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St. Louis to Replace ‘Fuctionally Obsolete’ Arch with New Monument/Parking Garage

June 28, 2008 Downtown, Events/Meetings, History/Preservation, Parking 53 Comments

It’s just too short,” says St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, “It’s holding back our skyline.“. Slay cited monuments in other cities that a considerably taller such as Paris’ much older Eifel Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle and Toronto’s CN Tower. Not as tall but able to accommodate more people is the London Eye.

One concept floated in the cigar filled backrooms of city hall is to recreate a 19th century riverfront, complete with a walkable compact street grid and cast iron storefront buildings. “It would be so retro,” exclaims Barbara Geisman, Slay’s Deputy Director of Development, making reference to the 40 city block of warehouses the city tossed aside in the 1940’s.

Geisman continued, “We have simply run out of historic structures to demolish. The Arch was next on our list.”

Alderman Phyllis Young is not to keen on the walkable grid idea, “I drive a hybrid Prius so why would I walk anywhere. What the area needs is more drive-thrus like a Starbuck’s and a Walgreen’s.” The St Louis Development Corporation has already awarded the project to Steve Stogel. When SLDC director Rodney Crim was asked if an RFP (Request for Proposals) had been issued he simply responded with, “Oops, we forgot. Too late now.”

Stogel’s concept is for the world’s tallest parking garage with a McDonalds on the top level. “Take away one Arch,” Stogel said, “and replace it with two arches and parking for 2,000 cars. Imagine driving right into the monument and enjoying Chicken McNuggets while watching East St Louis flood!”
Obviously I’m having a bit of satirical fun, the Arch isn’t going anywhere. However the second of two public meetings on the future of the Arch Grounds will be held Tuesday July 1st, starting at 3pm at the Old Courthouse.

From the Post-Dispatch:

The National Park Service will hold the second of two open houses Tuesday to gather input on proposed improvements to the Arch grounds.

The open house will run from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the Old Courthouse, 11 North Fourth Street. Ideas range from better connections to the surrounding city to a major new museum.


Currently there are "53 comments" on this Article:

  1. Grant says:

    I call shenanigans. “Stogel’s concept is for the world’s tallest parking garage with a McDonalds on the top level.”


  2. W Kruse says:

    That would not be nearly so funny if there wasn’t so much truth behind the humor!

    Countdown till my STL return: 33 days

  3. While there is plenty of room for debate on this sucker, I’m not at all impressed with the Nat’l Parks Svc. plan version 1.0 they floated out last week. Based on what was reported in the paper it’s a new building (museum or cultural attraction) on the north lake, some street vendors on the grounds, and a water taxi from East St. Louis to the Arch. I’m fine with the first two ideas, but a water taxi? Seriously? What tourist is going to arrive in St. Louis and park in EAST St. Louis so they can come back on a water taxi? So far, their only plan for a major connection between the arch and other areas only calls for “the lid” over the highway. Think bigger. The reason the Danforth Foundation went after this thing is about connectivity.
    I think there’s room for 1 and 2 story buildings on the east side of a much smaller, narrower Memorial Drive, with a service road behind them on the arch grounds. Further, let’s really connect some neighborhoods with a train or trolley that goes from Soulard, to Choteau’s Landing, across the Arch grounds on the east, up to the Landing, Lumiere, the Bottle District and North Broadway.
    The underground museum needs a modern, major overhaul. It’s scary.

  4. john says:

    The best ideas (as usual) are not allowed to be presented. Connectivity is the main issue. On one side are the truckers, speeders, and others who want to be highway connected…”don’t change a thing”. The other side realizes that highways can be easily re-routed and that priorities should be on people not motorized vehicles. The motto should be “No Highway No Problem” which would incorporate a number of improvements, most importantly to allow neighborhoods to be linked. This is the Lou, don’t bank on positive change, it only means bigger parking lots here.

  5. william kruse says:

    Don’t self-hate so much. For all of the negatives that our city has, it has its fair share of positives as well. Every friend I bring home from out of state falls in love with our city; its parks, people, and yes even its transportation systems. One family I brought in for the Tour of Missouri last year relocated after he completed law school and raves about how much he loves his new home town. This is a professional who has lived in Miami, NY and Atlanta. He loves it so much he almost has his sister and her fiance ready to relocate from Key West.
    Countdown till my STL return: 32 days

  6. andy says:


    Highways can be easily rerouted? Where you gonna reroute I-70 to? How many homes will you tear down to do that?

    I agree that connectivity is a big part of the issue. But it’s not the main issue. The main issue is use of the Arch. We want more people to use the archgrounds more often. Providing people with safe travels to and from is one thing; giving them reason to stick around is another.

  7. the dude says:

    Andy – Highway 70 is already being rerouted – over the new Mississippi River bridge. The “Lid” plan is seriously flawed. The idea of building a lid over the depressed lanes is based on assumptions made before the new Mississippi River bridge became a real project and before we were attacked on September 11th. The Lid is a bad idea on many levels.
    Not only is it extremely expensive to build, it will also have high maintenance costs over its life. Plus, it concentrates pedestrians into one area like a funnel. What if an Islamo- Facist wanted to attack St. Louis? Wouldn’t the tunnel under the Lid be the perfect place to explode a bomb? Talk about creating a potential terrorism target. Wow…

  8. Judith says:

    Having grown up watching the Arch built, which my stepfather superintended at one time, I am appalled that anyone would take away the Gateway to the West which farsighted people saw as a draw and an identification symbol with St. Louis. Take away the Arch and St. Louis can be known as Murder City. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!!

