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Open House for St. Louis’ Latest Gateway Mall Plan; Implimentation Underway Before Public Viewing (Updated)

In a classic St. Louis move, the city’s “leadership” is already moving forward with a plan the public has yet to see. Mayor Slay, Aldermanic President, Alderman Phyllis Young, and Downtown Parnership’s Jim Cloar last week talked of the newest concept as a done deal even though we the public have not seen anything yet. Typical.

The public open house is scheduled for this evening, Monday June 11, 2007 at 6:30pm in the rotunda at City Hall. This is one of those meetings designed to give the appearance of public participation without any actual participation. The usual round of types — officials, business executives, etc… — have already approved of the plan on our behalf. How big of them to do so. I assume tonight will also be a chance for all these folks to congratulate each other on a job well done. I’ll be there simply because I need to see what sort of disasterous plan the city has drafted this time. Any comment forms will likely be a waste of paper.

Before I get into the recent developments I want to cover some history. Basically the “mall” runs from the Old Courthouse on east to 21st street on the west, with a couple of interruptions along the way, Gateway One & Civil Courts. Numerous historic buildings were razed over a period of decades to create the lifeless open space.
Here are some web resources for more information:

In short, the roots of the Gateway Mall go back to the early 20th century starting with a grand boulevard that would have stretched all the way from Tucker (12th) to Grand. I’ve looked through all the various plans from the last 75 years or so and they all have one thing in common, the universal destruction of the forms that actually make up a city. That is, tearing away buildings that help define streets and in many cases removing the streets themselves. The earliest plans were focused on making life easier for motorists with little understanding of the long-term implications of razing much of the business district and the downtown west area near Union Station.

In the late 80s when I was attending architecture school at the University of Oklahoma we learned three things about St. Louis: It has the beautiful Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen, the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex was a major failure and imploded and the old Union Station was just given new life as a ‘festival marketplace.’ Upon moving to St. Louis in August 1990 I began to learn so much more.

For example, I learned about the razing of historic buildings once located on the site of the Gateway One office building, including the battle to save the buildings from destruction. E.F. Porter and Charlene Prost recall the earlier battle in a Post-Dispatch article from Sunday April 9, 1989:

In the agony of 1983, involving the Nationally Registered Title Guarantee Building and its two companions, the Buder and International buildings, the forces of preservation were overwhelmed by an alliance of bankers, developers, construction firms, building trades unions and the political leadership of job-hungry minority groups. At the sacrifice of a significant part of the city’s architectural patrimony, a lot of money changed hands in the short run. What downtown gained in the long run was (a.) a new office building (Gateway One) of negligible architectural merit with an inhospitable forecourt, and (b.) the metamorphosis of the Gateway Mall plan to level of disingoriginal dream of a block-wide, green promenade was forced further into oblivion.

St. Louis’ mayor at the time, Vince Schoemehl, later regretted agreeing to the construction of the Gateway One building. However, I am not sure if he regrets the legal taking of the buildings from the owner and the razing of those structures. Schoemehl is now the President of Grand Center where buildings continue to be razed for ever more surface parking lots.

I also learned the year before my arrival major corporate citizen Anheuser-Busch had tried to raze the magnificant Cupples Warehouse complex. From the Post-Dispatch April 9, 1989:

Cupples Station is a designated landmark. Civic Center Corp., owner of Busch Stadium and much of the surrounding urban territory, has indicated its intention to acquire it and tear it down. But there never has been a great civic dream for use of the Cupples property comparable to the Gateway Mall. The complaint of some architects is that the two situations have all too much in common. They illustrate a kind of civic indirection in the planning of the future of downtown St. Louis. Events occur almost entirely at the initiative and convenience of developers, virtually untempered by any plans and visions of the city government or the citizenry. The city granted tax abatements, but otherwise abdicated control of the Buder-Title Guarantee block. It looks as though Civic Center expects it to do the same with the Cupples site, and considering the political power of its corporate parent, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., it may get its way. Civic Center is said to have retained the architectural firm of Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets to design a replacement for the Cupples structures, but it has not revealed what those plans are. There is no hint that they would entail recycling the Cupples buildings.

Thankfully the plan to raze the Cupples Warehouses was lost. The architects hired by A-B to design replacements for these irreplaceable collection of warehouses now goes by the name PGAV, Inc., Alderman Lyda Krewson is the firm’s current CFO. Next week Mayor Slay will cut the ribbon on a J. Buck’s restaurant opening in one of these old warehouses.

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Above, one of the Cupples Station buildings now contains lofts and a restaurant/bar known as Mercury.

One of the people I met early on was Carolyn Toft, head of the local preservation group, the Landmark’s Association. In the September 9, 1990 edition of the Post-Dispatch Toft shares her displeasure of the planning around the mall at that time:

One critic is Carolyn Toft, executive director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis Inc. ”I think that at the moment, a discussion of visionary
malls is impractical and deflects the proper discussion of what is important to the rejuvenation of downtown,” she says. ”What’s important is housing. Until you get people living in downtown – people who cause it to become their neighborhood, and who are there on a 24-hour basis to support the retailers and the restaurants – you are not going to have a vibrant downtown, no matter what you do.”

While the city gave lip service to creating housing in addition to open space it was the razing of more buildings that got the focus of attention. At this time, in the early 90s, two additional blocks were being planned that would at long last complete the mall. These two blocks were bounded by 8th, Market, 10th and Chestnut. The block to the west was already razed and contained the “world-class” sculpture ‘Twain’ by Richard Serra and funded by Emily Pulitzer. To the east was Gateway One, the May Ampitheatre, Kiener Plaza and the old Courthouse. The block between 8th and 9th had already been razed while the block between 9th and 10th was occupied.

Above image from the early 1980s is courtesy of Robin Ringwald. In the center the block between 7th & 8th has been cleared of the historic Buder, International and Title Guarantee buildings. Kiener Plaza exists but 6th still continues through and the May Ampitheatre is not yet constructed. The buildings in the foreground center would remain until the early 90s.
From the Post-Dispatch on April 25, 1993:

Two weeks after the city of St. Louis found a way to finish the last two undeveloped blocks of the Gateway Mall, it’s the old 9-0-5 Liquor Store building down and the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Western Union buildings to go. Once the block with the three buildings is leveled, the bulldozers will go to work on the parking lots on the other block. This time next year, according to the plan, both blocks will bloom with grass and flowers. And the book will close on 79 years of mall history – years of planning and replanning, debating and redebating. No more false starts or fancy plans that can’t be paid for, said Larry Bushong, the city’s top development official.

Yes, in the early 1990s some thought the saga of planning for the Gateway Mall would be finished. Many to this day say that Gateway One should not have been built, that the city should have stuck with the original plan. Well, that is not exactly how it went. Some advocated a renovation plan, keeping and restoring the buildings in the path of the mall. The plan from a group called “Pride” won out, they intended to build four half-mall buildings (6th to 10th).

Back to the 1993 article for more on this:

H. Edwin Trusheim, chairman of General American Life Insurance Co. and a founder of Pride, said its leaders always had preferred an open, landscaped mall, rather than Pride’s so-called “half-mall” approach. That was a economic compromise, using revenue-producing office buildings on half a block to pay for green space on the other half. Pride got one block developed that way before a recession hit the real estate market. Then Pride couldn’t get a developer for the remaining two mall blocks – the ones the city has just bought. “I am very pleased the mall will be completed, and basically as an open mall that’s been part of the city’s plans for more than 75 years,” Trusheim said. When the mall finally is finished, he said, the park-like expanse, coupled with noontime activities in an existing amphitheater, will bring welcome distraction from all of downtown’s concrete and glass.

