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Gateway Mall Still Unloved, Conservancy Resigned, Advisory Board Kept In Dark

August 13, 2013 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Politics/Policy 32 Comments

Just a few years ago I was optimistic about the future of the Gateway Mall, the linear park north of Market Street, stretching from Broadway to just past 20th Street. The Gateway Mall Master Plan had been adopted by the city. The Gateway Mall Advisory Board was established to ensure proposed projects met the master plan. A separate, non-profit, group, the Gateway Mall Conservancy, was formed to raise private money to implement the plan.

Peter Fischer, the man behind Citygarden via the Gateway Foundation, headed the Gateway Mall Conservancy and had a seat on the Gateway Mall Advisory Board.  Another member of the Conservancy was Emily Pulitzer. Between Fischer & Pulitzer I thought they’d be able to raise the money needed to continue work on more blocks of the park.

From a press release from Mayor Slay:

March 12, 2010 – Mayor Francis Slay convened the first meeting of the newly formed Gateway Mall Conservancy Board yesterday. The purpose of the Board is to facilitate the planning, design, funding and execution efforts for the entire Gateway Mall, which runs from the Old Courthouse west to past Union Station.

The Gateway Mall Master Plan, formally adopted by the City of St. Louis in July of last year, provides the City with a comprehensive vision for transforming downtown’s central park into an outstanding open space. Building on this long-range vision, the Plan creates an overall framework to guide future individual proposals within the Mall.

“This is an important step in building on the momentum created by the opening of Citygarden last summer,” Slay said. “This Board is made up of individuals who can provide executive, civic, and fundraising energy and leadership. They each have already contributed to our community in so many ways.”

Named to the Gateway Mall Conservancy Board were Peter Fischer, Gateway Foundation; Robert Archibald, Missouri Historical Society; Steve Cousins, Armstrong Teasdale LLP; John Ferring, Plaze, Inc.; David Mesker, retired, A.G. Edwards; Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts; Kitty Ratcliffe, St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission; Henry S. Webber, Washington University; Josephine Weil, Community Volunteer; and Patricia Roland-Hamilton as Executive Director.

Also announced today was the formation of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, a group of stakeholders responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Gateway Mall Master Plan and providing ongoing community input about the Gateway Mall. Its composition and responsibilities are outlined by City ordinance.

Its role is to oversee and review compliance with the Plan and provide review of proposed modifications to the Plan. Members of the Board constitute a part of the public review process and have the authority to conduct a public review of any proposed expansion, modification, replacement, relocation, adaptive re-use, or removal of existing roads, paths, parking lots, recreation areas or natural areas.

“It’s critical to ensure we adhere to the vision set forth in the Master Plan,” said Gary Bess, the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry. “We will look to this group to assist us in doing so.”  (Press Release PDF)

I was among those appointed to the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, rather than just be a critic on the outside I had an appointed seat at the table.

But there were early signs it wouldn’t last. Peter Fischer wouldn’t authorize the funds to renew the domain GatewayMall.org, so the initial website disappeared. Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton’s email address, peroland@gatewaymall.org, ceased working when the domain shut down. She then had to use her personal email account. So much for having a place to let citizens understand what this appointed body was doing.

Summer view of Kiener Plaza, concept approved by the Gateway Mall Advisory Board in January 2011
Summer view of Kiener Plaza, concept approved by the Gateway Mall Advisory Board in January 2011

We rejected one proposal in 2012 and in 2011 gave preliminary approval to changes to Kiener Plaza:

Andy [Trivers] then introduced guests Donald Stastny and Nate Trevethan. Nate, representing Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, presented the vision for Kiener Plaza, as prepared as part of the entire Arch grounds project. Donald and Nate also used models to present the preliminary vision to the Board.

The initial vision calls for removal of the amphitheater, the addition of a Beer Garden and Café, a Pavilion, Playground and Carousel. The schematic design also calls for the continuance of the “Hallway” along the northern edge of Market Street, special lighting, and an event lawn.

This presentation is the initial step in the Project Approval Process for privately funded projects within the Gateway Mall. On a motion by Byron Marshall and seconded by Jack Reis, the Board approved the preliminary prospectus. (Gateway Mall Advisory Board minutes from January 26, 2011)

Because Kiener Plaza was part of the master plan we had to look at proposals for change.  At the time we expected to see more detailed drawings in the future, but we never did. Apparently, as I just recently learned, the ordinance authorizing the tax vote also removed Kiener Plaza from the master plan.

