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Poll: what to do with Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’?

Citygarden, located in two blocks of the Gateway Mall, is an unquestionable hit with anyone who has seen the 2-block (8th, Market, 10th, Chestnut) sculpture & botanical garden.

ABOVE: Citygarden (left) and Twain (right), July 2009

But the block to across 10th Street to the West is a very different story!  ‘Twain’ by Richard Serra was installed in 1982, a decade earlier than the two blocks (now containing Citygarden) were razed.

ABOVE: Plaque for Twain is in the grass next to 11th Street.
ABOVE: Plaque for 'Twain' is in the grass next to 11th Street.

Art is something you should love or hate and ‘Twain’ manages to make sure viewers have one of those reactions, no in the middle.

I have my feelings which I’ll share on Wednesday April 14, 2010 when I show the final results of this week’s poll: “Which best describes your thoughts on the Gateway Mall block w/Richard Serra’s ‘Twain’ sculpture?” I phrased the question the way I did to get at feelings on the block as a whole as well as the art itself.  The answers provided are:

  • Love Twain, don’t change that block at all.
  • Get rid of Twain ASAP.
  • Like Twain and the minimal surroundings, just needs new sidewalks, etc
  • Like Twain but the block is too bare, needs more art & activities.
  • I don’t hate Twain but I’m not crazy about it either.
  • Unsure/no opinion.

And you can make your own answer if you like. The poll software will randomize the answers so please read them before voting.  Share your thoughts below on why we should keep or remove Twain.

– Steve Patterson


Poll results: readers on desired activity for St. Louis’ Gateway Mall linear park

ABOVE: Carl Milles' sculpture/fountain in Aloe Plaza cross from Union Station

Each Sunday as I post a new poll on this site I’m never sure how it will go over, see Poll: What activity do you want to see added to the Gateway Mall? Last week I was pleasantly surprised by the response to the poll, the number of responses was far better than I thought it would be.

Here is the question and results:

Q: What activity would you like to see added to the Gateway Mall? Pick only one:

  1. Miniature golf 66 [24%]
  2. Ice skating 55 [20%]
  3. Ferris wheel 34 [12%]
  4. Other answer… 27 [10%]
  5. Skateboard/BMX park 24 [9%]
  6. Picnic/BBQ area 21 [8%]
  7. Dog park 18 [6%]
  8. Level field for kickball, etc 14 [5%]
  9. Basketball 7 [3%]
  10. Unsure 6 [2%]
  11. Tennis 5 [2%]

Based on the way the poll software works I had to have readers pick only one answer.  As with voting, this can skew the results because everyone’s 2nd answer might be the real winner.  But the length of the mall is long so there is room for more than one activity. If we look at the top 5 items we have:

  1. Miniature golf
  2. Ice skating
  3. Ferris wheel
  4. Skateboard/BMX park
  5. Picnic/BBQ area

Miniature Golf
I wasn’t keen on the idea the first time I heard it suggested but after more thought and the strong interest here I’m liking the idea more and more. I don’t think anyone wants to see a typical cheesy miniature golf course set in the middle of our urban park.  What is appealing is that it is a good activity for one person or for groups.  It has been about three decades since I’ve played miniature golf so I know I need to check out newer courses that are more interesting and worthy of a grand public park.

Ice Skating

Urban ice skating can be lovely, in January 2008 I enjoyed watching skaters in downtown Providence RI.  With St. Louis’ popular Steinberg Skating Rink less than five miles to the West I’m hesitant to think we could sustain two rinks in our short Winter.  I’d rather see something not offered elsewhere instead of competing with Forest Park. Furthermore, you need to have uses for the rink for the 8-9 months of the year when it is too warm for ice skating.

Ferris Wheel

A few years ago it was suggested to have a Ferris wheel at the West end of the Gateway Mall, across 20th from Aloe Plaza.  While the carnival ride association doesn’t appeal to me I could see it being a draw that offers great views of our skyline.  I’ve seen friend’s pics taken from the London Eye and the Ferris Wheel on top of City Museum seems popular.  So I’m torn on this one, the activity level would be good most of the year but it seems rather cheesy. I’m not ruling it out, I just need visuals of a Ferris wheel in an urban context.