  9. Kevin says:

    It seems that nobody wants to discuss that the problem with the arch grounds is not the grounds themself, but the private land around the arch. Pretty much every building adjacent the arch grounds has its back to the arch. Imagane if when you looked out the Eifel tower or the Coloseum all you saw was the back of buildings. The city needs to require all buildings adjecent the arch to have store fronts facing it. Imagine sidewalk dining or shopping looking the park. Its the only way to integrate the monument into a downtown experience.
    And no, I have forgotten about the thing called I-70. If they are going to put in a new I-70 bridge they need to remove the section cutting the arch off from downtown. Have the highway end at broadway and fill in the I-70 trench. Do we really need to connect the two bridges?
    Now you may tell me everything that is wrong with this idea.

  10. the dude says:

    Kevin – the problem with your idea of filling in the depressed lanes is that the Great White Fathers didn’t think of it first. They are wed to the Lid plan and have painted themselves into a corner in its advocacy.
    The only way to get the Lid plan dropped and another idea on the table is to figure out how to help the GWFs save face, and give them the credit for coming up with a new idea, like filling in the depressed lanes.
    It’s strange…the only place you can find anything about getting rid of the depressed lanes is in the blogs. The mainstream media, both print and electronic, never mention it.

  11. william kruse says:

    What the sam hell is “great white fathers” supposed to mean?

  12. the dude says:

    “Great White Fathers” is code for the moneyed set which hails from the leafy suburbs of our region. Some believe these individuals collectively set the agenda for the region.
    Do a Google search on “Great White Fathers” and “Civic Progress”. That ought to point you toward greater understanding.

  13. william kruse says:

    I think you missed my point. While you might disagree with the plan, to put that reference on people who are trying to keep the city moving and innovating is misguided. Debate the ideas, don’t attack the people.

  14. john says:

    “You cannot have this great treasure — that’s the Arch — and surround it by junk,” John Danforth said. “The highway is junk. The riverfront is now junk. The grounds of the Arch are zilch. There is nothing there.”

    As Danforth makes clear in his report and press statements, the highway divide is one of the major problems. The best solutions have been left out the discussions…by design.

  15. dude says:

    The current NPS planning effort is an open process. Danforth thinks the NPS is close-minded to his ideas. Others think the Danforth plan is a fait accomplis. The NPS says the process is starting fresh, with no hidden agenda.
    Many in the public are advocating to fill in the depressed lanes. Their comments are on the record as official public input. The NPS is now required to address the concerns/input.
    For starters, the NPS should complete a traffic and design study to determine the feasibility/desirablity of abandoning the depressed lanes and replacing them with a new Memorial Drive as compared to going with the Lid option.
    If deemed feasible, maybe then the Danforth Foundation would redirect its energies to supporting the new Memorial Drive concept instead of the Lid.

  16. ex-stl says:

    “Plus, it concentrates pedestrians into one area like a funnel. What if an Islamo- Facist (sic) wanted to attack St. Louis? ”

    sorry dude, the pedestrians are already funnelled. and does anyone seriously think STL is even on any terrorist radar?

    I do like your idea of filling in the cut and I’d make it (I-70) into a 10 block surface boulevard between Eads and Poplar. giving people a reason to make a detour through downtown.

    that would be much cheaper and traffic wouldn’t be hugely impacted. going North or South, how many really go that much farther than downtown or the bridges? I’d be curious to see the results of a study on that.

  17. dude says:

    Who would have thought Oklahoma City would have been a target for terrorism either? But we all know what happened there. It only takes one crazy with a truck full of fertilizer to wreak all sorts of havoc. Tunnels are known targets for terrorists.

  18. aaron says:

    i’m not sure about the idea of filling in the trench. i live in south city, i visit friends in hazelwood frequently. i take 55north to 70. if the downtown stretch of 70 is filled in, i would instead have to take broadway all the way north to 70. the idea doesn’t bother me, sometime i take broadway just to mix things up anyway, but how about the other 10,000 drivers trying to do the same? do we really want all those people jamming up broadway trying to get through downtown to get from south city/county to north city/county (or vice versa)?

  19. dude says:

    How bad would that be? Maybe five minutes? In exchange for opening up our downtown to the riverfront? Or should we be more concerned with the free flow of interstate traffic through the heart of downtown? Isn’t that really the choice we have to make?
    The irony is, forever people have complained about how downtown is cut off from the river and the Arch. The interstate is obviously the barrier. But none of the higher ups are talking about removing the barrier! Instead, they are proposing a literal band-aid solution. One that leaves some 80+ percent of the barrier in place.

