Five years ago today Citygarden was officially opened to the public. I want to talk about five big design flaws, but first some background and a few of the many positives.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Citygarden in the last five years, observing the good & bad. Here are the five biggest flaws at Citygarden:
- Didn’t plan for continuation of Gateway Mall “Hallway” to the east & west
- Lack of curb bulbs on perimeter streets (8th, Market, 10th, Chestnut) — see map
- Keeping 9th Street closed
- No public restroom
- Restaurant space
Let’s take a look at each:
1) Didn’t plan for continuation of Gateway Mall “Hallway” to the east & west
One the best things about the Gateway Mall Master Plan was the idea of a wide “hallway” running the length of the mall, Citygarden got things going with the first two blocks. Had they built the east & west ends of these two blocks, at 8th & 10th, with continuation we might have be wen able to add another block or two to the Hallway by now. In the center, at 9th, they built the prototype for how the hallway would cross streets.
Had the ends at 8th & 10th been designed to match how the hallway crosses 9th Street it would be so much easier (cheaper) to continue. Either continuation wasn’t considered or the decision was made to not make it easy. The previous version of these two blocks (1994-2008) had a similar scheme of a wide walkway through an allée of trees with the hope of it extending. Never happened in its 14 years.
2) Lack of curb bulbs on perimeter streets (8th, Market, 10th, Chestnut)
At the south and north ends of 9th, Market & Chestnut, respectively, 9th was narrowed by “bulbing” the curb out to cap the parking lane, reducing the crossing distance. This is also mentioned in the Master Plan. Sadly, it was only done on 9th.
Had they done it at 10th and 8th too they could’ve extended the hallway mentioned above. This also would’ve helped crossing the too-wide Market Street and Chestnut. The master plan called for a 20-direction bike lane along the north side of Market, but the planners could never describe how that would work with signals, entry/exit, etc.
3) Keeping 9th Street closed
Initially 9th Street was supposed to be reopened the vehicles once Citygarden was completed, 9th is one-way northbound. But some wanted to closed permanently.
Initially they’d move the barricades late at night to allow traffic through, not sure if they still do that. One-way couplets only work if streets remain open in opposite directions, 8th & 10th are both one-way southbound. Except that now, because of Ballpark Village, 8th is two-way south of Market. We have a poorly functioning downtown grid of one-way & two-way streets, each with random blocks closed to traffic. Maddening.
I think part of the reason they wanted 9th kept closed is they quickly realized nobody had considered pedestrian signals at the hallway crossing 9th (nor at Chestnut). Oops. Once again pedestrians weren’t given proper consideration.
4) No public restroom
The Gateway Foundation spent tens of millions of dollars building Citygarden, and for the most part it is a world-class facility.
Really? All that money but no place to use the bathroom? The simplest fix now is to extend the hallway one block west to incorporate the Twain block, adding a modern restroom structure off of the hallway in that block. I suggested as much in 2010.
5) Restaurant space
The third restaurant opened recently in the restaurant space in the northeast corner (8th & Chestnut. Architecturally the building is a looker, the main reasons the first two places failed were poor service (The Terrace View) and food & service (Joe’s Chili Bowl). I ate at both more than once, because of the ambiance. I met a friend for lunch at Death in the Afternoon on Friday, I was impressed with both the food & service. Others seemed to be impressed too as the place quickly filled for lunch.
The previous problems were service (2) and food (1), so why is the building a flaw? The problems are on the Chestnut side.
These five flaws need to be addressed. A 6th, a poorly-built ADA ramp at 10th & Chestnut, got replaced a couple of years ago after I finally made a formal complaint with the city. The City of St. Louis owns the land but the Gateway Foundation funded, designed, built and manages Citygarden.
— Steve Patterson