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Reconnecting St Louis to the Mississippi; Don’t Cover the Highway, 86 It.

July 8, 2008 Accessibility, Downtown, Public Transit, Transportation 57 Comments

People are naturally drawn to large bodies of water — rivers, lakes and oceans. In St Louis we’ve got the mighty Mississippi as our Eastern border. Sadly we’ve made it far too difficult to actually reach the river.

Last week I did a post announcing the National Park Service’s open house to review their proposed General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka the Arch & Arch grounds). I had jokingly suggested that the city wanted to replace the arch with the world’s tallest parking garage. Reader comments quickly turned to Memorial Drive and I-70 that divides the Arch grounds (and the river) from downtown.

Mayor of Affton wrote:

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 Chouteau’s Landing, across the Arch grounds on the east, up to the Landing, Lumiere, the Bottle District and North Broadway.

‘the dude’ wrote:

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.

‘Kevin’ wrote:

It seems that nobody wants to discuss that the problem with the arch grounds is not the grounds them self, but the private land around the arch. Pretty much every building adjacent the arch grounds has its back to the arch. Imagine if when you looked out the Eiffel tower or the Colosseum all you saw was the back of buildings. The city needs to require all buildings adjacent 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?

‘dude’ wrote:

For starters, the NPS should complete a traffic and design study to determine the feasibility/desirability of abandoning the depressed lanes and replacing them with a new Memorial Drive as compared to going with the Lid option.

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.

‘Scott’ wrote:

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.

All valid points. At the time the Arch won the design competition the highway was an assumed. It was just thought we’d all drive our single occupancy vehicles there. Those that would walk would do so only at the center of the Arch. To make sure we only crossed at the center new buildings both North and South of the center blocked off the downtown street grid. The result is that Memorial Drive is barely tolerable as a place to drive and not at all as a place to walk. To illustrate this point I’ve put together a short video:


The NPS is incorrectly focusing all their attention on connecting to downtown at one single point — in the center aligned with the Old Courthouse. A better connection to the Arch grounds and down to the river is more than a single bridge or even a 3-block “lid” can address.

The solution?

  • I-70 needs to be removed from the equation (more on that further down).
  • Memorial Drive needs to be reconstructed as a grand boulevard and renamed 3rd Street.
  • Buildings fronting the existing Memorial need entrances facing the Arch.

The new Mississippi river bridge, when built, will become I-70. While some traffic uses this portion of I-70 as a pass through between North & South they can use my proposed 3rd Street Boulevard or other North-South streets on our street grid. I’d remove I-70 from the new bridge on the North all the way to I-44/I-55 on the South. This would permit a larger portion of the downtown and near downtown to begin to heal from the damage caused by the highway cutting off streets.

SF's Embarcadero

San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway carried 70,000 cars daily when it was destroyed by earthquake in 1989. Today the new boulevard still carries a considerable amount of traffic while encouraging pedestrians to walk along or cross it. San Francisco took the opportunity to connect the area into their streetcar system. I say we use this new 3rd St boulevard project as an opportunity to introduce a modern streetcar loop to downtown with a section passing right by the Arch.

This new modern streetcar line, complete with accessible low-floor cars, would use Broadway in one direction and the new 3rd in the other. The line would go North of the Edward Jones Dome to the site that has been hyped as the Bottleworks District. At the other end the line would use both Market and Walnut (or Clark). This would connect the Arch grounds to the future Ballpark Village, MetroLink light rail, and numerous hotels. On this end the line could turn around at 22nd with new development on the extra state land that was reserved for the abandoned 22nd Parkway. Back at the other end, when the dome is imploded after the Rams leave or we build them a new dome the line will connect to new development there. The line could be extended east along Cole to eventually reach the old Pruitt-Igoe site as a location for a new dome or whatever Paul McKee has in mind.

With high activity points along the route the line would be well used. Zoning along the line would need to mandate urban buildings with frequent entrances, not blank walls. Ditto along the new 3rd. The buildings we have now are a disgrace. Cars in parking garages have outstanding views of the Arch while the pedestrian on the sidewalk is subjected to a wretched environment.

A little bridge or a lid over the highway just isn’t enough. Earlier generations dreamed big and it’s time we did too if we plan to fix their mistakes.

Update 7/9/08 @ 3pm

I’ve been a bit busy lately and behind on my reading.  One item I overlooked until now is ‘The Case for a New Memorial Drive’ by my friend Rick Bonasch over on his site, STL Rising.  He covers the same topic in a detailed look at various issues – highly recommended.


Currently there are "57 comments" on this Article:

  1. aaron says:

    your plain gets me all excited and hopeful, then i remember that none of the “important” people will listen to creative ideas like these. This is exactly what needs to happen; the chances of it actually coming to fruition, I fear are slim.

    have you considered running for mayor? we sure could use someone with your creativity and foresight.

  2. Webby says:

    I agree. Except…
    Why in the world would you call it 3rd Street? What’s wrong with Memorial Drive?

  3. a.torch says:

    Well, there is little money on-hand to make something that grand occur, actually there is no money to make much of that happen; you would also have to rebuild some of the highway on-ramps and connectors that pass above the Memorial St./Arch exit, the on-ramps to the Poplar St. Bridge which were just finished/redone a year ago (that isn’t going to happen) and you would have to do something with the I-70 depressed lanes anyways (LID) if you were to make Memorial that large and wide. Come to think of it, if you would want a South entrance to the Arch grounds you might have to cut through part of Soulard again, run the I-55 off-ramp dangerously close to the Market, tear down a few historic homes and that poor old church (similar scorched-earth policies happened three or four blocks North to make the Arch grounds circa 1960, do you want to repeat tearing down more of Soulard and what is left of the old Polish community area for more off-ramps leading to a longer and wider Memorial Drive. Use Tucker or Market as your grand blvd, they are already extra-wide.