Here’s an email message I received from Parks director Gary Bess after I began asking questions:

As most media outlets have reported, Kiener has been included in the City Arch River Project   This point has also been included in public meetings regarding the project   When the ordinance was passed authorizing the CAR project/tax, Kiener was dropped from the Gateway Mall Plan and included in CAR  We were informed in February that in light of the above change the Conservancy was transferring all previous design work to CityArchRiver further indicating that the Conservancy  believed it has done all it could do to move the Kiener project forward and felt others could help in moving the the implementation of the master plan West of Tucker forward and resigned

Assumed you knew about Kiener’s inclusion in the CAR project based upon media and public meeting  The Conservancy is a private not for profit and chose not to publicly announce their resignations  i respect this decision    The City will look for new options on private funding for the Mall project West of Tucker.  The good news of course is projects East of Tucker are complete and/or funded.
I know of no funding to renovate this block or 2 others east of Tucker.
I know of no funding to renovate this block or 2 others east of Tucker.

I’m disappointed and angry — mostly at myself for thinking somehow this would be different than previous plans. I’m angry at Peter Fisher for turning down a skate park west of Tucker because it wasn’t dignified enough for his sensibilities. We could’ve had a great skate park in operation by now, but we don’t!!  I kept my mouth shut because I had a seat at the table, I was trying hard to be a good player, working within the system.

I informed the other members of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board (expired & current) of this news via email Sunday evening.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "32 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of government and public-private partnerships. Advisory Boards, especially those that lack veto power, are a way to redirect / co-opt vocal critics on an issue. If you think you have even a sliver of power, you tend to shut up, spending a lot of time in meetings and submitting detailed comments on whatever minutiae those in power want to feed you. In reality, as you’ve found, the projects proceed, embracing only the advice that supports the larger agenda. Bottom line, it’s still the golden rule – he who has the gold, makes the rules . . . .

  2. Eric says:

    Peter Fischer wouldn’t authorize the funds to renew the domain GatewayMall.org

    Wouldn’t that only cost about $20? You think somebody could have come up with that out of their pocket.

  3. A harsh lesson in the world of citizen advisory boards. I fear those selected to GRG’s C.A.B. will learn a similar one when the tax dollars start coming in. That’s why it’s always better to have somebody at the top with a vested (and preferably passionate) interest in the project, as opposed to those who see another bullet point on their resume or a rung from which to ascend the social ladder.

    With that said, I wonder if the dissolution of the Conservancy and GMAB (and the removal of Kiener Plaza from C+A+R’s master plan) might finally put an end to the idea of pavilion-izing Kiener Plaza and removing the amphitheater. Just my opinion, but downtown needs more flat “event space” like a hole in the head. I think the simple act of widening the bowl out toward the street, allowing a complete view into it from passersby, would be best. That and, of course, regularly-scheduled events/activities, like CityGarden has.

    But cheer up, Steve — you were involved and now, it seems, you’ve found your voice on the matter. As the Night Tripper’s singing on my ipod right now — “You got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative; latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

    • P.S. I still think a skate park on the Gateway Mall is a bad idea. As is sand volleyball, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, putt-putt, etc. Just got back from Boston where they’re building the country’s (world’s?) biggest public skate park. It sits across the Charles underneath a tangle of highway/bridge infrastructure. Can you say South Archgrounds/Chouteau’s Landing?!

      Oh, and get rid of Serra’s Twain!

      • moe says:

        Agreed…..on the Serra’s “art”. I’m sure it’s art to someone, but someone’s art is another’s trash. It doesn’t belong. Even the sculptures gracing SLU would add more life than this “art”.
        Skate park? why not? When done correctly, they add vibrancy and usually the users tend to take better care of their ‘parks’ than even dog owners at dog parks. It’s just like art…one’s activity is another’s waste.

        • dempster holland says:

          I note that Mrs Pulitzer was on the advisory council, and therefore
          there was no hope the serra sculpture would be dumped. I am
          sure she is a very nice lady and interested in St Louis, but it is
          clear that no one interested in having influence in St Louis would
          publicly oppose her in the matter of the Serra sculpture. Maybe
          Steve could use his platform to have a poll on where the Serra
          “art” could be moved to.

          • gmichaud says:

            I’m not sure why all of the hate for the Serra Sculpture Certainly St. Louis has more serious problems. Twain is actually a great piece of art, it speaks directly to the Arch itself. The shape of Twain repeats the shape of the base of the Arch. The metal used is in direct contrast to the stainless steel Arch. The shape of the Arch foundation Twain is the base of an imaginary arch that springs down the Gateway Mall to the Arch itself, the other leg is represented by the Arch.
            This sculpture brings the idea of the Arch into the Gateway Mall, unlike the City Garden, or Kiener Plaza, which could be in other locations.