  20. st. lousian says:

    hi steve,
    may be I should have made my handle, ‘la dude’. Any way Mr. Kruse I think is correct, not so much on self loathing but yes I realize Devil’s Advocate and sarcasm are in play. Though, if an ultimate frizbee team were to show up and play a pick up game on the arch grounds, I have little doubt a National Park Ranger would drive up in his hummer and threaten them all with arrest if they didn’t leave. There’s an attitude that needs readjustment. Where highway lanes get re-routed is irrelevant. The monument is quite lovely I think. In the summer time, has any one seen a group randomly having a picnic or any one coming down with a blanket and a book to get some sun in their swim suite on the arch grounds?

  21. John M. says:

    I think it interesting that Civic Progress of the fifties, sixties and seventies can be criticized. We were lucky to have a powerful civic minded organization of forward thinking CEO’s on our side. The benefit of hindsight allows you the ability to judge the outcome, but not the effort and the luxurury we had with the concentration of power here. That power brought us many things in the quality of life for all. Many people see conspiracy wherever they look and if getting a bunch of the wealthiest guys in the city thinking about the city is your idea of a satanical group of the cultural elite then you are as backwards as this state is viewed from the outside.
    The Civic Progress of yesterday and today are simply not the same thing. It was in 1953 that Mayor Joseph M. Darst, in the last year of his term, called a group of “distinguished citizens” into his office and charged them “with the responsibility of giving leadership” to a renewal program. Two years later he went even further, calling some top CEOs together and asking them to form a formal organization so that the corporate community could provide more effective leadership in St. Louis. These actions laid the foundation for the creation of a corporate-centered civic capacity that was instrumental in making large-scale contributions to the city’s development agenda in the ensuing decade, by provoking the energies of the city’s corporate elite to a major civic undertaking, Darst hoped to harness their resources and put them to work in alliance with city hall and other interests in the revitalization of the downtown. This undertaking marked the first time that cooperation between city hall and local business leaders had become formalized in St. Louis.
    This groundbreaking act of a public-private partnership was not only unprecedented, it was downright brilliant, given the fragmented leadership of our region. The Civic Progress of St. Louis was repeated in many cities, but happened here first with the intelligence of Mr. Darst. It was power and influence that brought us the arch. A project stalled since the late 1930’s. Do you really think we would have something like the arch built today? HAH, not a chance. The projects of the sixties and seventies in St. Louis are emblematic of their time period and must be judged on those realities of their own time. This time is different and Civic Progress and organizations with such high and lofty goals do not exist in the same way, and maybe that is a good thing. The world has changed. Good or bad, it is different now.
    Cities are places of economic opportunity. Without the economic opportunity, none of us live here, regardless of our high ideals. I too can appreciate the nuances of a city and all of the subtle joys brought through things not in the pursuit of more; but I also understand at the foundation, it is business that keeps a city in the luxury we have all become intimate with in our lives.

  22. Jim Zavist says:

    dude, if we don’t do something because some “Islamo-Facist” might do something, then the terrorists have already won.
    I’m in the camp of improving access as the biggest priority. The area doesn’t need another undefined museum, street vendors only work when you have enough pedestrian traffic to support them on a daily basis, and I can see little or no demand for a water taxi to the east side – Metrolink already is a better option. The two fundamental realities are that the arch is primarily a tourist destination (except when events like Live on the Levee are going on to attract locals – oops, not this year) and Memorial Drive ain’t no tree-lned parkway, it’s freeway frontage road, and as such, it’s intimidating to many pedestrians.
    While a lid over the trench would be a nice improvement, unless and until we eliminate the on and off ramps on either end as well, traffic speeds at street level will continue to be too high for pedestrian comfort. I’d also look into seeing if a pedestrian bridge could be built over Washington Avenue, between the Eads Bridge Metrolink platform and the top of the Arch Parking Garage. And since this is a tourist attraction, how ’bout replacing the elevator in one leg with high-speed one, and make it into a thrill ride?!

  23. dude says:


    Are you saying you prefer the lid option versus filling in the depressed lanes and rebuilding Memorial Drive?

    With signalized intersections and other things, isn’t it possible to control the speed of traffic speed along a rebuilt Memorial Drive?

    There are lots of tourists around the Arch these days. It’s quite a sight seeing a young family, lifting their baby carriages up and down the high curbs along Memorial Drive and crossing in the poorly marked cross walks.

    Elderly and disabled people also have a hard time dealing with the access to the Arch.

    Do urbanists prefer the lid option? What good does that do you if you’re coming from Washington Avenue or the Mansion House area?

  24. Carondelet Ninja says:

    “Tunnels are known targets for terrorists.”

    They are?

  25. Scott says:

    My problem with the Arch grounds is that there is not much down there to draw me there and to stick around. The museum is a huge snooze and residents can only enjoy going up the arch so many times. We need attractions to pull people down there and keep them there and spend some money. An aquarium would be a great idea. We need dining options too. Leave the arch alone and develop the grounds around it.

  26. dude says:

    “Tunnels are known targets for terrorists.”

    They are?

    Just ask the people in Manhattan. They live in fear of one of their tunnels or bridges being attacked.

  27. dude says:

    Why not build the museum or acquarium on part of the Bottleworks site? An “E” ticket would give visitors a ride up the Arch, admission to the aquarium, and a riverboat cruise.
    Moving the museum/aquarium north of the Ed Jones Dome would disperse pedestrians around a wider swath of the downtown area, and a new Memorial Drive would be the way to connect everything together.
    Obviously, for this to work, the elevated and depressed lanes of I-70 would need to be removed. Then you could SEE the Arch from the Bottleworks/museum site instead of looking at a 1950s vintage elevated expressway through the heart of downtown!