  4. dude says:

    a.torch – The concept might not be as far fetched as it seems. Understand first of all that the idea involved abandoning the Lid idea and the depressed/elevated lanes altogether and replacing it all with a new, promenade/boulevard, at grade with the Arch grounds, just as the new Embarcadero boulevard is at grade with the SF waterfront.
    Next, in terms of cost, consider this: $420,000,000 is the construction budget for the entire Highway 64 rebuild. That’s eleven MILES of interstate plus 25 bridges. A new Memorial Drive is about 1 mile long, involves no private real estate acquisitions, and is essentially a demo/fill/build new surface roadway project. There are no bridges to build. Yes to rework the on and offramps at the PSB and wherever 70 drops down to the new Memorial Drive…but here’s the real kicker…
    The proposed Lid idea has a cost estimate of $80,000,000-$100,000,000. Much of the cost is to move air in accordance with post 9/11 ventilation requirements for tunnels. The facility will have major long term maintenance costs, and for anyone whose ever driven through an old tunnel, let’s just say they don’t age very gracefully.
    So the question is, should we be spending $80-$100M for a three block, high maintenance lid option, or the same or possibly less to reopen the entire connection between downtown and the riverfront/arch grounds?
    Vacating the depressed/elevated lanes and replacing them with a new, great urban street is an idea whose time has come.
    Think of the new Memorial Drive as the true “Main Street” of downtown StL. It’s like getting our riverfront, our downtown, and our city back all at once.

  5. equals42 says:

    Removing downtown highways is hot topic in other cities as well. Here’s a USA Today article about removing a bothersome highway in Oklahoma City: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-05-14-highways_N.htm

    Maybe the ease with which St Louis commuters dealt with the 64/40 shutdown can help to allay fears should this really become a possibility.

    Other cities are listed in the article as moving in the direction espoused here and elsewhere:

    •Buffalo wants to get rid of its Skyway, an elevated highway that blocks access to Lake Erie.
    •Nashville wants to replace 8 miles of interstate — parts of I-65, I-40 and I-24 — with parks and neighborhood streets.
    •Washington has considered demolishing the Whitehurst Freeway, an elevated road that runs along the Potomac River in the tony Georgetown neighborhood. The plan is on hold because of cost.
    •Akron, Ohio, launched a $2 million study on tearing down its 2.2 mile Innerbelt that leads downtown from I-76/I-77.
    Highway removal proposals are also being discussed in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Baltimore, Louisville, New Haven, Conn., Trenton, N.J., and Niagara Falls, N.Y. The Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx is another target.

    [slp — OKC is simply routing the highway a few blocks south.  Given their lack of sidewalks in general I’m not overly optimistic about the end result.] 

  6. john w. says:

    It sounds like an excellent design competition, were there actually to be one.

  7. dude says:

    There is a program through the Missouri Department of Economic Development which provides Missouri state income tax credits for infrastructure improvement projects.
    Creative people working together could figure out a way to do this.

  8. b says:

    They should certainly 86 the whole lid, do away with any highway system by the Arch and move on.

    However, St Louis is vastly overlooking their gem in Market St. Market St is wide enough where you could gut the entire thing, including that vast wasted space in the center and start over.

    While whacky as it sounds, the room is there to actually have two streets where Market currently stands and Market really wouldn’t suffer much if any.

    Done correctly, the city could stand to reap millions by selling off parcels to add to their depleted budget.

  9. Ban vehicles like Semi’s and dump trucks, too.

  10. Great plan, Steve, et. al. Now what is the ‘call to action’? With whom should the interested citizenry now meet? Alder(wo)men, attorneys, elected officials, Danforth Foundation members, Parks Service…please post the location and instructions for the secret knock and handshake for the meeting where all this will be decided.

  11. Debbie says:

    Love your idea Steve! For years I have thought we are wasting the best natural site we have, the riverfront. It is so frustrating to see other cities showcase theirs (without casinos). And yes, dude, I believe “Creative people working together could figure out a way to do this”. Is there any money leftover from Ballpark Village? C’mon Steve, make it happen!!! (And can you get it done by 2009 when the Cardinals host the All Star Game?)

  12. GMichaud says:

    Our friend, Rick Bonasch had a related post on his blog St. Louis Rising. I have to agree with John W. that an architectural competition is the best way to resolve the many faceted problem of making the arch grounds accessible to St. Louis and St. Louisians.
    In fact I still believe running a few city streets along the edges is an excellent way to make the Arch part of St. Louis. Especially the south edge could easily handle an arch level street with a drop off point (a square). So much the better if the street had small, 30 x 100 commercial buildings fronting the street, designed for the small business. Museums and corporate size development is the old architecture.
    The many complexities of the possible solution makes an international architectural competition very attractive. The Gateway Foundation is a natural to fund such a competition, which is only right considering the Arch itself was a competition won by Finnish/American Architect Eero Saarinen.
    The Foundation has funded the Gateway Mall Sculpture Garden, a case where the elite knows more than the populace. Because of the blogs it should be clear that equal and better knowledge is represented in the blogs, in other words the public has a much better strategy of development than the elites.

  13. a.torch says:

    Sure Dude, just have MoDot move a few on-ramps, rebuild the new on-ramps to Poplar St. bridge, ventilate a tunnel and destroy the northern edge of Soulard, I am sure that will be underbudget at 80 mil, good luck with that.
    ‘A new Memorial Drive is about 1 mile long, involves no private real estate acquisitions, and is essentially a demo/fill/build new surface roadway project’
    – I disagree, it does involve private land, you have narrow access to Memorial now, how are your going to expand access? Do you think you are somehow going to move the buildings like the CBS/Kmox, the Drury, Millenium etc to widen access to a new blvd? Good luck with that too. Heck, the Drury is running a wrong-way one way on half the street as it is now.

