2004 a developer added retail to both sides of a Columbus Ohio bridge spanning a major interstate that created a pedestrian barrier.

St. Louis is planning to rebuild the existing Grand bridge by adding a landscaped median as well as wider sidewalks and bike lanes. The intent is to make it more pedestrian friendly so that St. Louis University to the north and their medical center campus to the south are better connected. You can dress up a bridge all you like but it is still hundreds of feet of dead space. No amount of median planting will make it pedestrian friendly.

In Columbus a developer was granted the right to basically construct two new bridges over the interstate highway, each on the side of the existing bridge. By doing so pedestrians and drivers alike don’t really reailze they are on a bridge at all — it simply becomes a city street.

The Grand bridge spans railroad tracks, the existing MetroLink line and the eastbound lanes of I-64 (hwy 40 to locals). The actual width of the tracks and highway is quite short. The rest of the bridge just spans industrial land.

Here is my proposal:

  • Forget the planted medians on the bridge. They add weight, require maintenance and widen the distance from one side to the next. The do create safe crossing zones but I’ll address that in other ways.
  • Have four lanes of traffic, two in each direction. This is basically what is on Grand to the north and south of the bridge already.
  • Allow on-street parking just as you would on any other urban street. You might have some bus areas near MetroLink but otherwise make it urban.
  • Add one “intersection” along the span. This would ideally be at the MetroLink stop so as to create a proper street crossing.
  • One additional intersection might do well further south that would allow for car entrances into parking garages on both sides. Drivers could pull into a garage that would basically be built below the street-level retail, about 4-5 levels worth. At grade the structure could have street-level retail to serve the future greenway development area. This would provide more than enough parking for the retail above and adjacent to Grand.
  • In addition to building structured parking the area could have office and condo uses to compliment the street-level retail. The office space could include high-tech bio-med facilities as part of the CORTEX plan.
  • This bridge turned retail street could serve as a needed campus hangout area for both SLU campuses. It could include a coffee house (or two) as well as a copy center like a Kinko’s.
  • With plenty of structured parking, on-street parking, bus routes and MetroLink this could be a happening spot! With land on each side of the tracks and highway we’d be building not bridges but buildings that happen to have a floor that aligns with the bridge sidewalks.
  • Before all the naysayers try to explain why we cannot be urban let me try to address a few points. The area has already been blighted and is going to be redeveloped. Building new buildings up to the existing bridge is feasible, perhaps more so than the plan to add width and medians to the current structure. Also, we can be urban and what better place to create an urban street than at a location with a MetroLink light rail stop and between two major university campuses.

    Related Links:
    Biz Journal story on Grand bridge project
    Cap at Union Station, Columbus OH

    – Steve


    Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

    1. I was in Columbus for New Year’s, and visted the very bridge in question, in the city’s Short North area, just north of downtown. Only… exactly like you said, I had no clue it was a bridge. It was just part of the street, a very handsomely designed part, actually.

      I was driving out the next day, and we passed under the bridge, and I realized what it was. I was shocked — but pleased. What a great way to deal with the blighting presence of an interstate highway in an urban area!

    2. 63103guy says:

      Look no further than Wacker Drive in Chicago!

      [REPLY – You are so right! Chicago’s elevated roads are so massive and lined with even more massive roads that you don’t realize these are bridging spaces below. This makes our Grand bridge look like peanuts. – SLP]

    3. Shaun Tooley says:

      So, when do we petition the Columbus Company to come build our lifestyle center along a bridge?

      Isn’t our bridge much longer? This is a fantastic idea and the mayor should be notified and aldermen too because they do not surf and find great projects like these on their own.

      Huzzah Steve!

    4. Josh says:

      Steve, this idea is AMAZING. What are you doing to get people to think about this??? What can we do or who can we e-mail to get some hype about this idea as a possibility since it doesn’t even seem to be on the books? This idea definately deserves a lot more than just theorizing as it is a huge area of opportunity. I would seriously like to see this done. We all know that what they’re talking about on that bridge is the rambling BS of someone who has no idea what makes a good Urban environment or pedestrian friendly road and probably thinks the Gateway Mall was a good idea. Their Grand Bridge idea is destined to go to waste just like every other bad bright idea someone in this city craps out while reading Sports Illustrated on their Rams covered toilet seat.

