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Entrance To Gateway Arch Should Have Faced Downtown From The Start

July 2, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Entrance To Gateway Arch Should Have Faced Downtown From The Start

On Thursday morning last week I made my first visit to the Arch since the new downtown-facing entrance opened recently. Before we get into the nw entry I need to take you back to how it was for decades.

At the base pf each leg of the Arch the walkway would slope down to the entrance was an entry/exit to the underground visitor’s center. These remain.
When security was added it was just inside the door — so the line was outside in the cold, rain, or heat.
Looking out fro the old entry/exit points. These will now be exit-only. But first you had to get here.
For many visitors that meant driving to the 1980s parking garage that was located on the North end of the grounds, then walking to the North Arch entry.
Others coming from Laclede’s Landing North of Eads Bridge or MetroLink got to walk through the 80s garage.
For those already downtown this 2010 photo showsthe highway separating downtown (left) from the Arch grounds (right). When the Arch was first planned this was the at-grade 3rd St Parkway, but it became a high speed interstate “depressed” below grade. Depressing indeed.
Construction on the “lid” over the highway, July 2014
By October 8, 2015 the entire area was closed for major construction.
Same day, same camera location, looking more tossed the Arch/river
A year later Luther Ely Smith Square was finished but work on the new Arch entry continued.
The accessible platform allows to peak over the concrete barrier & chain link fence

For so long it was just a big dirty hole, but slowly it began to take shape. Recently the entry was opened for visitors, but last week was my first visit to this entrance.

The approach to the new Arch entry feels so natural, it’s a shame it wasn’t like this 50 years ago.
Approaching from the North or South the new dug into the hill entry gradually appears.
A small plaza with water feature is in the center, forcing you to either side
Going around the center plaza will take you down to its level or go further to the outside of the circle fore the wide ramps leading to the entrance.
The center plaza
Looking back West from the center plaza
Both outside ramps lead down to the entrance — with revolving door. power operated doors tex to it for strollers, wheelchairs, etc.
From the center just inside.
Looking West from inside, very inviting! You can see ramps going off to each entry.
To the left (North) is restrooms & tickets for the trams, movies, etc. Admission to the museum is free.
To the right (south) is the entrance to take you down to the museum. This is like airport security. Unlike the old entry, this line is indoors!

The lower level was open, though the museum wasn’t — it opens tomorrow. The lower level also has the gift shop, a new restaurant, a movie theater, etc. I decided to wait so my husband could help me get through security, help with bags, wallet, etc. I’m excited by the new entrance, it’s clear to me downtown has not capitalized on the millions who’ve visited over the last half century.

Local journalist/author Jm Merkel is out with a 2nd edition of his book The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.

With his fourth book from Reedy Press, The Making of an Icon, Jim Merkel captured the spirit behind the conception and construction of one of America’s most distinctive and beloved national monuments. More than two million visitors stand in awe at the Gateway Arch each year, and the stories behind it were unearthed in breathless detail in the first edition. Back with even more lore and the addition of beautiful color images, Merkel brings new information on the Arch grounds and museum to this updated and revised second edition. Now expanded, his book includes more stories compiled from interviews with the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and intrepid workers who built the arch while one misstep away from a fatal fall. Merkel’s book will help us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that raised the Arch to the sky. (Reedy Press)

As beautiful as the Arch is, I still think razing 40 city blocks was a huge blunder that we’re still suffering from today.

— Steve PattersonT

 

Soldiers Memorial Opened Memorial Day 1938, Will Reopen November 3, 2018

May 28, 2018 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Soldiers Memorial Opened Memorial Day 1938, Will Reopen November 3, 2018

A century ago World War 1 was ongoing in Europe, having begin in 1914. This coming Fall marks 100 years since the beginning of the end of the war to end all wars.