  14. GMichaud says:

    Irregardless of the details, the principals stand. The failure of the Arch grounds to ever be truly integrated into the city is a valid question to ask. The Arch is barely accessible from Wharf Blvd, and a little better from the parking garage (the Grand Entry).
    An Architectural Competition would cause debate towards over a valid approach for development.
    The almost catastrophic planning failure of the Arch Grounds is the reality where we start. From there we can question previous planning decisions and decision makers.
    No question dude, anything is possible.

  15. Jim Zavist says:

    Although I have my doubts about any major changes happening, I’m more inclined to think even bigger. Broadway (southbound) and 4th Street (northbound) already do a good job, as a couplet, of moving traffic between the north and south sides of downtown. Improve/coordinate their traffic signals, open all the lanes currently blocked by construction fences so traffic flows smoothly and improve their connections to I-70 on the north and I-55 on the south and you provide a viable and better alternative to both the I-70 trench AND Memorial Drive, once the new bridge is completed. Then, the Memorial Drive corridor can be redeveloped as a much calmer, urban and urbane street, one with speeds that won’t intimidate pedestrians, one with on-street parking and street trees and one that isn’t the barrier that any bi-directional, multi-lane street is. The best analogy I can think of is the Constitution Square area in Philadelphia – there is no freeway access (http://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/upload/INDEparkmap10-25-07.pdf), yet it attracts thousands of visitors every day. The same thing can and should work here!

  16. john says:

    As previously stated: 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.
    – –
    The theme that needs to be rallied around remains “No Highway NO Problem”. Eliminating the highway alone is not sufficient but is necessary as a first step in connecting people and neighborhoods.
    – –
    “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.”

  17. dude says:

    a torch-

    a little information may help. first..the NPS owns the land under the depressed lanes and both sides of Memorial Drive.
    The right of way ranges from 150 – 175 feet in width. The depressed lanes are two lanes in each direction plus shoulders, and Memorial Drive is two lanes in each direction, for a current total of 8 plus lanes of width through the full length of the area.
    Combining the lanes of Memorial Drive and the I-70 lanes into one roadway allows traffic volumes on Memorial Drive to be increased.
    With 150 feet of width, there is room for 60 feet for each side of Memorial Drive with a 30 foot wide landscaped median.
    A 60 foot wide street hold four lanes easily – double the current width of the now squeezed Memorial drive.
    If such a major rebuild was being designed, the NPS would be likely to consider giving up a limited amount of their Memorial Drive frontage if it would result in a better overall design – it’s all their ground anyway.
    Go back to the numbers: $420,000,000 construction cost to rebuild 11 miles of Highway 40 including 25 bridges and the 170 interchange.
    $80,000,000-$100,000,000 to build the lid? Nearly 1/4 the cost of the whole Highway 40 project?
    It’s hard to imagine that for the same $80,000,000 – $100,000,000 you couldn’t do a lot with Memorial Drive.
    The design competition is an excellent idea. Maybe even with a $30,000,000 dollar maximum budget. Imagine if we could get a great Memorial Drive for a 1/3 the cost of the lid?
    However, if the powers that be are willing to raise $80,000,000 + million for a lid, shouldn’t the Memorial Drive rebuild option be granted the same budget? Fair is fair.
    Where is the Post Dispatch on this? So far, mainstream media has pretty much ignored the idea of rebuilding Memorial Drive.
    Maybe they’re putting it in the category of “we don’t believe it, so we won’t give it any coverage.”

  18. dude says:

    Just for a little further comparison…Market Street along Kiener Plaza…it’s three lanes in each direction (counting the lanes used for parking) with an attractive landscaped median. It’s about 75 feet wide – maybe 80.
    That’s about half of what there is to work with for the widening of Memorial Drive, and Market is one of the widest streets in downtown.
    Aside – the median on Market is about 8 feet wide – maybe. Gateway Greening has done a wonderful job landscaping it. It’s one of the nicest improvements to the appearance of downtown.
    Imagine if they had a 30 foot median down a new Memorial Drive to landscape?
    Maybe someone should call the Gateway Foundation. Or maybe both the Danforth and Gateway foundations?

  19. Dave says:

    I was in Phoenix last week and they did a nice job around their Capital building of making it accessible for pedestrians across roadways. What they did is raised the street itself in intersections where pedestrians walk across. This prevented from pedestrians having to step down from a sidewalk into the street and then step up again to get back on the sidewalk. Instead the sidewalk seemed to flow across the street and was very pedestrian friendly. Additionally raising the street across these intersections naturally slowed traffic.

    So as a cheaper alternative to the lid option or removing I-70 completely, it would be nice if we could “raise” Memorial drive to the sidewalk level at Walnut, Market, Chestnut, Pine and Locust. Additionally double the width of these sidewalks to make them more pedestrian-friendly.

    I also agree that whatever happens with Memorial drive, the city needs to provide some sort of incentives to the buildings facing the Arch to put ground-level retail in. First, how great would it be to sit outside on one of the sidewalks sipping a coffee and view the archgrounds, even if there was a street in between? Second, how much more inviting would our downtown look to those on the arch grounds looking for dining options. It would welcome them across Memorial drive.

  20. Kevin says:

    Yes, yes, we all have great ideas. With our powers combined we could solve all the world’s problems…or form Voltron. Too bad nobody is going to listen to us. Unless somebody posting here has some strong political connections they aren’t already using, all of our rantings are for naught. The wonderful visionless fools who run the city never listen to the good ideas because they didn’t come up with them. So the question is who here thinks they can get anybody to listen?
    Sorry for the negativity, but when I think of the oppritunity at hand to make the city great again and the fact it will most likely be wasted….its a little depressing.