      This would really be a prime location and maybe bridge (no pun intended… well okay it was) the gap between north and South Grand.

      You know, this is the only bridge idea the city should be putting money into… in fact they should take the money from that POS Illinois bridge they keep talking about and do this on every bridge over our many unneccessary highways designed to make it easier for racist suburbanites to flock to some faraway county… if they don’t have to look at the city, why should we have to look at them running back and fourth to the county? This idea, unlike the Illinois bridge, would TRULY be beneficial to our city.

      [REPLY – The idea is amazing, wish it were my idea. This was done centuries ago and as recently as 2004. I’m just bringing attention to good ideas that others have done.

      What can you do? Start by emailing the Mayor’s office, Alderman McMillian, and SLU.

      To me the money allocated for all the rebuilding of the bridge can be better spent on the actual road surface while developers can take care of the edges. This is as much a sound fiscal concept as it is a good urban concept. – SLP]

    5. Alanna says:

      Brilliant … are there similar cross-highway corridors as well, ones where pedestrian traffic might still work? Perhaps from BJC into the neighborhood where La Dolce Via is?

      [REPLY – Glad you asked as I meant to suggest this in the original post. A number of other bridges in the St. Louis area seem suitable for such an urban retrofit.

      Over the same viaduct I think 18th & 14th are excellent choices. I’d like to see Jefferson get more urban and this would be a good way. Compton and Tucker/12th are less likely to benefit unless the ends of each were to change dramatically in the process.

      As you mention connecting the blighted CORTEX area to the east of BJC and The Grove (formerly FPSE) neighborhood via a retail/urban bride is excellent. This area includes several bridges so perhaps picking a primary connecting point would be a good start. Tower Grove Ave maybe?

      Others that came to mind are Sidney over I-55 between Benton Park and Soulard, St. Louis Ave over I-70 between Old North and the Riverfront area, Gravois over I-55, the I-44 crossings of Mississippi, Nebraska and Compton.

      Even the south side of Delmar over MetroLink to compliment the old station over the tracks on the north. – SLP]

    6. Jim Zavist says:

      Great idea . . . unfortunately, economics work against it ever happening. Between the large amount of vacant and underutilized land in the immediate area and the feeding frenzy of various governments offering TIF’s, tax credits, etc., etc. elsewhere, the idea buying or leasing the air rights from the railroad(s) for commercial development here simply will cost too much to be economically viable.

      The ONLY way to make this happen is for St. Louis city to pay for both the air rights and the below-floor infrastructure and foundations. As a taxpayer, I can’t support such extravagance when the city can’t provide basic services and is facing a major budget shortfall. If the private sector can figure out a way to “make it work”, fine, but this shouldn’t be another taxpayer-funded blunder like the mall downtown!

      [REPLY – Sorry Jim but the area in question has already been blighted for redevelopment. The vast amount of land will be redeveloped, I’m just suggesting we build the new buildings butted up against the existing bridge with a retail level in line with the sidewalk. As for the tracks I thought those were being consolidated or something as part of the greenway project. If they can’t get the air rights for a portion over the tracks then that can become an overlook. But they were getting rights to widen the bridge anyway… This should not be a taxpayer funded project. If we actually looked at the tax dollars going into the proposed widening/rebuilding I think this could save money by privatizing much of the work and scaling back the scope of the bridge redo. – SLP]

    7. Brian says:

      The Columbus bridge is built over I-670 near the Convention Center. I-670 is public right-of-way as well as the street lined with shops. As such, the state DOT likely granted air rights over its right-of-way.