  28. Jim Zavist says:

    The thru lanes, in the depression, while noisy, aren’t the real problem/barrier. The traffic (both speed and volume) on Memorial Drive, combined with the absurdly-high curbs create a huge barrier. The challenge is that many commuters use these exits to get to their jobs downtown, so “taking” them away would be a huge political “challenge”. So, until I see more details, I can’t say whether a lid at grade in conjunction with traffic calming on Memorial Drive is the better answer (NPS Options 2 & 5), or if a pedestrian bridge over both I-70 and Memorial Drive, connecting the old courthouse and the arch grounds (NPS Options 3 & 4) would be . . .

  29. Carondelet Ninja says:

    “Just ask the people in Manhattan. They live in fear of one of their tunnels or bridges being attacked.”

    A group of sheep living in fear of something happening and a tunnels having a preexisting history or pattern of being targeted are two different things.

  30. dude says:


    There are multiple conversations going on…
    While the NPS is focused on their National Park, we in St. Louis are concerned about our overall riverfron and downtown.
    Obviously, there are many point of mutual interest.
    We should be seeking synergy in our combined efforts. We should be looking at more than the frontage to the Arch grounds. As far as barriers are concerned, what’s your take on the elevated lanes crossing Washington Avenue and the area between Laclede’s Landing and the Edward Jones Dome?
    The direct comparison is the way the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway and replacement with a surface promenade revitalized the San Francisco waterfront. Everyone sings its praises.
    To Carondelet Ninja…try visiting this site:
    The Federal Highway Administration thinks tunnels and bridges are potential terrorism targets. They’re expensive infrastructure investments, so damaging them causes significant harm.

  31. Carondelet Ninja says:

    Once again, the fact that the Feds say that tunnels and bridges are a target does not support your earlier comment that tunnels are a “known targets for terrorists.” In order to support this sort of claim, you would need to provide a detailed account of previous incidents in which tunnels have been the direct target of a terrorist attack (not including subway and rail cars, which may have been in a tunnel when they were attacked). I point this out because it is this sort of fearmongering that does far more damage to society than any one single attack could ever do. Too often, people randomly reiterate and regurgitate whatever information they happen to have overheard by an “expert” or “source” on the evening news without any factual data to uphold such claims. In any military operation, the lines of communication and roadway infrastructures are always among the first targets. Standard order of battle. So I find it a little difficult to believe that our government is just now realizing that these areas are weak defensively, and trying to appropriate money for their upgrade. I believe it far more conceivable that the Federal Highway Administration wants to subvert “homeland security” funding into its coffers to help maintain it’s current infrastructure, and that a very easy and plausible way to do that is to prey upon the fear of John Q. Public by announcing that highways, bridges, and tunnels are in fact impending targets of terrorist attacks.
    Then again, maybe it’s just the voices in my head that tell me to mistrust anything a government agency tells me.

  32. John M. says:

    I am fairly certain at this point you could offer bottle works something for piece of their develoment. When even family pulled out of the deal, along with everything else. What is with aquariums? I have never even visited one, why does the idea of an aquarium continue to get tossed around. I think the first time I heard it was in the mid-eighties. I think the second time was Donald Trump in his casino plan to the city.

    I remember a few years back when I was first-pitched Bottleworks, they had envisioned that Corporate Gran prix (team-building), would be the center of it. Well wouldn’t you know Gran Prix came and went through St. Louis, earth city, you would have thought it was tracking to be the fastest business in and out of town, a year and half I think. Besides being quite possibly the oddest and least likely anchor of a development, I was sure that would fail, I hadn’t thought of spending my money on Gocart racing since my teens. And I like cars.

    Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo, Rawlings restaurant, the largest skyscraper and zoned residential to boot in Missouri, that would complement the Arch with its stainless steel skin. Reading that one made me question what I thought I knew. But it too left the scene of possibilities, along with many I am sure I never heard about.

    As far as aquariums go, why not fill one leg up with water and have the strangest aquarium around, allowing you to recreate the depths of the ocean not often visited compete with total blackness, similar to the lack of sunlight seen there. Since it isn’t tranparent, lets just tell people it exists and never build a damn thing. or even better than that tell them there is fish living in the Mississippi and then sell them tickets to a glass bottom boat will allow them to see absolutely nothing. Wait there is more. Relying on the apparent gullability of so many we could tell them that for a small fee we will show them a building will stretch across the river, called a bridge, this so called new bridge built between Missouri and Illinois will someday transport people without the need for ferry’s and water taxi’s. I know they won’t believe it, but surely there must be someone out there that will marvel at the concept.

  33. dude says:

    In planning defenses, are we limited to thinking about places where attacks have already occured, but not where they are likely to occur?
    Based on that reasoning, we should be more concerned about the safety of high rise office towers than infrastructure improvements.
    The Federal Highway Administration seems to make a pretty strong case why bridges and tunnels are vulnerable. When they get hit, we pay a higher price.
    Makes sense, doesn’t it?