            I understand the complete and absolute ignorance of art and civilization on the part of Americans. Art is marginalized all through school and even as we speak the arts are being cut out of schools.
            The fact the City of St. Louis and the region are basically artless in the past 50 years derives from this ignorance of art. The old city and old areas had a foundation of art, but for the most part art has died in recent decades. America is worse in the industrialized world in about everything, from equality of income to prison population to health outcomes and on and on. These results should be no surprise and it is a direct result of this ignorance.

            Art equates to civilization and quality of life. America seems to be regressing into some sort of stone age.

            Even the name and title of the sculpture Twain suggests two items of the same kind. Twain is a brilliant piece that knits the blocks of the Gateway Mall together, it respects and speaks with forms and shapes to the Arch and as a result helps establish the importance of the Arch. It is a classic artwork.

          • moe says:

            I was going to say that some people just do not like modern art and leave it at that, But really? ignorance? artless? Yet the Art Museum raised 160 MILLION in just under 2 years. Between all the museums there have been hundreds of millions raised in just the past decade, much less 50 years. St Louisians think enough of art to tax ourselves to keep it free for ALL. Do you even visit any of them?
            And there is more to art than the physical. There is a vibrant stage presence as well. Matter of fact, the MUNY just released figures that indicate a record breaking year. Not to mention it is the oldest and largest outdoor theater. Not to mention the Grand Center with all it’s plays. Or the surrounding communities and all their stage works. Or SLU’s private and public art. Or the private individuals in and around St Louis that have some of the world’s largest collections in their area of enjoyment whether it be modern, African, Aztec, etc.
            Not to mention a World’s leading orchestra and soprano.
            Are we only suppose to hate “serious” problems? And who’s serious problems? Yours????
            You can pontificate all you want about ‘repeats the shape’, the ‘metal…contrast’, ‘speaks directly to the Arch’, yada, yada. To many, including me, it’s just a few slabs of metal devoid of thought that some ‘famous’ artist conned someone into buying….there are a few other pieces by other artist in the museums around town that I could say the same thing about. It certainly is no Tara Donovan “Clouds” or Goldsworthy’s “Stone Seas”.
            I just think it’s the wrong piece in the wrong place. Period.
            You however, need to get out and see just how supposedly devoid this area is of art.

          • gmichaud says:

            First of all I was focused on the built environment, a full discussion of the state of art in America is something different. I do resent your personal attacks on me. Let me just say you offer nothing that combats the artistic nature of Twain, you only go Yada, Yada, as if that is the depth of your knowledge. And if you have some proof that Serra “conned” someone into buying this art, let’s see it. But along with your personal vendetta, making up facts is yet another tactic for those without knowledge or ethical basis seem to prefer.

            You want to have a discussion about Twains merits or demerits, fine. I don’t need to listen to your crap otherwise. You prove the point I made about ignorance perfectly.

            I did an analysis on Goldsworthy at Preservation Research Office Blog under an excellent article on the new addition to the City Art Museum by Ann Wimsatt. So what’s your criticism of the Serra Sculpture? That it is steel in the ground? You don’t see the art relating to the Arch in form and shape? You don’t see that? I mean its ridiculous, if you have some analysis of the Serra Sculpture lets hear it.

          • moe says:

            So what is it that upsets you….the decline of art in America or St. Louis for the past 50 years? This post wasn’t even about America or St. Louis…it was about a few plates stuck in the ground, you brought in the rest. You expect people not to be upset with your ‘region is artless’? I pointed out examples of this region’s support of the arts to counter your argument. My only insult to you was asking if you’ve been out to see and experience our area’s arts which you have not answered. Maybe a bit harsh and for that I apologize, but you got upset and claim personal attack, yet you call me ignorance. Which I assure you I am not. I actually prefer classical, impressionism, photography (if you call that art, many don’t), Renaissance, and lately a touch of graffiti. And sure, we could go off on a tangent on the decline of art in the City, the region, the nation, modern vs. classical vs. primitive, yada, yada. Excuse me…etc., etc..
            You want my critique of Twain, fine: it’s crap. Two words. Sweet and short. It’s plain steel plates put in the ground that is like a homing beacon for every urinating creature around. And obviously I’m not the only one that believes this or similar since you state “why all the hate”. You’ve “heard” this and worse on it. Just as I’m sure you heard numerous complaints on the Museum addition and it’s juxtaposition on a classic. Twain belongs a Laumeier Park. Don’t get me wrong, some pieces of modern art I enjoy…particularly Bro. Mel of St. Louis who I know. But this piece is too big and too bland for a center piece of St. Louis City. It sits in stark contrast to everything around it and in it. You may like the contrast, the abruptness, but I do not.