Besides meeting Carolyn Toft in the early 1990s I met Architect and Washington University Professor Donald Royse. At the time he was on loan from the university to St. Louis as the city’s urban design director. Royse was a personal friend of my then boss and my boss’ sister. Just after the final buildings had been razed, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (or was it the Landmarks Association?) held a meeting in the library on the top of the Civil Courts building. Royse was there to explain the concept for the final two blocks of the mall and explain how wonderful it was finally going to be. So there in the stunning law library with the stunning view of the city I, for the first time, challenged a city official in public over a proposed plan. Royse was not pleased by being challenged in public by a kid, especially one working for a friend of his.

Royse was certain of the concept for these two blocks and hoped the in the future the blocks west to 21st would pick up the same design theme. He was confident of their usefulness. What did I, a then 26 year-old person know about great city planning and architecture? At the time I barely had email, much less a blog.

From the Post-Dispatch of July 16, 1993:

Unlike some older mall blocks, particularly ones west of Tucker Boulevard, Royse said, the new ones “will be inviting and attractive . . . and
people should use the mall more.”

Should? Well Don, they didn’t. Perhaps had we installed some signs indicating “Donald Royse thinks you should use this space more” it wouldn’t be so dead today? Trees, green grass and stylized benches does not guarantee an urban space will be used, I and others have argued. Much of Gateway Mall’s spaces are surrounded by parking garages or bland glass boxes, an environment no amount of grass (or art?) can overcome. Royse later left Washington University and retired to Seattle where he has served on their Urban Design Commission, including a time as chair.

Before getting into the design issues around these two blocks I once again need to go backwards just a bit. As I indicted, in 1990 the Cupples Station warehouses located just a few blocks south of Market had just been saved from demolition. But the question still remained what to do with them. The solution? The Cupples Mall, of course. Under this concept we’d build a mall to connect the main Gateway Mall all the way to Ralston Purina (now part of the Swiss company Nestlé).

Back to the September 9, 1990 article from the Post-Dispatch:

This half-block-wide landscaped pathway would extend about 10 blocks northward from Ralston Purina at Gratiot Street, through the nearly vacant Cupples Station warehouses, to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.’s tower. The goal is to get people walking through the Cupples Station warehouses (and thus help get the buildings redeveloped) and to link the Ralston complex with the rest of downtown. The north block in the Cupples mall is in the uncompleted part of the Gateway Mall.

In the end the two blocks of the Gateway Mall, built in 1994, didn’t plan a connection with a mall heading south toward Ralston. The Cupples Mall concept didn’t call for any demolition, by going through the route demolished earlier for on/off ramps of highway 40 (aka I-64). When the Eagleton Courthouse was completed in 2000 this “half-block-wide” mall concept was dusted off and a portion was built.

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Above image take on 6/9/2007, looking South toward Cupples Station with on/off ramps in center and Ralston tower in far background.
More from September 1990:

The malls and attractively landscaped pedestrian pathways would help tie together the scattered attractions downtown. They would encourage more people to stroll; that, in turn, would give downtown life and vitality and help attract office and housing development, they say. For the most part, the plans are getting good reviews. Among the supporters is Edward Ruesing, president of Downtown St. Louis Inc. Ruesing says both the Gateway and Cupples malls projects are ”economic development tools that would enhance the development potential of property bordering them.” To back that up, he cites development along the south side of Market, overlooking the Gateway Mall. ”People who built there in the last 10 to 20 years did so with the expectation that they were building in a prestigious location, overlooking a major public space,” he says.

Downtown St. Louis Inc. is now the Downtown St. Louis Partnership headed by Jim Cloar. And what about those companies that built along the mall in a prestigious location? SBC moved their headquarters out of St. Louis after the ‘completion’ of the mall. One of the biggest companies in the region, General American Life Insurance, which was headquarterd on the south side of the mall and played a role in the demolition of the historic buildings, suffered a financial meltdown in 1999. From a 2003 Business Journal article:

Former directors of General American Life Insurance Co. agreed to a $29.5 million settlement following the collapse of the company that occurred under their watch. The former directors — a virtual who’s who in the St. Louis business community — did not have to pay the settlement money. It was covered by two other insurance companies, according to the agreement filed in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City Oct. 18

The previously undisclosed settlement, under which the directors admited no wrongdoing, was reached more than two years after a liquidity crisis caused the collapse of General American, at that time the largest life insurance company in Missouri and among the largest in the United States, and led to its sale in early 2000 to MetLife for $1.2 billion.

Proceeds from the sale and the settlement went to a fund set aside to pay former General American policyholders who owned the mutual company at the time of its sale. Liquidators have said they want to distribute the money in 2003.

Former directors who agreed to the settlement include: August Busch III, chairman of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.; William Cornelius, retired chairman of what is now Ameren Corp.; Bernard Edison, retired president of the former Edison Brothers Stores Inc.; Craig Schnuck, chairman of Schnuck Markets Inc.; William Stiritz, chairman of Ralcorp Holdings and Energizer Holdings; Andrew Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Edward Trusheim, retired chairman of General American; Robert Virgil, general principal at Edward Jones; and Virginia Weldon, Chairman of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The settlement agreement also included the estate of the late William Maritz, chairman of Maritz Inc. and a General American director at the time of his death in 2001, and retired U.S. Senator John Danforth. Danforth, an attorney at Bryan Cave, was the only General American director who later was named a director at MetLife.

The General American building remains vacant today. Not to worry though, none of these corporate directors lost their personal fortunes in the settlement. Most are still around to keep offering advice to St. Louis.

So back to the early 1990s and these final two blocks to finish off the mall. One concept to justify the razing of the structures was underground parking with park space on top, you know, like recently done at Chicago’s Millenium Park. The difference is St. Louis didn’t build the parking but Chicago did. Remember this parking issue as it will come up again in the late 1990s.

The Post-Dispatch on April 25, 1994:

Donald Royse oversaw the general mall plan while on loan to the city as urban-design director. After he went back to his job as professor of architecture at Washington University, the city hired David Mason & Associates Inc. to do the detailed design for the two blocks. Royse’s suggestions included the lion benches, to tie the mall visually with a variety of Art Deco animals and forms adorning the Federal Courthouse, Kiel Opera House and other buildings facing the mall.

Just for the record, deco benches do not “tie the mall visually” with buildings blocks away. Architects and planners need to stop thinking like this and focus on specifics that actually bring people to open spaces. From the same article:

As part of a complicated mall financing worked out last year, five major downtown corporations, most with offices overlooking the mall, contributed about $ 17.5 million in exchange for special state tax credits. Most of the money went to buy property and pay off debts of a previous mall development group. But $ 950,000 was set aside to clear and rebuild the last two blocks.

Wow, special tax credits to pay off debts of big corporations. Moving forward we see the fallout of this “complicated mall financing, Charlene Prost writes in the Post-Dispatch from February 28, 1999 (my 32nd birthday):

Years after most everyone thought the Gateway Mall downtown was done, turns out they were wrong. To repay the state in part for $ 8.7 million in tax breaks it gave to five corporations that contributed money to finish the mall in 1993, a city agency was supposed to build underground parking in the mall within five years. On top of that, $ 2.75 million of revenue from the parking was supposed to go back to the state. But the parking facility was never built. And nobody at City Hall can explain why.

State officials want the $ 2.75 million, with interest. And they want the parking, either beneath the mall as promised or perhaps somewhere else, to resolve parking problems for about 690 state employees working in the renovated, historic Wainwright building adjacent to the mall.

The businessmen, working as Pride Redevelopment Corp., represented some of the same Civic Progress corporations that later built Kiel Center, but failed to get the Opera House reopened.