  34. ex-stl says:

    dude, I also was thinking about the Embarcadero, sadly for the sake of advocacy the comparison doesn’t quite work – it was just a spur and never really went anywhere anyway (of course the original planners meant it to connect to the GG bridge). that proposal for demolition faced huge and bitter opposition from some very well-connected business interests. now that it’s down everyone loves it and is an incredibly popular place for a stroll. a better comparison might be SF’s Central Freeway, or (perversely) Boston’s re-use of surface after the Big Dig (I know – just a flawed massive lid solution).

    a lid may be a band-aid and one that has been tossed around for decades, but jeez, how long are people going to dick around when everybody agrees something has to be done. I’m with your point to reconnect and restore what was, well, cauterized, but I won’t use AT-FP reasons.

    it kind of reminds me of when people spruce up and alter their home for resale and then feel foolish that they didn’t do it years ago.

    aaron, would it really be such a headache that you would abandon that route entirely for B’way? (personally I like taking B’way, W. Florissant or even Hall where/when possible) all it would entail would be a short stretch of boulevard, if the lights are well-planned and timed it really wouldn’t be much of an imposition and prob. make it easier to hit the reversible lanes when going North. and FWIW once I was running late for a family event, I made it from the Tower Grove area to the Bridgeton/Hazelwood area in about 15-20 minutes w/o using the 55-70 path (yeah, I was speeding a little in places).

    St. Louis is dealing with the disruption of 40 (ok 64) with some headaches, but the world hasn’t come to a screeching halt.

    I don’t think altering 70 and Sullivan would destroy the path and god knows with a few hopeful exceptions, downtown can destroy huge swaths all by itself just fine. all I’m saying is “couldn’t hurt”

  35. John M. says:

    I must admit I too have strayed off topic a bit. If there was one anyway. At the risk of sounding a bit corny, I love the arch from the outside. Not so much inside. It is quite possibly the most beatiful non-functioning, art, building in the world. We are lucky to have it. It will outlive this civilization, I think.
    So to go with the the thoughts on the arch of things we can change, I would have to say what an opportunity that the park service is at least exploring the idea.
    Ignorance being my guiding light, if ingess and egress as well as continuitity to the old courthouse and the park east of it is at issue from Memorial to the arch grounds, why not a sloping bridge almost the width of that area into the arch grounds?
    It could be a grand canal type thing, but in modern form. I am certain that Memorial could stand to lose a lane on either side. It is not the most oft travelled road anyway. And to be honest three turning lanes seems kind of excessive anyhow.
    NO LID needed, no filling in of an interestate. I like it and the only thing needed to shut down is Memorial on occcasion, which they do now anyway. In fact why not eliminate that whole section by KMOV and the old Adams Mark and save ourselves some moolah. But that is where the whole lid thing came I think.
    As far as the arch itself, the whole basement is in need of updating. Since kids are the main draw, perhaps a whole exhibit focused on additional kid things would be a no-brainer. Make it an opportunity to teach more about the river, a grand one it is. I think a restaurant is a bad idea, that should be reserved outside of the arch grounds. Move the bike rental place up from the old power plant and put it within reach of the casual visitor. A little off center, maybe close to the parking garage.
    I always thought that you could lease the space under the bridge(highway) on that side. They do it with parking operators, why not someone with a grand vision to fill in the void with outdoor type exhibits, something temporary and movable in response to possible repairs. Give the space away for all I care, let someone with the best idea to fill in that void on the north side of DT tell us.
    My first thought is glass structures housing art exhibits or coffeehouses, refreshments, simple stuff. Make the lease of that space consistent with revenue generated. Ground floor retail that sells kitch is fine with me. Somebody help me on this one, my mind is racing to the ridiculous.
    Terrorists? I refuse to live in fear. I also refuse to believe with the extraordinary resources thrown at this fear, we would have generated some legitimate plots or cells. We haven’t. And don’t drum all of the ridiculous notions of people talking about it. That doesn’t count. I talk about all sorts of crap. Most of which has little bearing on action. It is called hot air and we all have a least of hint of it, some of us more.
    The amount of resources, the reduction in civil liberties, this disproportionately high cost with little gained on a fight of ideals. When people are outnumbered or outgunned they will turn to so-called terrorism to fight against a percieved tyranny. These people you fear, see us as tyranny. And unfortunately there is some truth to the inconsistencies we have allowed in these U.S. backed regimes, governments, dictatorships, or whatever it is termed. We need to be more responsible in our foreign relations and demand that the leadership look to resolve things without the need for additional wars. Respect of anothers home, resources and culture would be a nice start.