            You come across as knowing art, so therefore you should know that art is personal. To everyone. People love it or hate it. Any piece of art. Sure, if you wanted to have a point by point discussion on the artistic values of Twain, we could go at it., but this isn’t an art class. It’s Gateway Mall Still Unresolved….I’ve summed up my reasons without going into yada yada, oops there I go again…etc., etc. about the texture or shape or form because again, this is about the Mall, not about a single piece of art which just happens to be plunk down in the middle of the Mall. But that art makes that little section of real estate the most undeveloped and wasted section in the heart of Downtown.

          • gmichaud says:

            Your last sentence is a laughable statement. That is the whole point, the Serra Sculpture does in fact represents an urbanity that is seldom evident, one that connects to another part of the city to form a whole. You’re correct this is not an art class, it is an attempt to reconcile the urbanity of the City of St. Louis and of the region, all of which has fallen woefully short of its potential.
            Too big and bland? you must be kidding. Like TV does sculpture has to continuously entertain you, even if you don’t care to participate?
            The abruptness of the Serra Sculpture is the exact feature that makes this issue come up again and again. It points and speaks to the Arch, of that there can be no doubt.

            This piece of art is probably the greatest in St Louis. Where else can you find this urbanity? Where else can you find an active connection between two sculptures?

            Twain was designed to keep the question “What is the Arch” on the forefront of thought.

          • moe says:

            My comment is as laughable as your “probably the greatest in St. Louis”. You have your favorite, and I have mine. The space is still wasted.

          • dempster holland says:

            If indeed art and the appreciation thereof has declined in the last
            50 years, I would suggest that the Serra sculpture is a prime example
            of that decline. As is the unsightly attachment to the Art Museum and
            the concrete boxes of the Pulitzer and contemporary museums. All
            have no grace, no balence, no proportionality. Their only theme in
            common is that they are “different: and “modern” and form the basis
            for endless abstract discussions about form and meaning. Give me
            the st louis public library building and the statute of St Louis at the
            art museum any time.

          • gmichaud says:

            Well I don’t believe it is a prime example of decline, but rather how the city should be relating parts to each other. Everything is fractured, Serra pulls the Arch into the Mall, forcefully, everyone notices.
            I like the old public library and many old buildings. One thing about the old architecture is that it had many rules that were passed down, including proportion. You can trace discussions of proportion (and much else to classical times).
            So the replica buildings that occupy the Darst Webbe housing project site on 12th street are generally poorly proportioned, even though they harken back to an earlier time.
            In the same way proportion in modern buildings can be wrong. Without getting into modern buildings, I will mention that Ann Wimsatt has a good critique of the new addition to the City Art Museum. Personally I would of like to see them extend the original design, the glorious main hall was originally designed as the entry hall to the real main hall, similar, but much larger. Occasionally the museum exhibits those drawings.
            I know of many modern buildings that I think have the right stuff, I feel like it is more of an attitude towards design and humanity than anything to do with the age of the architecture.
            So yes, I believe the Serra Sculpture attempts and does many great things for the Arch and Gateway Mall. Certainly with all of the vacant land in St. Louis it would be hard to believe removing Twain could be any kind of priority.
            Even considering the possibility of expanding city garden it should be noted, bigger is not always better. As Steve has pointed out many times if Twain was maintained and returned to its original design, it would be more attractive.
            The point being Twain could and should be an effective extension of the City Garden.
            In any case I’d tear down the half building in the mall before touching Twain.

          • Ann Wimsatt says:

            Cheers for the mention!

    • guest says:

      ???? Kiener Plaza has been removed from the C+A+R master plan? Since when?

      Pretty soon the whole project will be reduced to the Lid!

  4. Eddie in NorCal says:

    “I know of no funding to renovate this block…”, referring to the Serra sculpture. Not sure what that means? Are you suggesting that they remove the sculpture, or just add some fill to places with standing water?

    • The director of parks, Gary Bess, said the Gateway Mall east of Tucker is done or funded. But only 4 of 7 blocks between Tucker & Broadway are done or funded, the other 3 aren’t redone to the master plan or funded. The main connecting element should be the wide “hallway” element that curremtly exists only in Citygarden. I like Twain and think it should remain, but the block needs attention.