  21. Brian says:

    Reconfiguring ramps becomes more feasible with the new bridge. By relocating I-70, the PSB won’t need ramps to/from the depressed section anymore. As a result, those lanes on the PSB could instead double the capacity of the ramps to/from I-44/55, as well as provide a new exit to/from the conceptual “Memorial Boulevard.”

    Here’s a breakdown of how such ramp conversions could work within existing space (from current to future):
    WB I-70 exit lane from PSB > Added WB/SB I-44/55 exit lane (doubling existing PSB off-ramp)
    NB I-55 exit lane to Memorial Dr. > Added lane to PSB on-ramp (doubling existing on-ramp)
    NB I-55 through lanes to WB I-70 > New calmed exit to new at-grade Memorial Boulevard
    Memorial Dr. on-ramp to SB I-55 > Added lane for I-44/55 connection from PSB
    EB I-70 through lanes to SB I-55 > New on-ramp from new Memorial Boulevard

  22. anon says:

    The Lid idea seems just plain strange. I’m trying to picture this…
    At the bottom, there is the depressed lanes.
    A level up is Memorial Drive, carved up and ugly.
    Then over the top of all of this is a third level, the Lid?
    If that’s not a C-F, I don’t know what is.
    The other idea is that the Lid is at the level of Memorial Drive, and works as basically a three block wide bridge, with crosswalks and lanes running through it, right?
    The main problem with that idea is that it assumes everyone accesses the Arch from the Old Court House. That may be true for tourists at the Hyatt, but just about everyone else has a different approach to the Arch.
    Are we expecting people coming from Washington Avenue to go all the way to the Lid to cross over to the Arch grounds?
    Concentrating pedestrians into a 1-3 block area seems to contradict human nature. People will travel the shortest distance to get from point A to Point B, whether or not there is a new lid some 6 or 7 blocks away.
    The lid tries to force a certain behavior. A new Memorial Drive is a more inviting, natural, human scaled plan. It does a far superior job connecting the majority of downtown to the Arch and riverfront.

  23. bonwich says:

    Y’all need an amplifier. Forward this thread to Charlie Brennan and to Eddie Roth on the P-D editiorial page. (Strike that; I can do the latter myself.) Does Hizzoner have a comment page on his blog? For those of you who commented at the National Parks session, call them up, get someone’s name, and continue to call them until they respond to the comments.

    And next time the Lord Danforth is on a talk show, call in and ask him directly. (Or call Charlie and have him call Danforth on the air and ask him directly.)

  24. anon says:

    a.torch – Soulard is nowhere near Memorial Drive. All changes being proposed are on the north side of Interstate 64.

  25. oneshoepam says:

    I am for the ‘lid’.
    For one, it’s dangerous walking from the old court house to the Arch.
    If they can move the entrance ramp to 40 east for the a new stadium…

  26. dude says:

    Oneshoepam –

    Do you feel the same danger crossing the streets around Busch Stadium before a baseball game?
    Thousands of pedestrians crowd downtown streets right at the same time downtown workers are leaving their offices and baseball fans are heading to downtown garages for a ballgame. Indeed millions of people year after year have gone through this same drill. There are no problems with people being hit by cars.
    They cross Market Street and Broadway in huge groups. They walk with the “walk signal” at the intersections. For the millions of people walking to games at Busch we never hear of pedestrians being hit by cars. And this is all accomplished without any help from police officers directing traffic/pedestrians.
    Why would it be any different for pedestrians crossing Memorial Drive to get to the Arch?
    Oneshoepam-sounds like you and a.torch are proffering scare tactics.

  27. john w. says:

    A competition (locally, I would prefer) would begin to put the image to the discussion. A prize could (and really should) be offered, but even if not this is still a low/no cost opportunity to define the problem and get the broadest range of public input and response to proposals. Why leave it to the ivory tower to concoct another project similar to the gateway mall green space now under construction? This is such a high-profile issue, regarding one of the world’s most recognizable monuments, that a competition is obviously warranted. If over a 1,000 entries were received on the WTC site redevelopment and memorial in such short order, certainly this could be done. I’d really love to hear the local voice first, and then perhaps invite the Libeskinds, Hadids, Fosters, Koolhaas’, Holls, Maynes, (well, you get the idea). This thread has already proven that there are MANY interested voices that have detailed information and a passion for a solution. It shouldn’t be that difficult to organize a centralized effort to collect these many local visions.

  28. Ben H says:

    These anti-highway crazies want to tear down Soulard Market, spread the word!
    A review of basic city geography is in order before firing off a post. Seriously though. I refuse to believe the Danforth Foundation and their bevy of professional planners didnt come up with the same idea at some point. But why did they not offer it as an option, even as a far-fetched option to make the other scheme seem tame? I think they were afraid of massive public reaction against even suggesting it. Today in the post 40-shutdown world, the public will be less fearful of closing highways. I think the Danforth foundation may quickly embrace the idea if they see it has growing public support.

  29. Jim Zavist says:

    dude . . . there’s a big difference between the thousands of people thronging the sidewalks before or after a Cardinals game and the much smaller, but steady, stream of tourists and locals visiting the arch each day – the pro sports crowds are, unfortunately, an ananomaly, and drivers act accordingly, and slow down and pay more attention . . .

  30. oneshoepam says:

    NO i don’t feel the danger crossing the street by the stadium.
    Which I do everyday Monday through Friday.

  31. Keep it real says:

    Steve, this imaginative and exciting diary is an example of why I have looked at your blog almost every day for the past few years in spite of the fact that we disagree on some issues of attitude. This is great work. Thanks for writing it.