  36. Jim Zavist says:

    Yes, there are multiple conversations going on…
    dude, you stated that “While the NPS is focused on their National Park, we in St. Louis are concerned about our overall riverfront and downtown”, as am I. And yes, “we should be seeking synergy in our combined efforts.” The two challenges we’re all facing are reaching consensus on just what those concerns actually are and dealing with the topographic and flooding issues that make our riverfront different from the riverfronts in other cities.
    As far as barriers are concerned, my take on the elevated lanes crossing Washington Avenue and the area between Laclede’s Landing and the Edward Jones Dome is that they’re a bigger barrier than the trench. The issue, however, in both areas is the fact that Memorial Drive acts more like a series of freeway on- and off-ramps and less like a sedate urban parkway, and at the elevated portion, the pedestrian connections get more complicated and harder to navigate – it’ll be interesting to see how successful Lumiere Place’s new tunnel is.
    Your direct comparison to the way the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway and its replacement with a surface promenade revitalized the San Francisco waterfront is a bit flawed. The big difference is that the Embarcadero was a raised freeway (two levels, if I remember correctly) while the trench here is a depressed freeway – it creates much less of a visual barrier. Would we be better off if the trench went away? In some ways, yes, especially on a local, urban level; not so much if you’re trying to get between the north and south sides of town quickly. And would we be better off with a lid? Yes, for the same reasons as filling in the trench, but without some of the negative impacts on the larger highway network.
    Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wouldn’t fight the highway’s removal – it’s not a path I use very often, and its loss is something I could live with easily (much like how I’m living with the temporary loss of Highway 40). But, being a pragmatist, I know that there are many people out there who do use this highway every day, and I believe in picking my battles. And as someone else pointed out, the new I-70 bridge over the Mississippi creates an opportunity to revisit the need for a connection on this side of the river between the new bridge and the Poplar Street bridge – it’s an intriguing possibility and certainly should be explored. But to assume that all the current traffic can just be shifted to a surface street for a mile or so ignores the fact that this traffic needs to either go somewhere else and/or be kept moving, which increases the degree of difficulty for pedestrians wanting to cross said street! (For a parallel conversation, check out http://www.8664.org.)
    Finally, the quote that “The Federal Highway Administration thinks tunnels and bridges are potential terrorism targets. They’re expensive infrastructure investments, so damaging them causes significant harm,” while true, also comes across as either excessively paranoid or just using government paranoia to justify an urban design agenda. Any place that is a) a critical link in our transportation system, b) a place where large number of people congregate, and/or c) perceived to be symbolic of American success or values is prone to terrorist attack. There are higher value targets nearby (think professional sports venues) than a lid over I-70 would be; if anything, a lid would offer more protection for the Arch than the current bollards do. And using the same logic, the new tunnel that takes Lindbergh under an airport runway presents just as juicy an opportunity (and shouldn’t have been built?).
    Having been involved in multiple political battles over the years, I’ve come to accept the fact that politics is the art of the possible. I see limited resources and limited political will to do something as major as tearing out the existing freeway here, so I’m focused on solutions that might actually be implemented, not pie-in-the-sky plans that just end up gather dust on the shelf. I certainly won’t fight those that have grander visions, but I won’t be losing much sleep if the “perfect” answer won’t or can’t be implemented.

  37. dude says:

    In terms of dramatic transformations, the removal of the Embarcadero is a good comparison. In San Francisco, they described it as “removing the braces” from their downtown.
    In terms of circulation, the best comparison is Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. As you enter the south side of downtown Chicago, Interstate 55 terminates and becomes Lakeshore Drive.
    Driving along Lakeshore Drive, the city is on the west side and Lake Michigan is on the east side. It’s a grand entrance into the Chicago, and it runs for miles.
    Imagine instead that Lakeshore Drive was an elevated expressway along the Lakefront. What a blight on their downtown that would be. They’d be saying how their downtown is cut off from the lake.

  38. Jim Zavist says:

    Correction – I-55 terminates AT Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, much like how I-170 terminates at Eager Road here or I-110 terminates at the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, MS. – it can’t go any further east. I-70 is different here – it acts much more like the Dan Ryan (I-90/94), going thru downtown. However, I do agree that Lakeshore Drive is a great amenity and entrance into Chicago . . .

  39. dude says:

    Jim – Are you saying at the terminus of I-55 in Chicago, you can continue on another interstate into downtown? Those connections take you east toward Gary Indiana.
    I think I understand the point you are making though, that Lakeshore Drive is more an exit than a continuation. Okay.
    However, there are examples where interstates do terminate and convert into local boulevards, aren’t there?
    What about where I-395 turns into S. Howard Street at W.Conway near Camden Yards in the heart of downtown Baltimore?