To me this is the best idea!  Again, we have space for more than one activity and I’d really like to see this be one of them. Such a space would almost always be in use — an important consideration.  Some will have concerns about the city’s liability but numerous cities have municipally owned skate parks such as Oklahoma City’s Matt Hoffman Action Sports Park and Bowling Green KY. A message on Twitter said “It should be done right. It should have high and low rails, at least a double-wall bowl, event seating, and lighting.”  Agreed, having a big name associated with a design would help attract users.  I’d be there on the seating to watch the kids do their thing.

ABOVE: OKCs Hoffman Park in 2005
ABOVE: OKC's Hoffman Park in 2005

Picnic/BBQ Area

I like the idea of groups gathering in the Gateway Mall for picnics but I wonder if a covered pavilion would look out of place in an urban context? I’m going to look into any examples in other cities.

The “other” answers were numerous and in a few cases, not serious:

  1. outdoor vendors and consession stands
  2. Ironic croquet through mini-arches, with Alice-and-Wonderland bird mallets, etc
  3. Frank Gehry designed amphitheater
  4. keep homeless people out
  5. Urban Glass Maze
  6. Construction
  7. Class A office space
  8. Minigolf ala City Museum style – instead of kitch plastic, arch’tctural ele
  9. Veledrome
  10. Antique merry-go-round
  11. Food Vendors
  12. outdoor vendors and media ads
  13. Office/ residential
  14. music venue
  15. Urban Garden
  16. Dedicated jogging track — multi-block
  17. Buildings: Stores, Apartments, Houses
  18. what are boundaries of the gateway mall?
  19. A St. Louis Zoo Annex
  20. city museum style playground
  21. No More! Already full!
  22. garden/farm
  23. bicycle rental
  24. Fishing Pond
  25. Walking/Jogging/Bike trail
  26. RV park (for Arch visitors)
  27. grenhouse structure open sided seasonally

Many great ideas, too many to comment on them all.  Here is a thought on a few: I’m a huge advocate of more vendors throughout downtown and the city, lots of people & activity will mean the homeless are a smaller percentage of the users,  a stocked pond for fishing could be interesting.

The first meeting of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board will be 5pm Wednesday April 21, 2010 at the offices of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, 710 Olive Suite 450 (Laclede Gas Building). These meetings are open to the public.  The agenda is still being determined but I do know the first order of business is the oath of office will be taken by those of us on the board.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: What activity do you want to see added to the Gateway Mall?

Now that I have been appointed to serve on the Gateway Mall Advisory Board I’m thinking about the master plan and what details still need to be worked out.  One of those is activities in some of the blocks.  As a representative of the people I know to get a sense of what you think is needed somewhere along the linear park.

ABOVE: Splash fountain at Citygarden, 2009
ABOVE: Splash fountain at Citygarden, 2009

The question is:  What activity would you like to see added to the Gateway Mall? Pick only one:

  • Tennis
  • Ice skating
  • Skateboard/BMX park
  • Picnic/BBQ area
  • Basketball
  • Level field for kickball, etc
  • Minature golf
  • Farris Ferris wheel
  • Dog park
  • Unsure
  • Other

I have some strong feelings about what will work better than others but I want to get your viewpoint before I share mine.   The poll is open until the morning of Sunday March 28, 2010.  I will share the results on Wednesday March 31, 2010.  Please vote in the poll on the right and share any thoughts you have below.