      Unfortunately, with the Grand Bridge, only the bridge itself sits over public right-of-way that is less than 100 feet wide. That means anything close to 100 feet or wider would require air rights negotiation with adjacent property owners, including railroad companies. Typically, the railroads are worried about liability and preserving what property they have, even if underutilized, such that they don’t want any restrictions or encroachments added to their holdings.

      Also, the length of the Grand Bridge appears considerably longer than the one over I-670 in Columbus, with Mill Creek Valley being much wider than even a fairly wide interstate.

      Finally, even if the Grand Bridge were rebuilt to this borrowed concept, double-decker 40, which goes both over and under Grand, would still remain as a visual barrier to the north.

      [REPLY – Again, the adjacent property owners are in a blighted area that is part of a CORTEX area so the rights to the land should be an assumed.

      Per the business journal article linked above the current bridge is 80ft wide with the new bridge proposed at 102ft. By eliminating the 14ft planted median in the middle we can use the existing four center lanes for traffic and the current two outside for on-street parking.

      Yes, this bridge is considerably longer than the Columbus example. All the more reason! We are looking at spending $25 million to dress up the bridge yet it will still be oppressively long. By allowing adjacent property owners to build buildings on land we can urbanize the bridge easily.

      The tracks may well be an issue but they are narrow, only a fraction of the entire length. Yes, the westbound lanes of I-64 are a barrier as they cross overhead. That isn’t going to change with a planted median either.

      If the majority of the Grand bridge is urbanized the areas where you cross over the train tracks and under the highway will seem insignificant. Don’t scrap the entire concept because it may not be able to run 100% of the length. We do what we can and I think we can urbanize a good 80%+ of the bridge and that would certainly do more to connect north and south than a median. – SLP]

    8. Lois says:

      This really is an amazing proposal. So, I ask as well, how in the world can you get someone who is instrumental in the planning process to take a good look at what you’ve come up with here?
      Duh…and why doesn’t someone in St. Louis city government offer you a job??

    9. stlterp says:

      FWIW, the Jefferson Ave bridge over the viaduct is scheduled to be closed and rebuilt, probably starting this Fall. Will be a major disruption for the surrounding neighborhood and businesses. They will not start construction until Chouteau is finished, etc. Will take +/- 2 years. The exit from 40/64 will still be open, but my understanding is that everything beyond UPS and the new Residence in will be closed up to Chouteau. They did explore options for a limited closure, but ultimately decided it wasn’t in the cards.

    10. Jeff says:

      Excellent blog entry! This truely would be a great way to link both sides and provide an elevated U. City “LOOP” like experience. I think you should bring Joe Edwards into the mix! He really knows how to get things done. I think the more people talking about this and informing the big decision makers this very well may happen. My wife doesn’t like to walk that area if we would take Metrolink to get to the Fox. I think there would be more people interested in getting off / on at that stop if it was more pedestrian / cyclist friendly. Plus having a place to get a cup of joe to stay warm waiting for a train would be great!

      Keep Cycling!

    11. Brian says:

      I still say the bridge isn’t the problem but ultimately nearby land uses to its north and south. With Captain D’s on its south and Del Taco on its north, this stretch of Grand — beyond the bridge — is hardly inviting to the pedestrian. With no storefronts along Grand from Olive to Russell, adding storefronts to just the bridge sub-section from roughly 40 to Chouteau would still be an isolated pocket.

      Columbus works because its bridge is near major activities, including a convention center, and is surrounded by other friendly streetscapes. I say focus on improving the at-grade sections of Grand between Laclede and 44 first, all of which could use better streetscape, before you literally aim high for stores along the bridge.

      If you want to see the Columbus concept come to St. Louis, I think Lafayette over I-44/55 near Soulard Market would be a much stronger candidate. Like Columbus, the Lafayette crossing already has foot traffic and walkable density either side of the interstate below.

      [REPLY – Well, if you assume the Captain D’s end and the Del Taco end would remain the same and unchanged then you are correct. However, if you assume as the ULI competition does (previous post) that the area is entirely up for grabs then this half mile-stretch is ripe for development.