In 1982, the city put Pride in charge of redeveloping the last three blocks in the mall between Seventh and Tenth Streets. Pride acquired some of the property, then brought in a private developer who in 1986 built a kind of half mall on the block between Seventh and Eighth Streets, with the $ 70 million Gateway One office building on the north half of the block, and landscaped open space on the south half.

But by 1993, Pride said it was about $ 16 million in the red, including interest. And it still had not redeveloped the blocks between Eighth and Tenth Streets. It had acquired and cleared one of the blocks, and built a surface parking lot. The other block, still owned by others, contained four structures, including the Western Union building, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken operation.

That’s when city and state development officials, Pride, and the corporations, made a deal to get the mall
finished. Here’s how it worked:
* Five corporations contributed a total of $ 17.5 million to the state development board, and, in return, got to write off a total of $ 8.75 million in state taxes. The five corporations were: Boatmen’s National Bank (now part of NationsBank); Mercantile Bank; Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri; and General American Life Insurance Co., at the time, lead by H. Edwin Trusheim, co-chairman of
Pride.
* The state board paid Pride about $ 9 million to acquire the parking lot block it owned and help pay off Pride’s debts. It also paid about $ 7 million to acquire the other block. The state board gave the two blocks to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, that was
supposed to build the underground parking garage within 5 years.
* The city spent $ 1.5 million to clear the two blocks and make them into a landscaped park

In other words, some serious cash was spent on the two blocks between 8th and 10th as well as the block containing Gateway One (7th to 8th). All five companies have, except for Blue Cross, been bought out by others. The Kiel Opera House is still closed.

From a June 7, 1998 editorial in the Post-Dispatch:

A large-scale work of art proposed for the area in front of the Federal Courthouse by the artist Mary Miss has been given the thumbs up by nearly all the principals concerned. That is good news for St. Louis.

Why? Because St. Louis historically has developed (and decayed) in patterns of disconnectedness. The Arch stands in isolation from downtown and Laclede’s Landing. Busch Stadium is a destination rather than a hub. The TWA Dome appears to have landed in its neighborhood, not developed in it. Major projects – the TWA Dome, the Kiel Center, the Metropolitan Life and Southwestern Bell buildings – were designed to encourage people to stay inside and avoid any communion with the street.

Ms. Miss wanted to give some aesthetic treatment to the area around the new Federal Courthouse. The more she looked, the more it seemed important and sensible to enlarge the project, to link pedestrian spaces that would connect the Gateway Mall to the Courthouse to Cupples Station on the South.

The P-D certainly got the disconnectedness correct but they seem to have bought into this idea of public art at the great connector. The above is the rebirth of the Cupples Mall from the early 1990s. But it is nearly 2000 and Mayor Harmon and others start a group called Downtown Now. March 15, 1999:

Planners hired by Downtown Now are proposing to narrow Market Street as a way of making the Gateway Mall livelier.

In the mall, the planners would put fountains and landscaping; walking, jogging and bicycle paths; and other attractions, including an ice skating rink. “Right now, the mall doesn’t really function as a park for downtown as it should. It feels more like a piece of land in between two streets,” says John Hoal, an architecture professor at Washington University and a consultant for the planning group. “What we want to do is create a more pleasant place in the mall, so people will want to come to it and use it,” Hoal said.

Hoal is part of a team of planners that Downtown Now hired last year at a cost of nearly $ 1 million. Their assignment was to draft a plan that would revive downtown over the next several years. Leading Downtown Now are city officials, the Downtown St. Louis Partnership, St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association and St. Louis 2004. They have vowed to work together to get the plan carried out.

You can review the various plans and notes for Downtown Now here. Among the ideas floated at the time were to make Market Street one-way eastbound with Chestnet one-way westbound. Mayor Harmon opposed the narrowed, one-way Market idea preferring the grander boulevard. Although plans for the Old Post Office Square called for no parking around the Old Post Office, the Century Building was razed a few years ago for a parking garage. The state finally got their parking.

Downtown Now conducted a year-long planning process which did have numerous public meetings although I believe most of the ideas came from the consulting team with the public basically getting to pick “a” or “b”.

The work of the planning team, which includes more than a dozen local and out-of-town consultants and planning and urban-design firms, will cost about $950,000. NationsBank is picking up half the tab, as part of a recent commitment to make $ 100 million in loans and investments in downtown. Downtown Now is raising the rest privately.

Among that team was “Joe Berridge, a planning expert from Toronto, a partner at Urban Strategies in Toronto.” (P-D 6/1/98). This is another of those remember this for the future notes. Downtown Now, originally set up at a temporary group, worked on the Washington Avenue streetscape and a few years ago disbanded. Despite lots of planning around the Gateway Mall, nothing was done (perhaps a good thing considering some of the ideas).

Jump ahead to 2005 and architects with the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects were asked to conduct a design charette to help generate ideas for the Gateway Mall. Many months were spent planning the charette which was held in the Fall of 2005. I sat in on planning meetings as well as participating in the charette. On the final day of the charette all three teams presented the ideas to Mayor Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford. It took some time to get all the materials gathered together but in 2006 final concepts from the AIA were given to the city for further action. The Gateway Foundation stepped forward to help fund the design. The city and the foundation collaborated on a RFQ, Request for Qualifications (see PDF document).

The design team was announced in February 2007, from the press release:

Mayor Francis G. Slay announced today that a team led by Thomas Balsley and Associates and Urban Strategies, Inc., was selected to create a master plan for the City’s Gateway Mall. Earlier this year, Mayor Slay approached the Gateway Foundation to request the Foundation’s assistance in developing a plan to energize the Gateway Mall and enhance its attractiveness. The Gateway Foundation responded by pledging funds for the development of the master plan and, working with the Mayor, formed a Steering Committee to select a consulting team to develop the plan.

The Steering Committee is comprised of: Gary Bess, the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry; Rollin Stanley, the City’s Director of Planning and Urban Design; David Fischer, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway; Jim Cloar, President of the Downtown Partnership; and Christy B. Fox, Director of the Gateway Foundation.

Myself and others from the 2005 charette process were able to meet the design team earlier this year, before they got started. We sat down with them at the AIA offices on Washington Ave. They also met with other groups such as local developers, the downtown residents and property owners. But wait, one of the teams is Urban Strategies, Inc. of Toronto — the same firm that was on the Downtown Now team back in 1999.

The team seemed open to fresh thinking and I knew the process should be pretty open considering the RFQ:

the team shall prepare a project web page and post the notice for the public open house and the agreed upon draft plan from task 3.2 with appropriate links
• the web page will be operational in advance of the “public open house” by at least two weeks
• the web page shall include an on-line comment ability for the public to submit opinions
• the team shall, in consultation with the program advisor, organize a public open house to present the draft Master Plan
• the team shall handle all tasks associated with the public open house
• the venue is anticipated to be on City property, such as the rotunda at City Hall 3.4 public open house

I guess they forgot about that “project web page” two weeks prior to the open house. And what about feedback?

Announced last week was a $20 million “Urban Garden” for two blocks of the dead downtown concept. This really amounts to a wealthy family wanting to purchase $10 million in large scale art for themselves, via their foundation, and needing a visible place to locate the art. The $20 million “gift” was touted big time last week to help difuse any opposition and to divert attention from the fact another big ‘magic bullet’ plan is being strutted out before the public.

Yes, I am looking a blue-blooded world-class gift horse in the mouth.
An article in last week’s Post-Dispatch said in all in this sentence:

The sculpture garden, which has been a well-kept secret, as is the Gateway Foundation’s practice, was vetted before a select handful of civic, business and cultural leaders.