– Steve Patterson


Gateway Mall Advisory Board appointed by Mayor, approved by Aldermen

ABOVE: Gateway Mall St. Louis looking West from Tucker
ABOVE: Gateway Mall St. Louis looking West from Tucker, January 2008

Today the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a resolution approving Mayor Slay’s nominees to serve on the initial Gateway Mall Advisory Board. The advisory board was formed last year by ordinance 68407.  The 14 appointed positions are:

1. A designee of the St. Louis Public Library;

2. Four representatives of businesses with physical locations adjacent to the Gateway Mall;

3. A real estate developer with one or more projects adjacent to the Gateway Mall;

4. A representative of the Downtown St. Louis Residents’ Association;

5. A representative of an organization which has conducted a festival or other special event in the Gateway Mall within two (2) years prior to appointment;

6. An architect or landscape architect;

7. A representative of a public arts organization or agency;

8. A person with expertise in urban sustainability;

9. A person appointed at large; and

10. Two persons, one designated by each of the Aldermen of Wards Six and Seven , respectively; after revision of ward boundaries, one person designated by the aldermen of any ward in which any part of the Gateway Mall is located.

Not all positions were filled by Today’s resolution, the remaining will be filled shortly. An additional 10 ex-officio positions round out the board.

ABOVE: Aloe Plaza across Market St from Union Station
ABOVE: Aloe Plaza across Market St from Union Station

From the press release:

Appointed by the Mayor to the Gateway Mall Advisory Board are A.J. Bruning, Downtown Resident’s Association; Jack Reis, EVS Realty; John Sondag, AT&T; Pat Shannon, Shannon’s Restaurant; Byron Marshall, Union Station; Waller McGuire, St. Louis Public Library; Steve Smith, The Lawrence Group; Mike Kocielo, Entertainment St. Louis; Andy Trivers, Trivers & Associates; Chris Fannin, HOK; Sarah Smith, Community Development Ventures; Mike Kinman, Christ Church Cathedral; Steve Patterson, Urban Review; and Les Sterman, Downtown Resident.

Serving in an ex-officio capacity will be Pete Rothschild, Red Brick Management; 6th Ward Alderman Kacie Starr-Triplett; 7th Ward Alderman Phyllis Young; Don Roe, St. Louis Planning & Urban Design; Gary Bess, Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry; Maggie Campbell, Partnership for Downtown St. Louis; Ann Chance, Special Events Manager; Lynnea Magnuson, Soldier’s Memorial; and Patricia Roland-Hamilton, Gateway Mall Conservancy.

The Gateway Mall Advisory Board will likely convene in April.

Yes, my name is on the above list.  Thank you to Ald. Kacie Starr Triplett for agreeing to allow me to fill the slot representing the 6th ward.  The Gateway Mall Conservancy Board was also recently created:

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.

More information can be found at GatewayMall.org.

– Steve Patterson


Parks and recreation in St. Louis

January 22, 2010 Parks, Planning & Design 13 Comments
Image from the archives of Lou & Georgia Buckowitz

Neighborhood parks were very important to St. Louis’ long-time planner (1916-1950), Harland Bartholomew.  From the Parks & Recreation section of the 1947 City Plan:

Large parks are very useful but they supply only one part of the city’s recreation requirements. There is a surprising deficiency in neighborhood parks, playfields, and playgrounds. It is always difficult to provide ample park and recreation areas after development has taken place but that is not justification for neglect of an extremely important public facility. If stability and improved environment in the various residential areas of St. Louis is to be assured, it is imperative that adequate local recreational areas be acquired.

Each of the 82 residential neighborhoods in the city should have a neighborhood park, and playground. Each should have a large playfield in reasonably close proximity. These requirements are in addition to such overall facilities as large parks and parkways. (continue reading)

While I have disagreed with Bartholomew’s thinking numerous times (multiple airports to fly around the region!?!) I wonder how the idea of places for kids to play applies in 2010?  Playground design is different.  The playgrounds of 1947 and earlier would be deemed too unsafe by today’s standards. Few parents today would even let their children out of sight anyway.

Mt. Pleasant Park looking North. Image from the archives of Lou & Georgia Buckowitz

From what I’ve seen kids seem to enjoy new playground equipment. The water features at Citygarden were a big hit last year.  Thoughts anyone?  What works? What doesn’t?

Thanks to Matt Rankin for the donation of archives from his late grandparents, Lou & Georgia Buckowitz.

– Steve Patterson