  32. JMedwick says:

    As for costs, it seems that while tight, depending on how wide a new Memorial Drive would be, there could be left-over land for development in the corridor, particularly at the southern end of Memorial Drive where the highway ROW becomes excessively wide. The sale of such land to private developers for new buildings, be they hotels, offices, or residences would help to add more urbane buildings with street frontages that could activate Memorial Drive and the funds could help finance the necessary infrastructure improvements. Without an attempt to make Memorial more urban (and lets face it One Memorial Drive, Mansion House, and most other buildings along Memorial Drive now are awful from an urban perspective and generate no street traffic), I am not certain that removing the highway is worth the cost.

  33. dude says:

    While the Arch may not have the same crowd rush as Busch Stadium, it still draws around 4,000,000 visitors per year compared to Busch’s 3,000,000 baseball fans. I drive Memorial every day and see families, joggers, elderly, foreigners, all types and stripes crossing Memorial Drive to get to the Arch grounds.
    While it is not a pleasing crossing, drivers do slow down and wait for people crossing the Memorial Drive to get over to the Arch. It’s not like watching a game of “Frogger” or something. Either way, it’s not pretty.
    Can anyone think of a major architectural monument anywhere in the world with a worse roadway system around it? The Lid won’t change that.

  34. Jon Davis says:

    St. Louis stands to reap benefits beyond money if you do this, and it’s very doable. Milwaukee, New York City, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, and Seoul, Korea, are among cities that have successfully torn down highways and replaced them with boulevards — in each city, neighborhoods sprang back to life and adjacent property values soared as cities reconnected with their water fronts.

    The Congress for the New Urbanism encourages efforts to replace elevated highways with boulevards, and is helping such efforts in Buffalo and Seattle. Please visit our Highways to Boulevards page for more information.

    This is going to be a long, hard effort. Best of luck to you.

  35. Big D says:

    Ditch the I-70 depressed lanes. Rip em’ out when the new MRB opens.

  36. a.torch says:

    I meant the Northern edge of Soulard, not edge of ‘Soulard market’, sorry. I was referring to the area around Gratiot and Cedar and what USED to be 3rd street, this was once a thriving Polish, Chinese and Russian neighborhood, the Chruch is at roughly Gratiot (and old 3rd) I guess it would be called the ‘KOSCIUSKO’ neighborhood, not North Soulard. This was in reference to IF the Poplar street on-ramp had to be moved to the South (not much room between the Church and the on-ramp…maybe 28 feet) or altered again to compensate for either: A) removal of the dperessed lanes or B) some four or six lane street to hook into the new 8 or 9 lane Memorial Blvd, you can’t just have an 8+ lane blvd start abruptly where the bridge on-ramps begin or end but hey if you can draw support AND funding for it, good luck. I don’t think anyone really wants the depressed lanes at all, but getting rid of them I believe will be a monumental task knowing St. Louis. I was at the first round of Danforth meetings about 7 years ago and I don’t think we accomplished a damn thing (free health care for all Metro residents? better schools? mass transit from St. Charles to STL to Oakville? nope, nope and nope)

  37. a.torch says:

    p.p.s.- Brian has some good ideas of where new on/off ramps might be located to compensate but I am not sure I see the land for half of those without ‘some’ eminent domain against private lands and the church. And I agree the buildings on Memorial should have facades facing the Arch, not there backs turned in shame 😉

  38. northside neighbor says:


    Lots of comments, but no real impression one way or another of whether you support the idea, let alone if you’d participate in any direct involvement to make it happen.
    Sounds sort of like, “hey great, if someone else makes this happen, I’m all for it!” Falls right into the vein of typical STL leadership model.
    Things have changed since the first round of Danforth meetings. 7 years ago, there was no new MRB.
    And those meetings did accomplish things, the 1/10 of a cent regional tax to improve greenways and waterways for one.
    Maybe that mechanism, linked to a plan to improve the STL waterfront, could help finance the rebuilding of Memorial Drive?

  39. DJ says:

    If you want a call-to-action, contact the members of this newly announced “steering committee”:


    Ann Auer, executive vice president, Missouri Growth Association
    Pat Bergauer, executive vice president, Missouri Restaurant Association
    Vicki Boyer, executive director, St. Louis Area Hotel Association
    Robert Bray, president, St. Louis Area Hotel Association
    T.R. Carr, mayor, Hazelwood; president, St. Louis County Municipal League
    Larry Chapman, president, Missouri Growth Association
    James Cloar, president and CEO, Downtown St. Louis Partnership
    William Danforth, chancellor emeritus, Washington University; Danforth Foundation trustee
    Dan Dierdorff, chairman, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission
    Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County Executive
    Alan Dunstan, Madison County Board Chairman
    Gary Elliott, business manager, Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council
    Gerald T. Feldhaus, executive secretary treasurer, Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis, AFL-CIO
    David Fisher, executive director, The Great Rivers Greenway District.
    Kitty Ratcliffe, president, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

  40. a.torch says:

    I think ALMOST any change/advancement on the Archgrounds or Memorial Drive/blvd is better than what we currently have (*unless* we are left with just the choice of an $80 million lid and two hot dogs stands) and yes I would be happy to directly or indirectly help in anyway I can; just the last 18 years alone, from the Keil Opera House lies to trying to save the Century have left me a tad skeptical…….there was also a lackluster movement around 1995 – 1996 to find Manuel Lisa’s Old Rock House which the Parks Department promised to reconstruct by the South entrance of the Arch-grounds (per some 1940’s promise of saving most of the parts for later reconstruction,etc)….would we be open to rebuilding or moving historic buildings (or new buildings for that matter) onto the grounds facing a new Memorial Blvd and if so, how would you select what type of architectural style would be used to bridge the gap between the drastic juxtaposition of the Old Cathedral and the Arch?