…vetted before a select handful of civic, business and cultural leaders.” Like those that drove General American into the ground? Or perhaps those that advocated razing numerous historic buildings for a concept and then needed the state to bail them out of their debts? Or the Busch family that sought to raze Cupples Station?
Like many of you I had heard the name Gateway Foundation over and over but I never knew much about them. So last week one of my first questions was who is this Gateway Foundation that has this kind of cash for such a project. Well, here is some of what I found on the Gateway Foundation:

* A 2004 St. Louis Commerce article:

A private foundation established 25 years ago and funded by a St. Louis family, Gateway is a significant granting source for arts organizations in the region. Christy Fox, executive director, says, “We also initiate some of our projects, which include the purchase and installation of public art around the St. Louis metro region.”Gateway is involved in lighting projects, such as the Gateway Arch, Civil Courts Building, the Old Courthouse, and three historical water towers.

* Their last annual report filed with the Secretary of State was in 2004. Other reports online include 1999-2003.

* The 2004 report filed on 6/22/2004 lists the board members and officers as James D. Burke, Morton Peter Fischer, Martha C. Fischer, Matthew Aaron Fischer, David W. Mesker, Gyo Obata, Michael Fischer, Susan Philpott, Susan Rava and Assistant Secretary Christy B. Fox. None appear to be residents of the City of Saint Louis.

* The foundation voluntarily dissolved itself on September 12, 2005. See the paperwork from the Secretary of State: Dissolution (Signed by M. Peter Fischer) and Certificate of Termination issued by the State of Missouri. Apparently they decided to continue giving but did not bother to tell the Secretary of State’s office.

* The current board members are unknown.

* Another Gateway Foundation has filed in Missouri but that is an extension of a Chicago-based foundation that specializes in drug rehab.

Still, they’ve given a lot of money and that must be acknowledged. Just because they installed public art outside their office in the Laclede Gas building at 8th & Olive doesn’t mean we need to turn over two city blocks to them. Two blocks, you will recall, that cost plenty of money to get in the vacant state they are in currently.

From the city’s press release last Friday:

The City of St. Louis and the not-for-profit Gateway Foundation will partner in creating a unique public garden, with extensive landscaping and modern and contemporary sculpture, on a prime downtown setting, Mayor Francis G. Slay announced today. The “Urban Garden,” as the development is tentatively being called, will be on the Gateway Mall between Eighth and Tenth and Market and Chestnut Streets. It will feature plantings selected in consultation with, and maintained by, the Missouri Botanical Garden; fountains and other water features; artistic lighting; seating; and 20 to 25 pieces of sculpture by internationally renowned artists. A café with indoor and outdoor seating is also being contemplated. The garden, which is expected to cost at least $20 million, will be financed entirely by the St. Louis-based Gateway Foundation.

See, the message is done deal. Sure, come to the open house but we are already proceeding so don’t even try to stop us. The “open house” is simply a good PR name for the event. More from the press release:

“This garden will immediately become one of St. Louis’ great new attractions for residents and tourists alike,” the Mayor said. “There is nothing really like it anywhere in the United States. It will be a spectacular addition to downtown.” Part of the garden’s uniqueness, the Mayor said, will rest in its openness and accessibility. There will be no fence surrounding it. And in the tradition of many other great St. Louis attractions, it will be free. “The art will be world-class and broadly appealing at the same time – to art sophisticates and non-sophisticates, to adults and children,” the Mayor said. “Although people inevitably have different opinions about public art, this garden will be designed to offer something to everyone. And the landscaping, lighting, and water features will add to the universal appeal. “We envision downtown office workers and our growing downtown residential population using this garden,” the Mayor continued, “We envision Cardinals fans strolling through it before and after games. We envision families having picnics on it. We envision visitors to the Arch and Old Courthouse venturing into downtown to enjoy it. We envision people driving in from all the metropolitan area, and we envision art enthusiasts and other tourists from all over the world coming here to see it. “In short,” the Mayor concluded, “just a couple blocks from Busch Stadium, we think St. Louis is going to have another home run.

And we are enormously thankful to the Gateway Foundation for their generosity. This is one of the largest and most exciting gifts this City has received in many years.” The two blocks, covering 2.9 acres, are owned by the City. They are part of the 1.2 mile-long Gateway Mall, which stretches from the Old Courthouse on Broadway to Union Station. The City is currently overseeing the creation of a master plan for the Mall.

Are they kidding me with this? Oh, 2007 is the first someone envisioned visitors coming to the mall. Give me a f-ing break! We already have “world-class art”, eight pieces of rusted core-ten steel known as Twain. This “installation” has been around since 1982 and that area isn’t exactly teaming with people.

I think KSDK got it right in their report from last week:

Each year some three million people visit the Gateway Arch. By building a $20 million urban garden just four blocks west, the hope is to lure those visitors to downtown.

Hope being the key word. The Mayor is hoping this vision, unlike all the past visions, will actually work. And it will, at least initially. Even St. Louis Centre had large crowds at first.

Again, part of what really has me upset is the process, legislation is already being introduced to the Board of Aldermen and, per the St. Louis Business Journal, “Nelson Byrd Woltz of Charlottesville, Va., was selected as the landscape design firm.” Nothing against this firm but we’ve not seen any conceptional drawings or heard any presentations. Again, the public presentation is this evening, June 11, 2007 at 6:30pm in the main rotunda of City Hall, Tucker & Market.

Please excuse me if I don’t get too optimystic about the Gateway Mall being overrun by throngs of people in the future.

UPDATE 6/11/07 @ 2pm — Keep the comments coming! I have just seen the full plan and talked with numerous members of the design team, including Thomas Balsley. I’m out of time at the moment but after this evening I will do a full review, sharing what I like and what I dislike of the overall plan. That post will focus on the planning concepts, not about historic and politics. I encourage everyone to attend tonight so that you can see the plan for yourself.

UPDATE 6/11/07 @ 10pm —- Just a few clarifcations. First, tonight’s presentation was considered preliminary so things are still up in the air— except for the Urban Garden which is a lock due to the “gift.” The garden, btw, is three blocks — 8th to 11th and including the Serra piece. The next meeting will be held in late July, also in City Hall in room 2008 — I’ll post the date once I have it. Rollin Stanley will be uploading tonight’s presentation here on 6/12/07. The $20 million figure for the urban garden is a guess at this point — no hard numbers although I’m told that guess includes the art work as well. A full professional analysis coming later this week after I’ve downloaded the presentation and crafted my own alternates.

UPDATE 6/13/07 @ 8am – Monday evenings presentation is now posted on the city’s website as a PDF.  Click here to view the PDF.

 

Currently there are "48 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    You’re on a roll with this one, and bordering on TMI, but I agree. Personally, given what we have now, I’d vote for an urban forest – instead of formal and informal paths and gardens, bordered by multi-lane streets, just plant a bunch of trees and create Forest Park East. The one real downside to this idea, however, is the homeless issue – what we have now is pretty inhospitable to long-term lingering by most anyone. Create some shade and privacy, and the indigenous population will surely grow . . . if we want urban parks and public places, let’s make them smaller, denser and more human-scaled, not little-used broad vistas and backdrops for corporate edifices!

     
  2. Bulldoze the mall and build mixed use We shouldn’t continue to act as if demolishing Real Estate Row and others actually worked for St. Louis. A mistake was made and we shouldn’t try to patch it with “art.”

     
  3. john says:

    Steve, you’re getting hot! The cabal, reinforced with media’s help, likes to operate on the prestence that it is the “public” in St. Louis. Same names, same institutions, same disappointing results. Yes this is how the wealthy and powerful here have always operated and they wonder why depopulation is a problem in such a “wonderful” city! The cheerleaders are hard at work but they still DON’T GET IT!

     
  4. Brian says:

    Has the City even issued an RFP to see if there is private interest in keeping with the half-mall concept? New Class A office space downtown might actually produce some tax base for our cash-strapped city.