November 3, 1918 – Mutiny strikes the German Navy at the ports of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven as sailors refuse orders to put to sea to engage in a final colossal battle with the British Navy. Along with this, revolutionary fervor and Bolshevist-style uprisings erupt in German cities including Munich, Stuttgart and Berlin. The extent of the unrest stuns German leaders, and even the Allies, who fear Germany might now succumb to a violent Bolshevist revolution in the manner of Russia. This brings a stark urgency to the armistice negotiations.

November 3, 1918 – The only remaining ally of Germany, Austria-Hungary, signs an armistice with Italy, leaving Germany alone in the war. (Source)

On November 11, 1918 Germany signed the armistice. St. Louis lost many men in the war, so a memorial to them was a given. It didn’t happen quickly.

Mayor Dickman laid the cornerstone on November 11, 1936

It would be nearly two decades since the end of the war before the memorial opened.

Soldiers Memorial officially opened on Memorial Day in 1938. The building was designed by St. Louis architecture firm Mauran, Russell & Crowell in a classical style with art deco flourishes. It features four monumental groups of sculptures by artisan Walker Hancock that represent courage, loyalty, sacrifice, and vision. Hancock, a native St. Louisan, served in the US Army in World War II but is perhaps best known for being one of the Monuments Men, the group tasked with protecting and recovering cultural and historical artifacts from wartime damage.

By the end of the 1940s the Court of Honor had been established across the street from Soldiers Memorial. It memorializes the St. Louisans who lost their lives during World War II. (Soldiers Memorial)

Plaques for the Korean & Vietnam wars were later added in the Court of Honor.  Both Soldiers Memorial & the Court of Honor have been managed by the City of St. Louis since built, but a few years ago the city struck a deal with the Missouri History Museum to take over operations of Soldiers Memorial and the Court of Honor. On February 28, 2016, my 49th birthday, both closed to undergo a much needed $30 million dollar facelift to correct decades of neglected maintenance and bring them into the 21st century.

The St. Louis flag being lowered on Sunday February 28, 2016
This is the East display room on the last day, the casework ad detailing are beautiful
The Court of Honor in the foreground with the Soldiers Memorial in the background

I’ve been serving on a disability access panel during the design phases for the site, exhibits, lighting, etc. Access is greatly improved for those of us who use wheelchairs — a second ramp up to the building has been added. The original elevator has been kept, but another was added. The new exhibits have been designed for all to enjoy — including those with vision or hearing loss. I look forward to seeing the finished results, rather than just drawings and renderings.

The reopening is scheduled for 9am on  November 3, 2018.  You can learn more about the renovation project here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

May 21, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

Enclosed walkways over public sidewalks are generally a bad idea — removing pedestrians from the public realm. However, with these elevated walkways often comes the real culprits to killing sidewalk life: blank walls, inward focus, etc.

A prime example of what not to do in a downtown was downtown St. Louis’ St. Louis Centre indoor mall.

Blank walls faced the public sidewalk, under the walkways it was dark.

ABOVE: Looking east on May 27, 2010

It was 8 years ago today that a big event was held to begin the removal of the very oppressive walkway from over Washington Ave — the first step in transforming the inward-focused mall into outward-facing MX retail with the interior becoming a parking garage.

See:

 

Two other walkways have been removed in the last year, one on each side of the former Southwestern Bell headquarters, later an AT&T building on Chestnut between 9th & 10th. The walkways connected the now vacant tower, now longer owned by AT&T with an older Bell building to the West and a 90s data center to the East.

Former walkway over 9th Street, 2009 photo
Similar walkway over 10th St, also a 2009 photo

These walkways were very different than those at the former St. Louis Centre — up high, small, transparent, These allowed employees to walk to/from all 3 buildings without having to keep going through security. With AT&T’s significant reduction in the number of downtown employees the center towner became unnecessary. The tower’s new owners needed to reconfigure the tower from a single-occupany headquarters into a multi-tenant building. For them and AT&T that meant disconnecting the three buildings.

In SEptember 2017 the walkway over 9th was gone, though work remained to fill in the hole in the West side of the data center created by removing the walkway.