      If no bridge were involved and we had an under-performing area between two major campuses with a light rail stop in the middle it would be natural to make it into a destination spot. The fact is it elevated in my view simply makes it much more feasible to construct parking below the street level buildings. – SLP]

    12. Josh says:

      For all of you who are excited about this proposal, here is the contact info for Mayor Slay and Alderman McMillan as well as a few others you might want to write.


      Does anyone here have their direct e-mail address?

    13. Brian says:

      Shared in ULI’s own competition brief, there is another reason why the Columbus concept appears impractical for Grand:

      “The Grand Boulevard bridge is scheduled to be rebuilt within the next ten years. In order to minimize cost and disruption, it will use its existing piers and abutments.”

      But most importantly, the following assumption is shared in the ULI competition brief:

      “The new, proposed Grand Boulevard bridge, its bus stop access to MetroLink, and the pedestrian stair/elevator connections on both sides of the bridge are to be incorporated as designed in your master plan.”

      [REPLY – Yes, the bridge is being rebuilt using some of the existing structure, not new news. They are adding 22ft in width presumably balanced on both sides. Nothing about reusing existing structure would prevent someone from buliding a new building abutted to the bridge.

      You are correct that the ULI competition assumes the bridge as designed should be incorporated. So what, the competition is about ideas for the area and how to connect the two campuses. In reviewing some of the photos and plans on the ULI site you can see many options for new development next to the bridge. It also looks like the new bridge is planned to be shorter in length as the greenway plan shows another block north of Chouteau.

      Based on the photos it looks like the height above grade is not all that much. Three levels of parking below street level would get us down to grade. The blocks on each side of Grand could be part of the project as the competition is suggesting. – SLP]

    14. Johnny says:

      Brian, I understand stating possible objections, but why are you so opposed to this idea?? Our city is plauged with so many gaps and open spaces it’s disgusting. One of the single most disconnecting elements in our city are all this highways that dice it into pieces. I want our city to thrive, I want to see people walking all the time, I want to see the population swell and to see great things coming out of this city.

      I can’t see ANYTHING that would be bad about this idea. To the north you have SLU and Grand Center. To the south you have South Grand with some really great nightlife. Inbetween you have little to nothing.

      Anything that can make our city more walkable and more connected is good as far as I’m concerned and the existing proposal for the Grand bridge isn’t going to do that. People are constantly tearing down things in St. Louis and replacing them with empty lots, strip malls, or fast food chains. It’s time we start not only trying to fill in the gaps that have been crated but actually start creating things that have lasting value in the city of St. Louis.

    15. Nate says:

      This is absolutely a cool idea. I’m just wondering how feasible it is…how big is the gulf that the Ohio retail development bridges?

      Now this is pie in the sky, but i’d much rather see St. Louis work to move the various commercial and industrial businesses in that chasm to other blighted or vacant sites in the city, use that scarred land to build a new highway 40, and cap the bastard with the chouteau greenway. Put a series of lakes, a world championship golf course, new housing, whatever on the site.

      As far as the retail aspects of the bridge…again, i’d point to vacant buildings and underdeveloped areas in midtown, where you have a population that lives a block away, before you create something new.

      I’d like to see SLU, Grand Center and the city come up with a plan to bring businesses to Forest Park, Laclede, Lindell, Washington and Delmar.

      But that’s me.

      [REPLY – I agree many areas need help as well, I’m not assuming one or the other. Money and attention is being focused in this area and I’m advocating we do it in an urban fashion rather than suburban.

      New housing is entirely possible for this area as housing is planned all along the greenway.

      To answer your question, the area where the tracks are located is very narrow. The bulk of this half mile length could have buildings creating an urban streetscape along Grand. – SLP]

    16. Jim Zavist says:

      OPTION ONE: Forget replacing the existing viaduct and build a shorter underpass under or a shorter bridge over the railroad (instead of bridging from Papin Street to US 40 [4 city blocks], bridge from Gratiot St. to Bernard St. [2 city blocks]) – see the recent Broadway Viaduct Replacement in Denver (http://www.c-b.com/projects/projects.cfm?id=393&servid=7). This will get the street down to the ground and make the adjacent land more accessible and developable, plus you save some serious $$$$ on a shorter structure.