  41. bonwich says:

    Do you see a single name on that list that offers even a remote chance of varying from the predetermined plan put forward by the Lord Danforth?

  42. Mr. Fixit says:

    Did anyone hear anything about a steering committee being formed?
    Interesting how Kitty Ratcliff’s quotes are a reflection of Danforth’s vision, and how Danforth is promising to fund a project if it conforms to “Groundswell for Change’s” vision.
    Maybe the “powers that be” figured out they missed a public engagement process before deciding their vision, so they formed a “steering committee” to push their ideas?
    What about the general public? I don’t see any official representative from the Downtown Residents Association on the list.
    Speaking of representation, there is not one official from the City of St. Louis on the committee, and the group is almost exclusively white! How lame is that?
    So how will the NPS respond? This is a very odd game of civic chess to say the least.

  43. Mr. Fixit says:

    The list posted previously was missing lots of names. Here’s the list from the official “groundswell for change” website:

    Ann Auer, Executive Vice President, Missouri Growth Association

    Pat Bergauer, Executive Vice President, Missouri Restaurant Association

    Vicki L. Boyer, Executive Director, St. Louis Area Hotel Association

    Robert Bray, President, St. Louis Area Hotel Association

    James Buford, President and CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis

    Hon. T.R. Carr, Mayor, Hazelwood; President, St. Louis County Municipal League

    Larry Chapman, President, Missouri Growth Association

    James A. Cloar, President and CEO, Downtown St. Louis Partnership

    Dr. William H. Danforth, Chancellor Emeritus, Washington University; Danforth Foundation trustee

    Dan Dierdorf, Chairman, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

    Hon. Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County Executive

    Hon. Alan Dunstan, Madison County Board Chairman

    Gary Elliott, Business Manager, Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council

    Gerald T. Feldhaus, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis, AFL-CIO

    David Fisher, Executive Director, The Great Rivers Greenway District

    Richard C.D. Fleming, CEO and President, St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association

    Cliff Franklin, President and CEO, FUSE

    Brad D. Furfaro, President, St. Louis Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

    Denise Hasty, Vice President, Governmental Affairs Associated General Contractors of St. Louis

    Tom Irwin, Executive Director, Civic Progress

    Hon. Mark Kern, St. Clair County Board Chairman

    Fred Kratky, CEO and Executive Vice President, St. Louis Association of Realtors

    William J. Kuehling, Attorney

    Rich LoRusso, President, Missouri Restaurant Association

    Richard M. McClure, President, Civic Progress

    Hon. Michael McMillan, License Collector, City of St. Louis

    Terry Nelson, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity

    David Newburger, Attorney; St. Louis City Commissioner on the Disabled

    Rudy Nickens, Executive Director, The Black Rep

    Kathleen T. Osborn, Regional Business Council

    Hon. Alvin Parks, Mayor, City of East St. Louis

    Perri Pryor, Secretary Treasurer, Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council

    Kitty Ratcliffe, President, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

    Hon. Lewis E. Reed, President, Board of Aldermen, City of St. Louis

    Hon. Francis Slay, Mayor, City of St. Louis

    Robert A. Soutier, President, Greater St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO

    Max and Colleen Starkloff, Starkloff Disability Institute

    Dr. Donald Suggs, President and Publisher, St. Louis American

    Anthony (“Tony”) Thompson, president and CEO, KWAME Building Group

    Wendy Timm, Treasurer, Missouri Growth Association

    Leonard P. Toenjes, President, Associated General Contractors of St. Louis

    Hon. Gerry Welch, Mayor, Webster Groves; President, Metro Mayors of St. Louis, Inc.

    Hon. Phyllis Young, Alderman, 7th Ward, City of St. Louis

  44. john w. says:

    It sounds like a design competition is in order.

  45. Jim Zavist says:

    Show me the money . . . to both compensate the design professionals who choose to participate and, more importantly, to get it built!!!

  46. john w. says:

    Yes, you’re right Jim… it’s a fool’s errand… what was I thinking?

  47. bonwich says:

    Wow! Thanks for the expanded list. The Usual Gang of Suspects. TWO representatives from Civic Progress! Yes, they’re certain to investigate all viable options and come up with a visionary proposal. Or not.

  48. samizdat says:

    Oh, boy. That’s a depressing list. Were there any design professionals? The only individual I saw who could represent that definition was the chapter pres. of the local Landscape Architects. The rest just seem to be dead weight. Pols, contractors, and other assorted hangers-on. Still, this is a good idea, and not pursuing it, at the very least, would be a shame. I-70 has been a lodestone hanging around downtown’s neck since it was built. It needs to go. This is especially important considering the efforts of other cities in that regard. For once, can this City look forward, instead of backward.

  49. Jim Zavist says:

    John, based on your, I assume, slightly sarcastic response, let me expand . . . as an architect and a member of the AIA, it’s important to remember that design professionals do what they do, among other things, to make a living. Without having funding in place to hold a design competition, you’re going to get two results, expecting professsionals to work for free (would you?) and/or you get what you pay for. While most professionals in any career willingly do a certain amount of pro bono (free) work, there’s also the reality that we’ve invested a lot of time and effort getting educated and licensed, and we deserve to be compensated for our efforts. Unless we’re one of those rare trust fund babies and/or independently wealthy, we have bills to pay like everyone else, and can’t devote much time to chasing creative, but unpaid, projects. The big problem with open competitions is that there will only be a handful of finalists and only one winner – everyone else is expected to work for free! Sure, you may see some interesting ideas, especially from some less-well-known designers, but unpaid competitions, especially a lower-profile one for redesigning the grounds (but not the Arch itself) will not attract the “best and the brightest” to compete.
    Two, there’s obviously a design effort currently underway by the NPS. It appears to be a more open process than many others I’ve seen around St. Louis, so I’m inclined to wait and see how it plays out, plus the NPS may actually have a concept on how to pay for what ends up being proposed. Will everyone embrace their final recommendations? I doubt it. But I’m a big believer in the cliche that if you’re not a part of the soultion, you’re a part of the problem. Design by committee is a flawed concept to start with, but it’s the best alternative for hearing all voices on a public project. So instead of trying to sabotage or sink the current process, why not advocate within it for those soultions that you think are most appropriate?!