      • tpekren says:

        Steve, Believe you and I have very differing opinions on Serra sculpture. I for one would love to see this sculpture moved west of Tucker and the existing space be incorporated into the City Garden, maybe a green house to bring live during the winter and/or sponsorship inconjunction with the Botanical Garden.
        However, I think your right on about the the embracing the “Hallway concept” that is used City Garden. It is not complete and needs to be extending in both directions to embrace the continunity of the mall that is broken up by existing structures. It also seems like it is one of the more affordable items to tacke at the moment with the most bang for the buck.
        I think their is too much going on to expect a lot out for the entire mall. But embracing east of Tucker would be a big help to better connect downtown with Arch Grounds. Not as good as removing I70 to replace with BLVD but the details on the edge are being missed at a time when they should matter most considering the amount of funds that will be flowing into the Arch Grounds.
        Good luck with the good fight.

  5. John R says:

    I wonder what would have happened wrt the Gateway Mall if C+A+R had not been formed and redirected the focus of funding for downtown civic space away from the mall and to the Arch/riverfront. I suppose that it did make sense for the Conservancy to at least take a hiatus until C+A+R winds down but its internal politics seemed messed up for sure.

    Anyway, the City needs both a rejuvenated Arch/riverfront and a truly activated Gateway Mall all the way to the western terminus; hopefully a more transparent initiative will take shape.

    • dempster holland says:

      The western terminus of the mall presents another issue. Visually, it is a 10 to15
      story hotel with no windows facing the mall. If there were windows facing the mall
      and perhaps a restaurant or bar on the top floor, that would be quite an interestin
      and popular vista. Perhaps the mckee plan, if it ever gets going, could introduce
      a more spectacular western terminus to the mall

      • John R says:

        Absolutely. I assume the hotel was built after the Arch or at least contemporaneous with it taking shape…. what a waste. Actually, its frustrating that this lack of taking proper advantage of one of the iconic urban views in the nation, if not world, is rather typical of the building surrounding the Mall. In an alternate universe, Market and Chestnut are thriving, dynamic places with outdoor cafes, shops and life. Oh well. At least LHM did a decent job with adding new conference space, etc. on Market with great views and of course 360.

        • moe says:

          Well we could just flood out East St Louis and make a Lake Mississippi, then the Arch would be our Lake Shore Drive. That would be better than views of decay. Thats’ why I don’t understand why even at the street level, people want to clutter the views with more overhead wires from trolleys.

  6. Durham says:

    are you really this naive, or dumb not to realize what is going on here, to blame Peter Fischer, the one person who forced them to create the whole conservancy, who funded the conservancy exclusively, shows you know nothing of the real situation join on with the mall or the arch grounds.

    • I’ve been deep in it for years, I stand by my assertion.

    • tpekren says:

      To put it politely, what is the real situation? To state someone doesn’t know the real situation also implies that you know the real situation.
      I for one is clueless of the real situation but believe that Steve has some valid points. Advisory boards within government or semi public context have become truly pointless if leadership doesn’t value or embrace any opinions. Worse, most of the Arch grounds design is coming with very little input from the community that is footing the bill. Including the fact that my property tax bill will include it even though I’m not even a resident anymore and didn’t even get to vote on the Arch Grounds Tax.
      But I have also seen some truly added value when something is put out there and feedback is respected, more specifically a street upgrade in my new home town of Lafayette, CA when a frustrated city council finally got smart enough to have a public open house on designs being put forth for residents and businesses alike to comment, embraced the feedback and now have a project back on track that will improve pedestrian experience for new housing developements being constructed as well as add greenery and appease commercial businesses who were fearing loss of vehicle access.

      • guest says:

        Lafayette, CA. Wow. What a difference from STL, huh? Would love to hear thoughts on the differences between life in STL to life in a commuter suburb of San Francisco.

      • wondering says:

        If you aren’t a resident then what property tax bill? If you are paying a property tax, then you are a resident, all be it an absent one. As a resident, sometimes we as a group must fund things that individually we may not agree with. Or is it since you do not see any direct value in improving the region since you are not a direct part of it you don’t want to spend the money? Sound slum lord to me.

  7. gmichaud says:

    The first problem is with advisory boards, they should be set up to have real power. Whenever “advising” is the keyword it means talk all you want, we’ll do what we want. At some point I would think everyone will get tired of the sham democracy of America. This is yet another example.


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