      OPTION TWO: Given the ±8-10 block distance between campuses, combined with the triple parallel barriers of Forest Park Parkway, Highway 40 and the railroad, use this as a test bed for your cherished historic trolley shuttle. With ±5 stops and a running length of less than two miles, it may have enough speed and frequency to become viable. (I’m assuming 2 stops on the main campus, one at metrolink, one at the new research site and one at the hospital). And even if a trolley is cost-prohibitive, there’s no reason for SLU to develop a bus shuttle route with frequent service.

      [REPLY – Interesting ideas. I do want to clarify that I don’t cherish historic trolley lines. I prefer modern streetcars which are closely related to current light rail cars but with less cost. Big difference.

      Yes, I’d love to see a modern streetcar line from the north water tower to a loop at Meramec. We could start with a 2+ mile section from the Fox to I-44.

      The shorter bridge idea is basically what is being proposed if you believe the drawings on the proposed greenway. – SLP]

    17. Jason says:

      Steve, this is a good idea in principle, but the added cost to building a bridge like this doesn’t justify it. Spending money to improve the area of Grand north of Washington would help St. Louis moreso than just throwing up shops on a bridge.

      I like the concept and as Brian stated this could be feasible in a different area where a much shorter bridge is required(i.e. the interstate). Let’s concentrate on fixing the urban fabric that was rended by the interstate instead of a natural barrier that just needs a bridge.

      [REPLY – Okay, one more time. The amount of track/highway to bridge is minimal — about the same as in Columbus maybe even less. I’m not talking about building a quarter mile of bridged retail. I’m saying we construct buildings on land and simply build them up against the bridge. This would actually SAVE money over the grandiose plan that is proposed. – SLP]

    18. Becker says:

      I like the general idea here. Just a few thoughts:

      1) A bus shuttle line for SLU students, faculty, and staff already exists between the two campuses.

      So a new shuttle or trolley wouldn’t exactly be filling a vast need by SLU individuals. A shuttle that would get SLU students to Tower Grove might.

      That isn’t to say that the local population wouldn’t really benefit from more public transport that went from I-44 up Grand to the “Rock Church” and also to the Schnucks on Lindell.

      (A “water tower” trolley line between the north and south towers does have a romantic sound to it.)

      If reducing auto usage and increasing Metro usage is a goal, a shuttle/trolley to the AG Edwards and AT&T campuses from Metro would be useful.

      Maybe synchronized trolleys that run along Grand and Lindell would be a good idea.

      2) It is being assumed that STL can get 20 million dollars from the Feds for this project as it is currently planned. Since this money has not yet been earmarked and cannot be guaranteed it would have to be proven that any alternatives fit into that budget to get much suppoer from the powers that be. They likely feel they are already shooting high in spending nearly 20 million more than usual for a bridge replacement.
      Also take into account that 2 million is already being spent on planning and would be wasted.

      [REPLY – Good points/questions. Sen. Bond has already earmarked $15 million of the bridge’s $25 million price tag. As you indicated, this is about $20+ million more than most bridge projects namely because they are widening the bridge and adding a planter as well as recreating towers that once existed on the previous bridge that was razed in 1962. This money should be spend on the bridge project but just in a different manner. – SLP]

    19. Nate says:

      I’d like to see a connector trolley that serves Grand Center, the Frost Campus, the Medical center, the south grand business district and the intersection of grand and gravois. I think such a line (especially if it returned via compton) would encourage more redevelopment along compton and at the intersection of grand and gravois.

    20. jack says:

      Neat ideas! It’d be nice to see more residential immediately adjacent to the Grand metro stop. Too many of the stations in the city are in areas that have that dead feel after 6 pm.