  50. john w. says:


    You state that you’re “a big believer in the cliche that if you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem” right after stating that “unless [you’re] one of those rare trust fund babies and/or independently wealthy, [I] have bills to pay like everyone else, and can’t devote much time to chasing creative, but unpaid, projects”. Those two statements are plainly contradictory and I can’t much see you squaring the two without a bit of backpedaling and qualification. The intent of a competition of this nature, as opposed to, for instance, one where a land owner or city that would like to generate some ideas as to how to reuse some parcel(s) of land that are particularly vexing for some reason, is to generate responses from citizens as to how a national park, a very PUBLIC feature of this urban scape should be improved. You can consider it similar to graphic version of a referendum on a very high profile public issue, and I can’t think of a more democratic way of taking part in a very civic activity. If you’re entering a design competition with the hope of remuneration or acclaim, and wish to know what’s in it for the entrant rather than wishing to contribute to the discourse in possibly a very critical way, then perhaps design competition isn’t for you. I have attended charettes for the purpose of idea generation, and of course was paid $0.00 for my time and effort, though I had bills to pay. Expecting professionals to work for free? No, Jim- expecting those who wish to contribute to a possible solution, rather than simply being part of the same old problem, to offer their time and intelligence to an issue screaming for attention. I’ve simply said I think this is a very appropriate situation for the call of design entries (by whom, and by whose prize fund, I don’t really know), and of course, one does not have to be an architect or a member of any other allied field to enter a competition. This is about civic involvement, and not about market-rate compensation for skilled qualifications based upon educational background or membership in professional associations. Sabatoge? What could you possibly be referring to? Did I call for the subversion of some establishment? I see no avenue more travelled toward true democracy than hearing the voice of the people, or in this case, seeing the voice of the people on 24″x36″ presentation boards with interesting ideas and plenty of entourage.

  51. mr. fixit says:

    Danforth’s group, Metcalf, Raven and Archibald, are also calling for a world wide design competition.
    That sounds good, especially if everything is on the table including the Lid option, a new Memorial Drive, or, who knows, maybe no Memorial Drive at all and just expanded green space!

  52. Jim Zavist says:

    John, what you’re describing seems to be pretty close to what I saw happening in Forest Park a few weeks ago. A design competition is one thing, a design charette is another. To effectively compete in a true design competition, one typically has to devote many hours of time preparing fancy presentation boards of a refined design concept. To participate in a charette, one only has to show up and contribute one’s thoughts and time for a few hours or, at worst, a few days. It appears that while the NPS currently isn’t doing a true design charette, they do seem be seeking a range of ideas from anyone interested, much like a virtual charette. Calling for a separate “design competition” at this point sounds, to me, like an effort to distract from their efforts.
    Over the years, I’ve devoted many, many unpaid hours to trying to solve civic problems and issues. I didn’t, and don’t, do it for the money. I didn’t, and don’t, even do it much for the “glory”. I did it, and continue to do it, primarily to make where I lived a better place to live. What hit my hot button was your implication that a “competition” would be a good way for the city and/or the park service to generate some new ideas (for little or no additional cost?). There seems to be an assumption that architects are willing to provide their expertise “casually” (in competitions, at cocktail parties, for neighbors and relatives) that simply isn’t expected of other professionals (physicians, attorneys, accountants, etc.). Do we expect those professionals to compete to find better ways to treat cancer or to defend someone in court, for the promise that the “best answer” will receive the job and some nominal compensation? No!
    I guess it boils down to definitions. Among architects, a “competition” is usually limited to high-profile civic efforts – the Vietnam Wall was probably the most successful one in recent memory. The reality among most architects is that we probably give away too much already trying to obtain that next commission, and most firms simply aren’t willing to devote the resources necessary to compete in, much less win, a true competition. And, to me, at least, expecting anyone to just “offer their time and intelligence to an issue screaming for attention” sounds like a request for free work . . .

  53. john w. says:

    …but, at what point did the suggestion that a design competition be conducted (and not one parallel to another already in motion, just simply the IDEA of a design competition not unlike that conducted in the wake of the September 11th attack on the WTC (perhaps there were also ones for memorials at Shanksville and D.C.?) solely for the participation of architects? Architects are only a small part of what makes up a civil community, and as I stated, this competition should be for all, and certainly not just architects. Architects have opinions, and so do school teachers and pipe fitters and cell phone communication tower climbers, and we all should have the right to express our design visions toward what we, as members of this civil community, feel is the appropriate solution. Designs do not require trained design skills, only the desire to express and the pragmatism to communicate in an intelligible way. You can take a call for entries how you wish, but I would think that the variation of comments in this thread alone, from those I would presume comprise a fairly broad cross section of St. Louisans interested in urban issues, clearly indicates a level of not only interest but willingness to take part in some action. I have entered design competitions myself, and am fully aware of the commitment to the effort that is required to produce desired results, but the purpose of this competition, I would hope, would be one of civic involvement and not the pursuit of a commission.