  40. Jim Zavist says:

    Yes, there are places where freeways end and become surface streets. The one I’m most familiar with is the Sixth Avenue Freeway in Denver (1000 W. 6th Ave., if you want to map it). Your Baltimore example really isn’t a very good one – I-395 is more of a 2-mile long off-ramp for I-95 than a real freeway, but where I-83 ends at President Street on the north side or where I-70 ends past I-695 on the west side are both much better examples of your argument.
    In Chicago, I-55 intersects I-90/94 a couple of miles before it ends at Lakeshore Drive. If you want to go to Gary (coming from St. Louis), your best bet is to get off I-55 when it hits I-80 near Joliet. That way you save a bunch of miles and avoid downtown completely. Closer in, I-55 (the Stevenson) is actually going east-west, so your freeway option is 90/94 (the Dan Ryan), where you can go north and west toward Wisconsin or south and east toward Indiana. If you choose not to use the Dan Ryan, you can go two more miles east where you can then go north on Lakeshore Drive into downtown or south on Lakeshore Drive to Jackson Park. (Check out a map.)
    Comparing St. Louis to Chicago or San Francisco or even Baltimore is a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison. All those cities (and their waterfronts) face an ocean, a bay or a great lake – there are few or no options to cross them. Our waterfront faces a river that’s crossed by multiple bridges. People want to get to all of them, and our street and highway system has evolved to meet these needs and wants. With the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, was putting I-70 in a trench in front of the Arch the best solution? No, of course not, but it’s there. Obviously, thought was given sometime in the past to diverting some of that traffic at the partially-completed 20th St. interchange off of 40/64, but that idea has obviously also been abandoned.
    dude, I understand why making I-70 go away would make it easier to improve access to the riverfront. Unfortunately, it’s carrying too much traffic to close it without providing other alternatives. Much like your NIMBY stance on having it where it is now, other residents will have the same or stronger response if it’s proposed to be moved somewhere else. Keep pushing, but be prepared for a long fight. You’re not wrong, there’s just not the money or the political will, at least not now, that I can see to make it happen. Could this change? Of course it could, but I see other priorities that will appeal more to the larger region, things like a new stadium for the Rams, or possibly, more tax money devoted to expanding Metrolink . . .

  41. dude says:

    The money is there – Danforth is proposing spending down their foundation’s funds to help complete their efforts in revitalizing downtown.
    Perhaps they would consider building a museum/aquarium on the Bottle District site.
    Is it presumptuous for anyone to suggest how the Danforth Foundation should spend its money? Yes.
    However, they are proposing making major changes to downtown, so the public ought to have a voice. The National Park Service hearing process gives the public the opportunity to comment.
    Is it an uphill battle? Yes. Is it worth the time? You’ll never know until you try. Sure, folks can always watch “American Idol” or “Deal or No Deal”.
    Participating in civic life is much more rewarding. On something like, this, it’s maybe even more the journey than the destination.
    Danforth’s on the journey too. Maybe at some point everyone gets on the same path?
    Figuring out to get there is the most challenging and best part.

  42. bonwich says:

    Been lurking for a while, but I need to weigh in on this.

    When the new bridge is built, the depressed lanes will NO LONGER BE I-70. Plans call for them to be redesignated as I-44.

    So think this through. This implies that I-44 *eastbound* needs to connect with I-70 *westbound*. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

    Further, the I stands for *Interstate*. Leaving the depressed lanes as superhighway does absolutely, positively nothing for Interstate traffic — it merely facilitates high-speed intrastate connection.

    The glaring point right now is that, in all this discussion, absolutely no one among St. Louis civic “leadership” has even mentioned the possibility of eliminating the then-redundant stretch of I-70 when the new bridge opens, thereby reconnecting both the Arch grounds and Laclede’s Landing with downtown.

    The Lid was an interesting solution 25 years ago, which is probably why local leadership is getting around to considering it now.

  43. the dude says:

    The case is made so much better when delivered with a sense of humor.
    $100,000,000 for an obsolete lid idea over an obsolete section of interstate?
    In the “big project” world that prevails in St. Louis, are we on the brink of approving a mega project based on an obsolete set of factors, when a possibly excellent alternative sits on the shelf ignored?
    Say it ain’t so, Joe.

  44. bonwich says:

    I might be more effective if you asked me where I was going with that gun in my hand.
    By the way, I thought I’d copyrighted “Great White Fathers.” Guess I forgot to turn in the paperwork.

  45. Jim Zavist says:

    The numbers applied to freeways in urban areas have more to do with federal funding and less with reflecting the actual direction a road is headed. Logically, I-70 and I-270 should be swapped on the north side of town – I-70’s cross-country drivers don’t need to be going through downtown, and would be better off taking the straight shot across the north side of the metroplex. The same could hold true with I-55 and I-255 – take through traffic across the Mississippi on the south side of town and you can reduce some of the congestion around the Poplar Street Bridge.
    In digging further (http://www.newriverbridge.org/initialphase.asp), it looks like some sort of connection will (need to) be maintained between I-70 on the north side of downtown and 40/64/44/55 on the south side of downtown – going through Illinois, with the new approaches and interchange, will simply take too long. Whether it remains a freeway or not, depressed or not, certainly merits much more discussion. But I continue to be most concerned with the transition from freeway to arterial to city street and the pedestrian interface in and around the Arch grounds. The fundamental decision, at least as this study is framed, is whether to separate pedestrians from north-south traffic in the existing I-70/Memorial Drive corridor (with one or more pedestrian bridges) or to keep pedestrian traffic at street level.
    Given the reality that many visitors to the Arch come from out of town, many times with kids, and can, and usually are, intimidated and/or confused by traffic patterns in the area, I’m inclined to favor building a pedestrian bridge, the wider the better, over the corridor – reduce conflicts, and everyone will be happier!