    21. Bruce says:

      Perhaps the worst features of the current Grand Bridge are the urine soaked niches on either side of the road where users of public transit wait for the bus. (The elevators run a close second.) There is a place to drop and pick up Metrolink riders down at ground level, but it is out of the way and poorly lit, so drivers just stop in the traffic lane (as do buses) when ferrying people to and from the rail stop. The new bridge ought to provide a turn out (at the very least) to address this problem. Even better would be a “station” on either side of Grand, complete with a turnout for buses and cars, a parking area, and a waiting room, where Metrolink riders could wait in the evening for the bus (or for the train). This sort of arrangement would mesh nicely with the pedestrian-friendly retail strip on either side of Grand.

      I recently took a turn through the new Botanical Heights development just west of 39th St. near Folsom. The place has the look and feel of a subdivision in the west county, which is perhaps not surprising since this is a McBride project. Their decision to level the area and start from scratch, destroying a number of valuable old buildings along the way, is a good example of how, bit by bit, St. Louis valuable architectural inheritance is (still) being lost. I live in Tower Grove East, where there has been a lot of rehabbing in recent years, much of it of decidedly inferior quality. While I’m glad to see fewer vacant properties in my area, I can’t help but feel that the city’s architectural wealth continues to be squandered every time the interior of an old city property gets converted to a suburban tract house. Which brings me to my second point: the city should do more to encourage redevelopment that enhances what remains of St. Louis former glory. To that end, why not sponsor an architectural competition to design a “St. Louis Row House” (or Houses) for the 21st century? The competition itself would call attention to the city’s superb architecture, and the resulting design(s), which should address present day needs and also fit in well with existing buildings, should be made available to developers who are unable (or too cheap) to hire a decent architect. The housing stock in St. Louis is one of the city’s strongest assests, and more needs to be done to preserve and enhance it.

    22. rick says:


      We need to establish more historic districts.

    23. reality check says:

      This all sounds great, but how many square feet of leasable space are we talking about, both residential and commercial, and who would lease the space?

      Think of the Boulevard in Brentwood. They lined up the the tenants, and the banks made the investment.

      What tenant mix on “The Bridge” would sell the banks to loan on this project? Usually a developer needs at least 50% of a project preleased, with the other 50% financed through owner equity. The more preleased, the less equity the banks require.

      The other problem is that tenants and developers are not very comfortable breaking out of a successful mold.

      Doing a commercial project on a bridge? In St. Louis? The first question will be: Where has it been done before (locally)?

      [REPLY – Okay, one more time. The land immediately adjacent to the south end of the bridge is already part of a blighted area that is in the process of having a development plan created. Under the bridge part of the area is slated for the greenway to connect Forest Park to downtown. These are in the early planning stages already.

      The bulk of any retail facing Grand would not be on a bridge at all but instead simply be part of buildings on land that happen to face Grand. Nothing extra special here except that floor levels need to align with the bridge’s sidewalk level. This could all be built at the same time that the bridge’s deck & sidewalk are being replaced.

      Once marketed tenants could be found and with the Columbus project as a benchmark the banks might be satisfied. With SLU involved in the project it would likey ease the way.

      The problem is everyone is viewing Grand as a bridge and not a street. Yes, it is technically a bridge but that doesn’t mean it is forever confined to our current perception of what a bridge is.

      Building new buildings on land up against a road (elevated or not) is not rocket science. – SLP]

    24. Joe Frank says:

      Just to be clear, the existing Grand Boulevard viaduct extends from immediately north of Papin Street, over Gratiot, railroad tracks, MetroLink tracks, Scott, and Bernard (which is basically part of the I-64 eastbound off-ramp to Market).

      The Grand bridge over eastbound I-64 is a separate structure. Originally, eastbound I-64 here was part of Market Street. The westbound upper deck was built some years later.

      Also, the Market and Compton overpasses at I-64 are scheduled to be replaced soon, which will also wreak havoc on traffic flow in this vicinity.

      There is an existing building located right next to Grand at the I-64 over/underpass. It has service access from below, via Bernard. Address (believe it or not) is 3562 Market Street. The Anheuser-Busch sign and several other billboards are on the roof. Are there any plans for redevelopment of this (seemingly) vacant/underused building?