  54. GMichaud says:

    Actually I would fully expect for a competition to be set up to compensate at least a certain number of participants, say twenty finalists for instance. We fall all over the place and give the idiots running corporate America so much money they can shit it out of their ass, it just seems to me we should begin to value art also. That is why St. Louis is in the situation it is in. The elites like the idea of art, but have no clue what constitutes art in the real world.
    Try to imagine a more forbidding approach to the Arch grounds than what is now in existence. It might have included a moat with a drawbridge and high walls armed with archers flinging arrows at tourists. The planning around the Arch is so absurdly poor that it is a testament to the power of the form Saarinen created that tourists bother to visit at all.

    If we can pay corporate hacks a million dollars a day to run the American economy into the ground, I think the services of architects, planners or others who can rationalize and create what would be a new city center are certainly worth reasonable, if not exceptional, compensation.

  55. john w. says:

    I think we can all agree that our ideas should be heard, because as a national park it serves us all, and as a current barrier to not only easy and safe pedestrian access, but also a barrier to riverfront access and ultimate urban connectivity and legible order citizens of St. Louis should want to be heard.

  56. john says:

    86 40 too. Then the region will have a chance to grow and prosper like it did 100 years ago. Let the motorized dependent live among large truck traffic, pollution, noise and carnage they prefer. Matter of fact 86 all highways inside of 270 which should be allowed to stand in order to allow this carnage to move uninterrupted through the region.
    – –
    As Danforth makes clear in his report: the Connector “is dominated by the sounds and smells of the vehicle traffic… pedestrians are required to cross three lanes,… high curbs, lack of ADA ramps, narrow sidewalks and low safety rails” (see pg 19).
    – –
    QUESTION: Where in our urban core isn’t this true? The New 64 is designed to make these problems worse in some areas and the media is silent.
    – –
    Danforth concludes: To be fully funded, “the aggregate cost [is] $418 million… the Mayor’s vision of a distinctive world-class destination and activity center is not feasible. The Foundation is disappointed…”

  57. Med Darnell says:

    I’ve been dealing with and trying to initiate a comprehensive development package for the St. Louis Region/Downtown and next to….for a while now. The city fathers and mothers, just don’t get it. The small time mentality and feasibility projects for this region are jokingly dismal and hodge-podge. Getting developers to sigh on with these World-Class developments in St. Louis are difficult to finalize. I’ve had more than one financier and developer tell me that the city administration are backwards and issue more hindrances for development than one can imagine. The world-class development that I have initiated became too much of an issue for the city’s plate to handle. It actually flew right over their heads. The development entailed the acquisition and property development of the entire area south of the Arch Grounds , all the way to the Brewery, with 3,000 new Soulard-Americana style homes and some elegant Renaissance mansions, etc., complete with a private school and all of the ‘neighborhood’ amenities. That would accomplish the area to Chouteau from the Brewery, with a neighborhood park strecthing to Chouteau complete with recreational and sports facilities, greenhouse, etc. The railroad tracks can easily be diverted for safety reasons. All of the businesses could be relocated to Hall Street or the like. This area as it sets is a vacant, disaster zone. Almost i/2 of the property in these 100’s of acres is ‘abandoned black top parking lots. Across the street, the ‘Soulard Market’ would be completely built up to World Class standards which would include the properties acquired immediately in proximity to the market and would be included and connected to such market. A world-class hotel could also be built close by, as the 55 on ramp at the Soulard Apartments should be moved further north on Broadway or completely abandoned all to gether. The area known as the ‘Ice House’ district should have a World-Class Marina complex immediately south of the Arch Grounds complete with restaurants, shopping, hotels etc. The Marina should be incorporated into the ‘Greenways’ Project’ via yacht and ship locks connecting the ‘Greenways’ project from the Mississippi River to the lakes of the ‘Greenway’ on the other side of the highway. The lakes of the Greenway should be at least 100 acres, not 16, as development of housing, condo’s and resort type lodging should reflect a get-away atmosphere, not only a mere bike trail. Imagine saiboats, motorboats, row or paddlewheel boats here. Now we’re talking turkey. The Arch grounds should have an open-aire opera stage and an aquarium on the South side of the Arch, adjacent to the Marina development. Paddlewheel boats should be rented for use on the 2 ponds that set on the Arch Grounds. A cable-car system should be built around the perimeter of the Arch Grounds for a small fee. A trolleycar system should be built to connect the main attractions of the projects, [eg. Soulard Market, The Brewery, Marina, Greenways, Hotels, etc. IT JUST GOES ON. Maybe even a couple of parachute drops or the like running along the Riverfront, complete with ships and yachts for commercial purposes. World-Class is right and I’ll take the rediculous, jealous accusations from city hall all day long, because it’s very obvious that they ‘DO NOT HAVE THE ANSWERS TO THE PROBLEMS OR QUESTIONS AT HAND’. THEY HAVE THEIR CONSTITUENTS TO ‘SNOW-JOB’, AS IF THEY ARE ON THE BALL. It’s an embarrassment for me to even deal with any number of them, as their ‘visionary fortitude’ is non-existant. Practicality is the Father of Mediocrity-you can bet your life on it. As for as the ‘Depressed Lanes’ go, diverting the lanes into the New Bridge Design’ is best; but the ‘Lid’ project should include multiple frontage commercial buildings on the Arch entrances and plenty of ‘Green Space’ for lounging, eating, socializing and the like. And finally, Ball Park village should not be allowed to ‘Go Up’ with any compromises in design. I think anything under 800 million is a mistake, as the amenities involved for all issues concerned would be an everlasting testament to the ‘SAME OLD SAME OL’. THE PEOPLE MAKE YOUR OPERATIONS GO, NOT YOU OR YOUR MONEY HAWKING PROFITS THAT DON’T CONCERN THE AVERAGE PERSON-WHO IS THE VERY LIFEBLOOD OF YOUR ENDEAVORS. It’s time to deal the cards, not switch the deck, bigshots.


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