The exteriors are all repaired now, though all three buildings are lifeless at the sidewalk level. This us by design. The removal of these two walkways won’t have the dramatic results we’ve seen at MX.

St. Louis has systematically killed street life block by block, neighborhoods by neighborhood. Attempting to bring back vibrant sidewalks for more than a few blocks here or there is likely a waste of time at this point.

— Steve Patterson

 

Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

April 16, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

A couple of weeks from now will mark two years since my post titled: Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. It was a more detailed follow up to an April 2009 post called Stealing a Sidewalk.

From the 2016 post:

In the late 1990s, Larry Deutsch was finally allowed to raze the historic 4-story building at 1101 Locust St. that housed Miss Hullings Cafeteria for decades. After the demolition crew left, new sidewalks were poured and the lot was covered in asphalt for surface parking. That’s when the line dividing private from public property was moved more than 3 feet. Legally the lot is 121 feet x 102 feet 6 inches. But by narrowing the public sidewalk, they made their lot 124.33′ x 105.83′ — a gain of 6%! This is roughly 750 square feet of public space that has been used privately for years.

This allowed them to have 5 additional parking spaces. The current daily rate is often $10, but let’s say $5/day. With about 300 revenue days a year, that’s $7,500 in additional revenue per year. Over 18 years the total estimate is $135,000. Serious money made by taking from the public right-of-way.

After my May 2016 post they put orange cones in the parking spaces that were partially on public property.

The building represents the property line, not the concrete sidewalk.

On the East end of 1101 Locust St the same thing along 11th — they [placed cones along the actual property line
Each time I’d go past the cones would be out — not as good as pouring new concrete sidewalks at the actual property line. But the other day I noticed they were back to stealing public right-of-way for their profits!

The driver’s half of this car is parked on the public right-of-way
And along 11th half of this vehicle is parked on the public right-of-way.

Ownership hasn’t changed. As I said two years ago, the city needs to force the Deutsch family to pour new concrete sidewalks that extend all the way to the property lin. They also need to bring this surface lot up to current standards for surface lots — with physical barriers between sidewalk & parking so cars can’t park on or drive on public sidewalks.

I’ll be reminding 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar about this today.

 

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Aldermen Approved Failed St. Louis Centre Forty Years Ago

March 16, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on Aldermen Approved Failed St. Louis Centre Forty Years Ago

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also the 40th anniversary of the start of one of St. Louis’ worst decisions: St. Louis Centre

This Day in St. Louis History, March 17, 1978:
The first step towards St. Louis Centre

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved three bills that would set the stage to develop a proposed downtown shopping mall, with the only further step being the acquisition of federal funding. The headquarters of Stx, Baer, & Fuller, which would become Dillard’s just months before the mall’s completion, and Famous-Barr existed with one block separating them between Washington and Locust at 6th Street. The goal was to create an enclosed, urban shopping mall with these two companies as anchors, and the estimated budget was nearly $150 million. St. Louis Centre opened in 1985 as the largest shopping mall in America. It had over 150 stores and 20 restaurants, and was initially a great success. Challenges appeared in the 1990s however, as the Westroads Shopping Center was redeveloped into the St. Louis Galleria and stores began closing. St. Louis Centre closed in 2006, and since then has been redeveloped into a 750-car parking garage and retail center. (From now defunct STL250 Facebook page)

The mall opened seven years later, in 1985.

To any urbanist the idea of razing an entire city block to build one massive internally-focused building is just wrong. Anyone who knew better either kept quiet or were silenced, ignored. Malls in the suburbs are doing great so we must do the same.

St. Louis Centre, April 2006
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006

The mall is now a parking garage with out-facing retail at the sidewalk level. The oppressive bridges over Washington & Locust are gone.

2014

The mistake has been reversed, but the damage was done long ago. Retailing, once a big part of downtown, is almost nonexistent. Restaurants are now the generators of much foot traffic.

I can’t help but wonder where downtown would be if bills weren’t approved 40 years ago.

— Steve Patterson

 

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