    25. MattH says:

      Reality Check stated/asked:—“Doing a commercial project on a bridge? In St. Louis? The first question will be: Where has it been done before (locally)?”

      This is EXACTLY why we should look into it, discuss it, and actually attempt it as a city. Why continue to do the boring, standard garbage done with most retail centers? That is the exact stereotypical St. Louis attitude most of us are attempting to erase from the culture. Something different and unique is what we should do, not emulate crap already attemped in the region.

    26. Brian says:

      When you see pedestrians on the Grand bridge, I suspect most are waiting for a bus connection, a limited number walking out to the middle of the bridge to access MetroLink, but virtually no one walking its full length. While at SLU, I used to regularly walk the Grand viaduct, and I rarely encountered others except by the elevators above MetroLink.

      Any retailer with limited automobile access (parking constraints) will be hesitant to locate where steady foot traffic is questionable. Even downtown, City Grocers has off-street parking, yet sits on a more pedestrian accessible grid of densely developed blocks of favorable, surrounding land uses for walk-in patrons.

      With the Grand viaduct, you’re talking about a quarter-mile span, which itself takes the average walker five minutes. And that only gets you from highway 40 to Chouteau, or in other words, from nowhere to nowhere, in terms of current land use.

      Someone else asked why I was so against the concept, but I’m not. I just think it’s too impractical of a concept for most locations, including Grand. Smaller and more highly walked spans, like Lafayette over I-44/55 near Soulard Market, would make better candidates, though even there it would still be a risky, complex and costly endeavor.

      The new Grand viaduct with its medians, spires and improved sidewalks will make walking this span all the more enjoyable of an experience than presently. But how the land uses at its northern and southern approaches are addressed will better determine if such bridge walkers are even likely.

    27. Thinking about this a bit more —

      For this particular location, I kinda agree with Brian. The urban bridge concept works if it joins two thriving areas, or knits together neighborhoods that would otherwise be sundered. The bridges between Soulard and Lafayette Square would be PERFECT for this kind of treament, largely in part because those two neighborhoods were once a continuous piece of urban fabric.

      Grand Avenue, however, has always spanned the industrial corridor of the Mill Creek Valley. There’s just not much urban goings-on down in the valley; it’s an industrial zone. Nor is there much going on on either side of it; even the nearest neighborhoods, south of Chauteau, are a pretty lengthy walk away from the start of the bridge.

      There are a lot of sundered neighborhoods in St. Louis, areas that have been ripped apart and could be re-connected. I’m not convinced this is one of them.

      Milwaukee has a VERY similar situation to this with its own Menomonee Valley, a depressed section of land that runs straight west, starting just south of downtown. It’s always been an industrial zone, and probably always will be. They recently re-built the 6th Street Viaduct runs across it; instead of another viaduct, we got two separate bridges to cross two rivers in the valley, and a road that dips down into the valley itself inbetween. It’s definately connected the valley more firmly to the rest of the city, but despite connecting downtown with the thriving Walker’s Point area, you rarely see more than one or two people walking the bridges at any time — that’s just an unavoidable result of the distances involved, a very similar scale to what Grand Avenue crosses.

      Still, if someone could actually make it happen, I’d be all for it. I’m just not sure that it’d be the most fruitful use of funds for urban redevelopment.

    28. Jim Zavist says:

      Robart & Brian are both right . . . the neighborhood will require a lot of changes before this ever becomes financially viable. The one similar experience I’ve had is in Denver, where the Broadway Viaduct (similar length and similar neighborhood) was replaced with an underpass under the mainline rail lines. (The logic is that less clearance is required for vehicles (16′-17′, if I remember correctly) than what railroads require for new structures (22′-24′). This project was “half” successful. North of the rail line, new 3-4-5 story lofts are being built, replacing one-story industrial structures. South of the underpass, it passes through the parking lots for Coors Field, which has the potential to be redeveloped, but remains little-used surface parking.