    And if the Gateway Foundation is determined to donate $20 million to the Mall, ask them to redo Kiener Plaza, or even the future “lid” over I-70, anywhere else downtown besides these two dead, isolated blocks.

     
  5. Michael Allen says:

    Q. (Citizen) How’s that I-70 lid coming along?

    A. (Planner) Did you hear about the Gateway Mall master plan? Wow!

     
  6. john says:

    Chicago had the holy cows perhaps StL could create an urban feel by having a “fake public”! Instead of animals, we could have an art mall filled with statutes of life-size people in active and relaxing positions. We could have statues of engaged business people talking on their iphones (go up close to one, touch the pad and hear the latest private equity buyout deal), a cyclist locking his bike to a “real” bike rack, a mother strolling with a baby cart, an everyday pedestrian, a juggler, a group of tourists, even a politician actually talking to a group of concerned citizens,… you get the picture. This interactive art work would go a long way in creating an image that St Louis is an area filled with people instead of cars, highways and parking lots.

     
  7. Joe Frank says:

    The Gateway Foundation has done a lot of good public art installation and enhancement work over the years. They have even participated in less visible projects that benefit low-income communities, like the Wellston Neighborhood Park. I can’t see them as anything but a positive force in the community.

    And although they did propose some rather bizarre looking entry gates for Forest Park a few years back, they listened to the widespread opposition from the public.

    I’d like to see something on the Gateway Mall blocks between 8th and 10th, rather than the emptyness that sits there now. Steve’s history lesson is valuable, but this proposal does not seem all that bad to me. It’s no magic bullet, and shouldn’t be portrayed as such. But it could provide another potential amenity for downtown.

    I don’t think the 9th Street Garage provides parking for the Wainwright Building though. Maybe the other new garage, at 7th and Olive, does.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Yes, the Gateway Foundation has funded some worthwhile projects, even after they dissolved themselves.  I like art that brings debate, such as the new piece at Olive & 8th, however the lighting is way too bright.  I tried to look at it last week after dinner and could’t get close enough to feel the texture of the piece.  

    Agreed, the blocks between 8th and 10th are boring blank spaces.  Sometimes this is good, such as during major events.  However, we need more lively spaces year round.  I’m not convinced this urban garden is it but it is a done deal right?  I’m still going to attend tonight to see the dog & pony show.  

    While I’ve not seen the proposal I have talked to a few insiders that have, this urban park is it.  I heard notes about removing on-street parking from Market and closing Chestnut but I need to see it for myself.  The crux of the focus will be on these two blocks — the silver bullet.]

     
  8. Thor Randelson says:

    I look forward to participating in the next Gateway Mall planning process in about 2025. Maybe we will get it right that time.

     
  9. Chris says:

    This city already has a Forest Park. Downtowns need buildings, not art gardens…

     
  10. Greg says:

    It seems to me that the success of a space such as this is wholly dependent on the pedestrian traffic that traverses the site. This particular part of downtown has never, and in my opinion WILL ever provide adequate numbers of pedestrians to make the space lively. I think new mixed-use construction might help, but the spacing of the buildings on Market Street, and their size and distance from the street, make for a pretty lousy pedestrian experience. This could be the most beautiful garden in the world, and I don’t think anyone will bother to walk through it.

     
  11. I am sorry but I must repeat that this is a joke. If people want art they will go to a museum. What we need is the removal of green space and the construction of mixed use. That will create pedestrian connections whereas the Mall only creates a lifeless dead zone in which no one wants to traverse. City Officials still believe that by replicating the suburbs, that being idealistic green space, we will attract suburban residents into the urban environment. People moved out to the suburbs for green space so if we create more here then they will love the City. These are not compatible! Green space, especially of this size, is pedestrian unfriendly. We need to abandon the idea that by bringing some “Walden Pond,” people will follow. What will attract people from all areas of the region and country is world class housing, retail, and office space. The obvious location for such developments are the underused vacant holes in our Downtown which occupy the Gateway Mall.

     
  12. Kara says:

    I’m not opposed to the idea of an urban garden/art park. I think the key here though will be in programming. For this to be successful I think it will need involvement of artists on the international level. Combine that with some regional artists and give some local unknowns a chance to participate and it could work. I don’t know if those involved with the project, particularly city politicians, have the experience and knowledge for good curating of this space. The focus here seems to be on saving downtown rather than creating a valuable forum for visual art. Bad art and desperate motives won’t save anything.

    Another critical element is for Market St. to become more pedestrian oriented. Bulb-outs at the intersections and on street parking would create safety. Encouraging street performers and vendors to locate here would help the “street life” quality so desperately needed. Ground floor retail spaces along Chestnut would also help. And my personal favorite addition would be a street car running along Market. What “grand boulevard” is complete without one? Re-envisioning this entire area is needed for any of it to work and attract people.

    But this whole thing really needs to be considered from the context of an overall all vision for downtown. How would this space relate to the large green space along the river? Will it compliment it or will it compete with it? Can downtown sustain two large open spaces? With more residents living downtown in condos maybe there is a need, or maybe not. How about incorporating a farmer’s market or a weekend outdoor flea market? Playgrounds? Between residents, downtown workers, and tourists these parks (the mall and the arch grounds) could be well used, but the variety of needs for these groups should seriously be considered.

     
  13. Darci says:

    I was able to see this plan a few weeks ago, and I am concerned about several parts of their proposal, and simply not impressed by the entire plan. One of the most surprising things they proposed was actually removing all street parking along Market – that’s right, none at all – which goes against all pedestrian-friendly logic I’ve ever heard. They also presented schemes with varying degrees of traffic along Chestnut – going so far as to consider closing it down entirely. There are many details that may work, but none that I haven’t heard before, and there wasn’t one great idea that will make these disparate spaces functional, cohesive and beloved as a destination in the city. Overall, the scheme just didn’t wow me as I had expected from firms of this high caliber. Regardless of Steve’s comment that this is merely a publicity stunt, I hope all concerned citizens & design professionals make an effort to go see the proposal tonight & give feedback.

     
  14. Hello? There is nothing on the mall for people to go to! World class sculpture is not the answer. The post article mentioned a cafe, that seems like a fine idea but do you think that cafe will be open on weekends or evenings? No, it will be open for the lunchtime office crowd, not the most tourist friendly situation. The mall is a complete dead zone, it needs retail on the bordering streets, it needs adjacent residential. How many tourists would feel safe in the evening on a non game day? Retail and residential will help bring eyes to the street all times of day. In addition, other things that could help are two way streets, plenty of curb side parking, and a re-instalation of the street grid.

     
  15. Tyson says:

    Picnics! Globe-trotting art tourists!…extensive landscaping!
    First some credit to the Gateway Foundation, whether it’s a front for a wealthy art collecting family or not, they’ve shown considerable civic leadership in beautifying downtown over the past several years, and this is a generous gift any way you look at it.
    The bottom line is that the “urban garden” will do an alright job of sprucing up a couple of blocks that now have no function at all, particularly if the cafe is added; but the mayor is WAY overselling the plan if he expects it to be a destination in its own right, and I find it hard to believe his comment that “there is nothing really like it anywhere in the United States.” Really? Outdoor sculptures? I think I’ve seen that before.
    As far as public participation, what we/they always suggest is…outdoor art, a skating rink, ferris wheel, dog park etc. and it looks like all of these ideas are being considered on the rest of the mall.

     
  16. City blocks shouldn’t be green, thus not need any “sprucing!”

    We need a departure from the “St. Louis planning status quo,” which seems to be decades behind the times, and a realization that the Mall is a complete failure.

    This obviously means that those political leaders would have to admit they made a mistake.

    An alright job is what got St. Louis to where it is today. I don’t want to live in a City which simply does “alright” and “gets by.” St. Louis cannot compete by being “ok.” Mediocrity is why people leave!