  46. the dude says:

    I happened to be walking downtown today, and there are lots of pedestrians. It looks like the crossover between two big conventions, Shriners exiting and a big church convention arriving.
    With so many pedestrians filling the downtown area, traffic is more congested and s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. It feels like a real city.
    A few blocks east, over by Laclede’s Landing and the Arch grounds, there’s no where near the same level of pedestrian activity.
    What if instead there were multiple, safe, wide, acccess points for pedestrians to connect between downtown, Laclede’s Landing, and the Arch grounds?
    Say one at the Bottle District/Lumiere point, one at Laclede’s Landing, one at Washington Avenue/Eads Bridge, one at the Hyatt/Old Court House and another at the Old Cathedral?
    Would the availability of multiple connection/crossing points – each providing a stationed, uniformed poilice officer directing traffic and pedestrians (imagine that!) – make locals and visitors alike feel comfortable walking along and crossing a more proper Memorial Drive?
    That’d feel like a tourist ready, pedestrian friendly city. I’m probably aiming way too high here….

  47. Jim Zavist says:

    No, you’re not . . . except for that “uniformed poilice officer directing traffic and pedestrians” part . . . sounds too much like patronage run amock . . .

  48. How can the mayor say the ARCH is too short and want to destroy it!!!The ARCH can be seen from the city and most of the surrounding county aeas too. It is a symbol of the GATEWAY TO THE WEST and is known as such all over the country, if not the world. The interior is dingy, but the outside is beautiful and it is an architectural marvel of precise engineering. Who does Slay think he is? He is just another mayor in a long line of mayors past and future and should not be ALLOWED to destroy this lovely,graceful monument on a capricious whim. If it happens it will for all time be known as Slay’s Folly. He is a pretentious jerk!!!

    What will this city have as a symbol then?? The gangs that roam day and night in the area surrounding downtown covering everything with graffiti? Make the ARCH more user friendly and accessible but DO NOT tear it down!!

  49. Ben Hoffmann says:

    There is an excellent discussion right now about replacing the downtown I-70 alignment with a parkway at stlrising.blogspot.com

    Last week at the NPS planning meeting, I too brought up the idea of filling the depressed section to one of the park administrators. He giggled and looked at me like i was wearing a tin foil hat. I asked him if MoDot or anyone had done a study of the idea. He got really serious and said he didnt think they had. As citizens we need to demand an unbiased study of the idea before letting it be dismissed out of hand.
    Jim, youre right there is no planned freeway connection between 55/64 E and 70 W in Illinois.
    I also want to mention that the parkway idea is totally compatible with a pedestrian bridge at Luther Ely Smith Park. I dont think it necessary, but it shouldnt be the determining factor. The best way to separate pedestrian and car traffic is still the oldest and simplest: crosswalks.
    Save the arch!

  50. equals42 says:

    Jim, I don’t believe we have to continue to direct North-South traffic down Memorial Drive (hopefully Parkway). If I-70 dumped off onto Broadway near the Dome and Casino, traffic would be directed down Broadway and 4th streets where it belongs as they are both large streets (ignore the loss of a lane at the Fed Reserve) and can handle traffic with appropriate speed restrictions (downtown should never be relegated to a shortcut). Memorial Parkway can serve as an additional route not directly connected to the Interstates. From the south, more of the same. Dump downtown traffic off at Broadway and 4th near Chouteau and it helps people get to the Chouteau Landing areas talked about forever.

    People in St Louis are under the mistaken belief that they have traffic. They don’t. I lived 30 years in LA and SF. I travel for a living and regularly see Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and DC traffic. Those cities have traffic to contend with on your daily commute. To claim that removing a small stretch of obsolete highway by the arch will seriously impact traffic downtown is simply not true based on my years of living and working downtown. Real traffic there happens seldom and is primarily for events such as the Rams and 4th of July fireworks. As the axiom goes, you don’t build a church for Easter mass, you build it to accommodate normal Sundays. On top of that, we’ve seen what little disruption there really is when they took out 64/40. Outrageous claims that everyone’s days would be ruined, businesses closed, etc were found to be just wrong. [They allowed everyone to take credit for the planning that “alleviated” the problem.]

    At $5/gallon (I have to use premium) we should be reconsidering all our intracity highways and the state and fed should be requiring zoning changes which compress our sprawl into more manageable, denser urban areas better served by transit. That would constitute a portion of an effective energy policy. The upside could be a spurred recovery in depressed property prices in already developed cities which could help stem the “wealth loss” effect currently plaguing the consumer side of the economy.

    Oh, well. Enough babbling.

  51. SLUgirl says:

    After just reading the entire blog on this subject, I have to ask a few questions. I am currently doing a research project on the legal implications of the City trying to take control of the arch grounds. I read there was the second town hall meeting on July 1st for the public to discuss ideas.. will there be anymore public meeting about this topic? I have tried to find more information about this meeting (including the minutes) but have seemed to hit a dead end. Does anyone have any idea about where I could find this info? .. The Danforth Foundation website was not helpful.

  52. Terri Schmitz says:

    As a visitor to the city on my way home east, I was looking forward to seeing the arch and stayed at the Hilton nearby. I was totally disappointed in the lack of shops anywhere near the courthouse and the highway we had to cross with our kids was a total turnoff for our experience. I was really disappointed for the city and their tourism. Not a real walkable area downtown so we left that day and have no plans to go back. What ashame with that highway cutting everything off!

  53. T Schmitz says:

    Being a visitor, I was curious about the arch site and saw some great old pictures of the old grounds and the district—the old river area was awesome by the cathedral! How nice that would have been at the river for historical redevelopment instead of being torn down. Guess that was not popular in the 40’s.


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