Archive for June, 2010

Gateway to a New Legacy

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Five finalist design teams are in town this week for the 2nd Midcourse Review. It’s a testament to the current Framing a Modern Masterpiece design competition that some of the best architects, designers and urban planners in the world are applying their considerable skill to re-envision the Arch grounds. The result of the Competition will be a new legacy for all of St. Louis.

St. Louis Arch

City to River wants as many people as possible to be able to easily and enjoyably get to the Arch grounds, riverfront and the incredible new additions we’re likely to see. Whatever is proposed, we know it will be transformational. Whether it’s a world-class aquarium, an architecture history museum, or 1804 historical village with a remade Old Rock House, or something else all-together, the more accessible the Arch grounds, the more likely people are to visit.

It’s clear that once people arrive at the Arch grounds, there should be more to do, more to see and more to learn. There should be a reason to stay and a reason to return. The design goals to “reinvigorate the mission to tell the story of St. Louis as the gateway to national expansion” and “create attractors to promote extended visitation to the Arch, the City and the River” must be addressed, limited only by the imagination and skill of the final design teams.

We believe that a boulevard serves to highlight what will be created, make it accessible and inviting, the center of our city’s activity. Together, new “attractors” and a boulevard definitively change the Arch grounds and our city for the better. They fulfill each of the Competition’s design goals and “weave connections and transitions from the City and the Arch grounds to the River”, “mitigate the impact of transportation systems”, “develop a sustainable future,” and more.

We can be sure that the Competition’s design submissions will be exciting and create a new legacy on our riverfront. Let’s do what we can to make sure that as many people as possible choose to explore the new Arch grounds and riverfront.

Design Competition Seeks to Create Connections

Monday, June 28th, 2010

This Competition is about connections and weaving an urban park into the city fabric of St. Louis.

This statement isn’t from City to River or a wide-eyed optimist hoping for the removal of I-70 in downtown St. Louis, it’s from the Framing a Modern Masterpiece competition manual for the City+Arch+River Design Competition that is currently underway.

The site has become a kind of island – severed and isolated from the rest of the city… Transportation corridors sever the memorial site from the river and the city, making the Arch grounds an “island,” isolating the Memorial from the activity and diversity of the evolving downtown and compromising public access and use of the historic area and separating the waterfront from the city. —more language from the competition’s “vision” statement.

What is the best way to weave an urban park into the city fabric? How can we have a park that is not severed from the city, not isolated by overwhelming infrastructure? Adding amenities to the Arch grounds itself does nothing to address this issue as defined by the Framing a Modern Masterpiece competition. Connectivity IS the issue and must be part of the program to address the Arch grounds.

Transitional lanes of I-70 running through Memorial Drive and between the Arch and downtown St. Louis

Saarinen’s Arch is indeed a masterpiece. It is iconic. It is impressive. It is, and will continue to be the one thing that attracts people to the park more than any other. And yet visiting the monument and the grounds remains an uninviting experience.

It is clear that the five remaining design firms must address connectivity between the city and riverfront. Without solving the issue that the Competition is about, other developments on the grounds, the riverfront and even the east side will simply add more to the “island,” leaving the barriers in place.

The success of the Competition will be judged by connections. It is the goal of “weaving an urban park into the city fabric of St. Louis” that defines the need for a reimagining of our riverfront. This is why City to River continues to advocate for the removal of barriers. City to River and the Competition seek a solution to make the Arch grounds “an integral and accessible part of the city”.

Read more about the City+Arch+River Design Competition.

Highways Can Merge Into Boulevards

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

City to River’s proposal to convert the soon-to-be former downtown lanes of I-70 into an at-grade boulevard means that drivers coming into downtown on Interstates 55 and 44 from the south and 70 from the north would be transitioning onto an at-grade boulevard in front of the Arch. In both cases, the driver would essentially be on a large, multi-lane exit ramp that would end at a stoplight and intersection of the new boulevard. At 70, this intersection would be just south of  the Cass Ave. bridge. At 44 and 55, the intersection  would be at Poplar Street.

Around the country, in the hearts of other urban settings, there are many examples of highways that end, transitioning directly into the city street grid. Here are just a few:

In San Francisco, the Central Freeway transitions into Octavia Boulevard at the intersection of Market Street. Octavia Boulevard was built in the footprint of a section of the freeway that was removed several years ago.

Looking toward Central Freeway entrance from Octavia Blvd.

Looking toward Ocatvia Blvd. from the Central Freeway

In Los Angeles, drivers heading to the LA Harbor take the 110 until it transitions into N. Gaffey Street in the coastal community of San Pedro.

110 at N. Gaffey

Chicago’s Interstate 290 (Eisenhower Expressway) transitions into Congress Parkway at S. Wells Street, heading straight to Grant Park’s famous Buckingham fountain. The I-290 transition to Congress also encompasses a draw bridge at the Chicago River.

Eisenhower Expressway/Congress Parkway

Congress Parkway

photo update: Congress Parkway at State Street

In downtown Baltimore, Interstate 395 transitions into Howard Street right next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

I-395/Howard Street

These are just a few examples.  There are others.  Downtown real estate is too valuable to be paved over with interstate highways.

By bringing a grand boulevard to its riverfront area, St. Louis has a chance to restore the natural connectivity between downtown, the Arch grounds, and the riverfront.