      Whether or not the viaduct replacement project was a major contributor to the redevelopment of the area remains debateable, The overall area is redeveloping (and becoming denser and much more residential) for a variety of reasons, including the successful redvelopment of the adjacent Lower Downtown warehouse district into a thriving area with lofts and nightclubs. Coors Field played a role, as has a master plan to make the Brighton Boulevard/Broadway corridor a lot less industrial through better urban design standards, street trees and furniture, landscaped medians, etc., etc.

      Bottom line, it’s all about synergy. SLU’s med center / research park is relatively low density and primarily a daytime emplyment center. SLU’s main campus is a typical inwardly-focused college campus. In between is a no-man’s land that’s primarily industrial in character with several heavy transportation corridors. Does Grand have the potential to become an urban retail street? Sure, and so does Chesterfield or Highway K in O’Fallon. The reality remains that there are more viable locations to create a successful project. Dream big dreams, but invest energy in making realistic ones real!

      [REPLY – Sorry Jim but they are not right. My point is the entire area, including the bridge, are getting rebuilt. Mostly from the ground up. A clean, fresh start. You are going to have cyclists and joggers on the greenway below and you are going to have housing and offices in the immediate area. Sure, putting a row of storefronts along the current bridge with the current surroundings would be foolish. But spending an extra $20 million on a fancy bridge to encourage more people to walk just isn’t going to cut it. Why wouldn’t I have dinner at a restaurant on this section of Grand if the food was good? King Louie’s around the corner on Chouteau is in a similar situation and they seem to do well. Wake up folks, this is more practical than a high maintenance median and a retro bridge towers. – SLP]

    29. Will says:

      In response to Joe about Hwy 40 and Grand, MoDOT I believe is planning on rebuilding the grand/market ramp complex sometime in the distant future. Just looking at the existing configuration, there’s not much they can do, but they almost certainly will make the EB Hwy 40 to Grand loop off-ramp bigger which will move it farther south, probably over the off-ramp to Market. People will probably protest against tearing down the Anheuser-Busch billboard, but I’m pretty sure MoDOT would prefer to have blank space in the middle of the interchange

    30. Will Fruhwirth says:


      I really like your idea about following Columbus’ example with the bridge and agree that some development definitely wouldn’t hurt. However, I have an issue with the area portion of the Mill Creek Valley under the viaduct being considered “blighted”. I recognize that the city may already have declared this area legally blighted, thus ready for redevelopment, there are two active and longstanding businesses operating down there. For example, the Corrigan Co. has been sited here for decades and has been owned and operated by the Corrigan family continuously for 109 years. Yes, placing mixed-use urban structures here would improve the urban fiber and definitely make this a more attractive area (God knows Metro needs some kind of kick in the pants (and funding) to improve the Grand station)), but aren’t there surely spots more deserving of this kind of development? It just doesn’t make sense to displace successful local businesses that have been fixtures of a certain neighborhood for decades in order to build something new and more urbanistic that, while likely more pleasant for a lot of people, is somewhat artificial in this context. Isn’t this what similar to what happened with St. Louis Marketplace?
      A mostly unrelated side question. I’ve been in St. Louis now for just over four years, so I’ve known St. Louis Marketplace only as it is today. I’ve tried to piece together some kind of history of that development from the scattered comments I’ve found in blogs, but I’d like to know a little more. If you have a spare entry someday and any interest, I’d really enjoy some kind of background on this huge eminent domain blunder. The blunder is huge, the site is huge. I live in the neighborhood and find myself fascinated by the place. It’s especially striking to bike past at night.

      [slp — To my knowledge St Louis Marketplace did not use Eminent Domain. If it did, is was to force the rail line to move over. This was a brownfield redevelopment site — the former steel yard for Skullen (spelling?) Steel.
      I’m not in favor of redevelopment areas where viable/existing businesses are run out to chase the newest development fashion. But once it is done I want to ensure the new project is as urban and connected as possible.]

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