Archive for the ‘in the news’ Category

City to River 2011

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

In February of 2009, City to River was created with a mission to advocate for improved connections between the neighborhoods of the Central Riverfront and the Mississippi River. Since that time, City to River has advanced a vision for better connectivity through the restoration of the downtown street grid, with the long range vision of replacing the downtown lanes of the soon-to-be-former Interstate 70 with a new at-grade boulevard.

Two events led to the formation of the City to River organization. The first was the announcement that I-70 would be rerouted away from downtown over the new I-70 bridge. The second was the announcement by the National Park Service that it would begin a process to update the General Management Plan (GMP) for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM). This would mark the first time in the history of the Arch that the GMP had been updated.

It’s long been recognized that downtown is cut off from the Arch grounds and its riverfront. Since its construction, the Arch has stood alone on an island, surrounded by a moat of infrastructure barriers. Indeed, in the GMP process, improving connections between downtown, the Arch grounds, and the riverfront was a recurring theme heard from the public and the many planners involved.

Improving physical connections is a strategy, but ultimately, connections are about people. A downtown with more people will naturally bring more people to the riverfront and Arch grounds. A downtown with more businesses, residences, and events brings more people to the riverfront. The vision of City to River is that better connections between the City and the Arch and riverfront means more people embracing the core of the region, the Metro East, the Mississippi River and the Arch grounds.

The preferred alternative of the GMP was to hold an international design competition to establish the plans to improve and manage the 20-30 years of the JNEM. Ultimately, the Michael Van Valkenberg’s MVVA team’s design was chosen as the winner. Since that announcement, there has been a continuing process carried out by various interested parties to finalize a design plan. That design will be presented to the public for the first time January 26, 2011.

This will be the first opportunity for the public to see the final plan for how the various consultants, government agencies, design team members and others propose to improve the JNEM and its connections to downtown and the riverfront. According to the invitation to the January 26 event, there will then be further opportunities for the public to comment on the plan.

The goal of the City + Arch  + River Foundation, sponsors of the design competition, is to have improvements to the Arch and its surroundings completed by October, 2015, the 50th Anniversary of the completion of the Arch. At the January 26 event, proponents are supposed to be announcing a preliminary budget for the total project. Then the challenge is placed back on the people of St. Louis to raise the necessary funds to build the project.

The remaking of the Arch grounds is the most ambitious planning and development effort in the St. Louis region since the revitalization of Forest Park. The results of the Forest Park master planning and redevelopment effort have been nothing short of outstanding. The park is a huge draw for people and is the most beautifully polished jewel in our region. City to River is eager to see the final plans for the future of the Arch and its surroundings and looks forward to participating in the community effort to restore the connections between downtown St. Louis and its riverfront.

Interstate 70 Through Downtown St. Louis: The Product of Abstract Modern Planning

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Interstate 70 as it rips through Downtown St. Louis was the product of the Modern Age of planning which looked at cities not as living breathing organisms, but as geometric abstractions. The St. Louis Post Dispatch illustrates this in Mondays editorial “Downtown St. Louis’ future now focuses on people”. The editorial, which covers Downtown’s latest blueprint for the future, first looks back at 1964 with a description of the new Downtown of that time taken from a special section published by the Post for St. Louis’ bicentennial:

The Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium II barely had started to rise from the ground. Aerial photographs of downtown revealed clusters of low, industrial-age buildings, many seemingly darkened by coal dust. The central business district was pocked with open lots — evidence of urban renewal’s destructive beginnings.

The artists’ conceptions of downtown’s future, meanwhile, consisted of a cool sweep of modern, unadorned buildings filling the voids, creating a new order around the eagerly anticipated Arch.

You don’t see many people in these pictures. You don’t get any sense of how people would move from place to place or why they would want to. Downtown St. Louis had been reduced in our civic consciousness to geometric abstractions. We seemed fixated on creating structures and spaces.

One of the godfathers of modern planning, Le Corbusier, saw ordinary city life including crowded streets full of people and shops as clutter – something to be eliminated. His famous Radiant City was envisioned as a machine full of identical towers connected by nothing but highways amidst a pervasive sea of green.

Unfortunately, Le Corbusier had a lot of influence on designers, with an entire generation of architects and planners churning out city plans based on this model. These plans were largely out of scale abstractions completely disconnected from the life of cities and how they function. If you look at an aerial view of Downtown St. Louis west of the Arch you can see this influence with the interstate slipping past the large green space with an anonymous faceless row of towers rising in the background.

This is the City that we have inherited from the Modern Era of planning. Today, nearly 50 years later, we have a rare opportunity to re-establish the connections lost during the era of abstraction and re-build an environment based on how people live and use the City. It is now our responsibility to correct the planning mistakes of the past.

Link to Post editorial:

One of the godfathers of modern planning, Le Corbusier, saw ordinary city life including crowded streets full of people and shops as clutter – something to be eliminated.  His famous Radiant City was envisioned as a machine full of identical towers connected by nothing but highways amidst a pervasive sea of green.

KSDK News Channel 5 Reports on City to River Plan

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Watch the video here.