     
  17. Trans-Verdure says:

    I’d really like to see the plans but whatever they plan, the more important thing to show would be the kind and intensity of uses surrounding the mall itself. The upgrade of a greenway is not inherently a bad thing but it could be money wasted if there isn’t sufficient attention paid to the surrounding uses.

    As mentioned previously, to be successful, this plan would need to ensure increasing residential densities of varying diversity surrounding the mall. It should also include retail, commercial, office, restaurant, and bar/nightclub uses on the ground so as to ensure activity around the clock. People at all hours crossing through the space, that kind of land use ‘engineering’ will guarantee the mall gets used.

    Create enough density, diversity, and activity in compact spaces and these green spaces really do become welcoming oases in the urban environment. But, unfortunately, I seriously doubt much attention will be paid to the dynamics that truly make these kinds of spaces work as they should.

     
  18. Matt B says:

    Steve mentions the half-hearted public involvement in the planning process, and I agree. But, I do think Tyson has a point, aggregated public ideas would result in “outdoor art, a skating rink, ferris wheel, dog park etc”. I am glad Steve, myself and a few others got a chance to engage the designers directly this afternoon; however, it should have been more widely publicized.

    I am curious, what public process was involved in the development of Millennium Park in Chicago? I envision a vocal group thinking that a huge silver bean would be a really stupid idea.

     
  19. Seriously? says:

    First of all let me say that art does enhance our culture and offers an opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy the creativity of others. The Gateway Foundation and their contributors are very gracious to offer the kind of donation to the city that is being discussed. But I think that there are other options than the one that is being proposed. The numerous ideas that have already been shelved are plenty of evidence to support that.

    Why was this plan designed, proposed, and signed off on without first discussing it within the community?

    Draw people down town? I don’t think so. I know that the art would bring a bit of life to the area, however that life will only last for the 4 hour kick off celebration by the wealthy people who want to fund this. Like it or not we are in the middle of the United States where large art displays are not at the top of the priority list. My question is this. Are people going to dump out of the ball park and say to themselves “let’s go see the art park?” I don’t think so.

    If you really want to make a splash, incorporate a multiple use theater into the space. It is the only open space still left in down town? I know that we don’t have the resources to create a park to the magnitude of Chicago, but a lot more could be accomplished with $20 Million Dollars! Not to mention that the $20 million is only the beginning of what you would need to do this project right.

    People have posted that there is nothing that currently takes place in that space. I think that there were two events there this past weekend alone. Not to mention the numerous funtions that take place there throughout the year. If you fill that space and no park the streets surrounding it, I seriously doubt that we will continue to see great entertainment, parades, company picnics, etc. from that area.

    If you fill the last open area with numerous sculptures, that will leave people with none.

    So much more could be done with that location. Why not place the art in the area surrounding the Soldiers Memorial? That would be a way to highlight City Hall and draw people a bit closer to Union Station which seems to be struggling. Hey, here’s a novel idea. Place the sculptures in Union Station in the place of the typical kiosk stands. That way, your shopping experience can be inclusive of an air conditioned art show. All of the convention business that the Hyatt books would have something other than a dwindling mall to offer to their potential clients. I doubt they will get covered in graffiti inside either. And graffiti is just one concern that will have to be addressed if and when they are placed there. Who plans on paying the 24 hour security guards who have to prevent vandalism and the other well known nightly activities from taking place there.

    I’m not sure that the planning committee for this project fully grasps the reality of what they are proposing. This is the LAST large open space in down town. Why are we going to fill it with something that will likely not create a long lasting popular attraction.

    There are so many ways that this art could have been incorporated into the grand scheme of things in down town. However since the check book of the Gateway foundation is so large, the actual plan is already set in stone regardless of what the residents, developers, businesses, etc. think would enhance the functionality of the space. There are other options. Explore them.

     
  20. Skewgee says:

    i just wanted to thank you for the history lesson and re-contextualization of the mall. i really learned a lot from your research today, and look forward to reading your professional analysis later.

     
  21. To Skewgee says:

    Skewgee,

    Don’t get professional analysis confused with the casual environment of a blog. I’m sure Steve will be the first to tell you that this blog is not held to the same kind of critical inquiry or rigor like that of a professional analysis.

    It will be a collection of his informed opinions and impressions of the mall plan. NOT a professional analysis.

     
  22. Tim E says:

    Their is still a lot of empty space on both sides of the mall. You fill those areas along with finding a way over the tank trench to the Arch and a whole lot more people will appreciate and find use the green space of the mall. Their is no reason why you can’t do both. Continue to push Residential and Class A office development on either side of the mall while trying to find a way to enhance the green space you have. The question is what will enhance the mall for the citizens of St. Louis and those who work downtown.

     
  23. GMichaud says:

    To Skewgee responder
    Oh yes, the real professionals are the people who came up with the plan, otherwise everyone else is useless. This is the whole problem all through government. They and their corporate handlers know best, everyone else is just crap. Professional rigor, what a hilarious concept that is.
    Steve’s analysis is professional, trust me, it is usually more complete and thorough than anyone the Post and the media gnats like to interview as professional.
    The fact is what the word professional attempts is cut off all discourse because they know it all, or least know the official line, and in fact are really nothing. Some have talent to be sure, be I assure you people posting on this blog have equal or better talent, and could run this city better than the so called professional officials.
    The whole idea of democracy is that the voice of the people is dominant. Without judging the merits of the Gateway Foundation proposal, I must agree with Steve, it is still another project that leaves the citizens out of the project and out of any discussion.It is the antithesis of democracy.
    I proposed a public square in the vacant space before Gateway One was built. Back then I saw the problem, as is pointed out in this blog, as a lack of people to fill these vacant spaces (How many people have walked around the Serra sculpture). All of this should be combined with transit proposals, new development surrounding the so called mall etc.
    In general the so called professionals have done a poor job up to this point. A public square still seems to me to be a real possible solution, not an art park. I would tear down Gateway One also. It is garbage.

     
  24. Jeff says:

    After spending an entire afternoon in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square, a vibrant yet relaxing oasis nestled in the center of a bustling downtown neighborhood, I am all the more embarrassed about our pathetic, lifeless Gateway Mall.

    I say hand the land over to Bob Cassily.

     
  25. A.Torch says:

    I agree, Gateway One should be torn down; and as a compromise I would make that block ‘green’ continuing up to Serra’s ‘Twain’ which should be moved out of the area, and that block be made mixed-use (up to the Civil Courts) as Duckworth suggested and I understand alot of my colleagues in the art world will curse me for that opinion, but public art that is loathed by the public as much as that piece is should not be forced to stay forever. The more I think about the current group establishing an art park there the more skeptical I am because of some of their past choices…I would hate to have to view another Serra or Botero sculpture in that space.

     
  26. A.Torch says:

    And how can we even consider these ideas without finishing (or starting in this case) the cap over the depressed sections of highway and the death-wish crosswalks from the Arch to the Old Court house. That HAS to be part of this overall plan/solution!

     
  27. TM says:

    The Rittenhouse Square example is an interesting point to bring up. Stretch that square out to 22 blocks and I think you can see why we have a problem here. We can possibly create a lively urban space between the Old Courthouse and the Civil Courts, but the blocks west of Tucker really need to be put to some other use than park space. This would be the perfect place to start encouraging a second downtown residential hub around Union Station. The silliest part of the new proposal (at least the one I saw in the P-D today) was the “neighborhood room” from roughly 14th-18th streets. It is to contain, surprise!…a dog park and a playground. Exactly what neighborhood are they talking about? Both of those uses are better off in pocket parks closer to the loft district if that’s who they’re to serve. The best thing I can say about such a proposal is that they’re easily built over when people realize that space warrants something better.
    Back to the blocks east of Tucker. It’s tough to talk about changing/improving the uses surrounding the mall when most of the buildings are newer office towers or parking garages – not very flexible spaces. No one would think of demanding that the perimeter of a suburban office park be a lively place, yet in many ways we’re dealing with that same kind of problem here. I like the idea of a small stand-alone cafe very much (particularly if the cafe is like a large sculptural piece itself), though it would have to stay open to coincide with events downtown (after ballgames etc.). We can do everything we want with these blocks though and the area won’t reach it’s potential until many of the buildings around it are replaced or renovated, and that may take generations.
    Finally, removing Gateway One should be a stated goal in the new master plan. This may take 40, 60 or 80 years, but the fact is that this building, like any other, will reach a time when a decision has to be made about renovating or starting over, and at that time the city should offer the tenants relocation assistance and look at taking it down. With all the buildings of greater architectural value we’ve seen demolished over the past several decades for lesser uses, I don’t find it unimaginable that a building so roundly despised should be taken down to complete what should be, really, our grandest urban space.

     
  28. Rigor is Real says:

    Professional rigor is a real thing. Ask Jason Blair. This is a blog. Some things may be done with a serious treatment, other things, more casually. Steve doesn’t always go over these posts with a fine-toothed comb. Steve doesn’t answer to anyone who holds him accountable. (His ardent fan-boys/girls hardly count.) This is why journalists have a hard time with blogs because bloggers can say whatever they want because it is a casual, private environment but reporters and faculty and real professionals working in the field can get fired for misleading or misrepresenting information. Steve can cover whatever he wants and say whatever he wants without any fear of negative consequences.

    I’m not saying that Steve doesn’t apply his own skills and experience to the topics he chooses to cover. He is very serious about what he does. But at the end of the day, it’s still a PERSONAL blog.

     
  29. TM says:

    As an example of what can be done with a small stand-alone cafe, here are a couple of pictures of the much acclaimed Spiral Cafe in Birmingham, England:

    http://www.architecture.com/go/Architecture/Also/Awards_5430.html

    http://www.cda.org.uk/arch/Pages/Design_awards/cia12/Spiral%20Cafe/MBA-SPIRAL%20CAFE%205_big.jpg

     
  30. Jim Zavist says:

    I attended the presentation and it reminded me a lot of what’s happened (and is still happening) with Skyline Park in Denver – similar issues, similar responses, the same NYC designers. I have mixed feelings. There are some good ideas, but I think we’re struggling with trying to be too many things to too many people. I also have mixed feelings about taking out Gateway One. Yes, on a macro level, it breaks up the long vistas, but so do the other historic and civic buildings. On the micro level, we do need a sense of containment and separation from street traffic. Maybe the best answer is to be more rigorous in viewing this as a series of separate, unique parks, and not a series of “rooms” in the context of a larger park? Take one or two “less significant” blocks and sell them to developers to pay for the improvements to the other blocks? If whatever gets built is 12 stories or less, the long vistas will be similar to what we have now and the short vistas will be more closed-in and people-scaled. Bottom line, is the mall primarily for motorists or pedestrians?

    http://www.tclf.org/landslide/2002/halprin/skyline_history1.htm

    http://www.tbany.com/projects_page.php?projectid=131&categoryid=4

    http://www.urbanstrategies.com/index.php/parks_and_open_space/parks/skyline/

    http://www.downtowndenver.com/Events/SkylineParkEvents.htm

    Bigger picture, why do we need to bring in “outside experts” to design this major civic investment? Don’t we have excellent landscape architects in St. Louis? Or do we need to be able/is it easier to blame an outsider if things don’t work out?

     
  31. Jason says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the lengthy background on the issue! I cannot believe you have the time to write all of this sometimes, but its definitely a welcome addition to my day. I really hope they pull their head out at some point and get with the program. People want places to actually do things, not “stroll” if you want to stroll go to forest park, I think if people want to sit outside downtown they would prefer to do it with some semblance of shade or something to feel sheltered. That is why most people eating lunch on the mall sit at Kiener under the canopy. The remainder has no shelter for activities, or if there is, no place to sit and hang out. Typically the only people I see using the benches are bums sleeping.

    Good luck changing their minds about the issue. If they truly remove all parking along market and dont address the traffic issue they have failed before they have begun.

    Jason

     
  32. john says:

    Thanks for the link in the updates as it contains a SURVEY! Hopefully all the uninformed PERSONAL opinions written here will be forwarded and PROFESSIONALLY reviewed by a “public” official.

     
  33. LisaS says:

    I differ with many of the rest of you: I think there is a place for a grand public promenade downtown. Yes, downtown should be a place where there are buildings and mixed use activities, but let’s face facts, y’all: there are lots of empty underutilized blocks downtown. Adding lots of capacity in new buildings will only delay that development. Develop along the Mall, not over it. Until there are people living right there, highly local amenities such as a dog park and playground will be underutilized at best.

    While I’ve always thought Gateway One a travesty (both from a planning point of view and from just plain aesthetics), JZ has an interesting idea in using low scale construction in those blocks (could be public uses like the proposed ice skating rink, cafe, etc.) to create a series of “rooms”. Create sheltered areas and address the parking/traffic issues, as Jason suggests. Take a look at how Millenium Park creates spaces that are distinct and interesting but retain flexibility of use for parades, festivals, etc.

    Perhaps, Jim, they brought in “outside experts” to get fresh eyes on the situation. I didn’t attend the Charette earlier in the year because over the last 10 years I’ve participated in several others focused on the area, and nothing has happened. It’s hard not to be cynical ….

     
  34. Fly says:

    After attending last night’s presentation, I have to say that the boundaries between personal and professional are blurry. Patterson’s post is far more insightful and eloquent than the boring, arrogant, vision-less talk by Balsley.

    If Balsley is a professional, then Patterson must be something higher… In fact, each of the commenters on this blog has a more informed and more thoughtful approach to the Mall than the presenters last night.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — First, thank you! 

    The ideas around “professional” in the planning and design fields are changing daily.  The fact is I am working professionally as a consultant doing plan review — seeking out the flaws on paper that I see to often in person and illustrate here.  When I see potential design flaws in my client’s projects I seek out alternate solutions to what the “professionals” had prepared, often lower cost solutions.  I am a casual person, attending business meetings in shorts or jeans — my clients know this when they hire me.  They also know that unlike so many of the “professionals” they hire, I will not simply be a yes-man  — I will flat out tell them if what they are planning is a bad idea.  Direct, honest communications is one of the most professional traits.   If they terminate my services because I am honest about my views then we really shouldn’t be working together in the first place.]

     
  35. MH says:

    Words have meanings, and a lot of disputes won’t happen if people use the definitions that have worked just fine for many hundreds of years. Insisting on being called a professional, or calling others by the name, when it doesn’t apply is soooooo middle class. Maybe the silly term “professional athlete” has destroyed an otherwise precise word, but I don’t think it is too late to save it.

    A professional is one who practices a profession. A profession is a job that requires a specific, narrowly focused area of study and a degree conferred for a successful completion of that study. Doctors, lawyers and ministers are the classic three, though I’m sure one could also include architects, engineers, nurses, dentists, etc. Journalists are not professionals, nor are “consultants”, business men, bankers or real estate agents (a 48 primer course not withstanding). They may have a wonderful education and may be wonderful at what they do, but they’re not professionals because they don’t have to graduate from a lengthy, industry-designed, academically rigorous course of study.

    An anonymous non-professional

    [UrbanReviewSTL — We need to stick to the issue of the Gateway Mall but keep this in mind, this team gets paid to suggest ideas for urban areas, as do I.  I could care less about a term like “professional” except when someone draws a line between me and someone else working in the same profession.  At the moment no degree program exists in professional access.  I am a degreed designer and working on a Masters in Urban Planning, certainly a “rigorous course of study.” OK, back to the Gateway Mall.]

     
  36. Brian says:

    Today’s land uses immediately adjacent to the Mall are not going to change in the immediate future, and since they poorly relate to the street today, that is chiefly why this latest plan will again fail.

    Civil Courts, AT&T’s complex of buildings, the Wainwright State office complex, the Kiener garages, the Hilton-Ballpark, Gateway One, Bank of America, and 1010 Market all generate income, so their owners don’t see any need to change how they currently relate to Chestnut or Market. The former GenAmerica building doesn’t generate income presently as it’s vacant, yet its owners likely don’t see a problem in why no one wants to lease bland office space lacking street-level vibrance. With this lack of urgency among owners and uses on immediately adjacent blocks, the 800 and 900 blocks of the Mall will need active street uses themselves. In other words, density is needed on the Mall itself because the immediately surrounding density lacks street-level activity.

    There’s already a well-landscaped promenade today along Market on these two blocks. Again, what’s missing is activity. A sculpture park won’t generate the needed activity. But build new density on half-blocks along Chestnut with street-level retail lining this Market Street-oriented promenade, and the Mall might actually see foot traffic walking between Kiener Plaza and the Civil Courts, with an Arch-aligned vista maintained.

     
  37. steveo says:

    Let’s concentrate on the buildings and building uses surrounding the mall first.

     
  38. OK! The “Twain” could be chained off at the end in order to convert it into the “Dog Run.” Or, we could use it as a homeless corral. Talk about adaptive reuse of worthless structures. Steve, please give your reactions. I am hoping you are as disgusted with last night’s plan as I.

     
  39. GMichaud says:

    A public square is a monumental urban form capable of meeting the demands of this central location. It is a flexible form, it can be open on both ends, either partially or fully to accommodate views. It can be effective at various heights, including low rise heights of 2, 3 or 4 stories.
    It is and instantly identifiable destination, a landmark capable of relating to the Arch, the Court House and Civil Courts Building in the mall. It would naturally attract people, and with a major paved space it could become home to the various festivals such as Strassenfest, and be a catalyst for new events such as weekly markets of some type, farmers, antique etc.
    Generally made up of small scale buildings the opportunity exists to allow small minority businesses or other smaller businesses the same access to downtown crowds as the more established chain stores.
    With a public square you have a major urban space that avoids all of the fractured proposals that have been put forth. In fact a public square, with a little inventiveness could contain much of what has been proposed.
    A public square would solve a whole host of problems, including the main one of attracting people downtown to the mall.

     
  40. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    Ducky:
    “OK! The “Twain” could be chained off at the end in order to convert it into the “Dog Run.” Or, we could use it as a homeless corral. Talk about adaptive reuse of worthless structures. Steve, please give your reactions. I am hoping you are as disgusted with last night’s plan as I.”

    Did you wear your “Little Billy Urban Planner” hat to the meeting? I hope you didn’t embarrass yourself by actually talking to those people. I bet they were soooooo impressed by the little high school fellow who wants to be an urban planner! I also bet they shared a laugh at your expense.

     
  41. Adam says:

    well reginald, at least he didn’t embarass himself by coming off as a total d*ck. so … got anything to say about the TOPIC? just here to act like a first-grader?

    [UrbanReviewSTL — LOL, actually I don’t know that I saw Doug even talk to the presenters — if he did it was one on one.  But let’s get back to the topic.]

     
  42. Jim Zavist says:

    We have several large parks in the city (Forest, Tower Grove, Carondolet, Fairgrounds) that can and do host large events. We have the arch grounds that hosts other large events. BPV, in conjunction with Busch Stadium, will host large events. There are multiple sites in surrounding counties that host large events. Do we need to create more vacant space downtown on the off chance that we can attract or create another large “event” that will “attract” people downtown? Or, should we continue to do what we’ve been doing, making downtown more livable and attractive with smaller, more sustainable and more usable (on a daily basis) projects? Much like thinking we need a “signature” bridge to help define and reinvigorate the city (not!), we don’t need another, little-used “signature” public space. We already have something no other city has, the arch! Creating more open space, like adding more parking garages, won’t make downtown any more attractive without addressing the things that make it unattractive, the perception (not necessarily the reality) that it’s not safe and there’s not much to do, and for potential employers and residents, the school system and the tax burdens. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good ideas in the plan. Where I draw the line is in closing more streets and tearing down more buildings. Downtowns need to be dense and busy – we don’t need any more “open space” down there!

     
  43. Adam says:

    was there mention of tearing down more buildings? sorry i didn’t get to attend as i’m actually in Charlottesville, VA. if Nelson Byrd Woltz has done any landscape architecture around here it certainly isn’t anything worth mentioning.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — No plans to raze any buildings, not even Gateway One.  However, they are talking about changing the May ampitheatre space.]

     
  44. Jim Zavist says:

    but there was talk of closing some streets . . .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Only one major street was proposed to be closed — Chestnut from Tucker (12th) to 15th and then one block of 17th opposite the post office.]

     
  45. GMichaud says:

    Personally I think a better design methodology would be to come up with a working concept and then determine through design the status of the street closings.
    A public square is an urban scale design concept. It could allow traffic or not. Some squares do.
    Streets are modified to enhance the shape and usability of the square. A street could traverse a square, creating possible interesting relationships with transit. Or the street could be closed, creating a large people space. There are dozens of variations, but the final determination would come from on the relationship of the square to transit to uses of the square and what that interface would look like.
    The overriding factor is that the urban concept of a public square provides a workable framework to meet the needs of the city and its people.

    A public square is such a powerful urban concept it would have the possibility of pushing St. Louis from the second tier to the first class tier of cities.
    A public square is about communication. Communication between the citizens and the government is in question. The public square is a meeting place.
    It is central to life in the city, and this is the right location and the right time for such an urban form. It is a form people can readily identify with.
    Early St. Louis had a number of such meeting places. An old map of St. Louis from 1867 shows a large space along the river called Exchange Square. It was north of downtown, not far from Madison Street. Other maps including Compton and Dry from 1875 show numerous markets and squares. It is an urban form that has fallen out of use.
    It deserves serious consideration for the Gateway Mall.

     
  46. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    Adam – “well reginald, at least he didn’t embarass himself by coming off as a total d*ck. so … got anything to say about the TOPIC? just here to act like a first-grader?”

    Coming off as a total duck? That makes no sense.

     
  47. Nicole says:

    My daily commute downtown takes me through the Gateway Mall at 16th Street. Crossing through the Mall (on foot) provides some very welcome shade and greenery, which, apart from the Arch grounds, is a rare and precious commodity in downtown St. Louis. The mall could use some improvement, but is not a failure. Its disuse is merely a symptom of the larger problem of auto-oriented development that sucks pedestrians from the streets.

    I see the Mall as an opportunity to bring some of nature into the City. By way of example, much of Millenium Park is a natural environment, and it’s lovely. Rittenhouse Square is very lush in summer. People need an oasis from the hard surfaces of the city.

    Activity is good, but we don’t need to program every inch with a function. Spending more money on services for the homeless would go further towards making the mall a place that everyone wants to use. And re-energizing pedestrian life in the buildings around the mall would truly transform the area.

    [SLP –  I never once suggested we eliminate green space completely from downtown.  Rittenhouse Square, in Philly, is quite lovely indeed.  It is also relatively small — roughly the size of any one of the single blocks on the mall.  RS is also surrounded by great buildings, not parking garages and mirrored offices.  My point is to create some green spaces surrounded by good buildings with higher density of people.]

     
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