Archive for January, 2012

Small Change in LKS Boulevard Should Bring Big Changes to Arch Grounds

Friday, January 20th, 2012

While much of the attention regarding the upcoming changes to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Arch Grounds) that are being led by the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation (CAR) have focused on the “lid” connection to Downtown and removal of the Arch parking garage to re-open the north end, important changes are also planned for the riverfront.

Due to fluctuations of the water level of the Mississippi River, Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard is often under water during the spring and summer months when the Arch Grounds attracts the most people. This leaves the riverfront inaccessible and limits the experience to views from above or descending the grand staircase to the water. Image above and maps below courtesy of CAR & MVVA.

MVVA has developed a solution to this problem: Raise the elevation of the boulevard. The level of the roadway will be raised from two to three feet along the entire length of the JNEM from the Eads Bridge to Poplar Street. North and south of the bridges, the roadway will transition back to its existing level.

Beyond simply raising the roadbed, the raising and re-building of Leonor K. Sullivan will include an extension of the Confluence Greenway Riverfront Trail which currently starts just a few blocks north of the MLK Bridge at the Ashley Street power plant. Along with the extended trail will be pedestrian and lighting improvements.

The new raised boulevard will also allow the riverfront boats to remain in operation by allowing them to extend their ramps across the flooded levee to the sidewalk during high water.

Many details will need to be worked out with the plan to raise Leonor K. Sullivan. This earlier rendering from MVVA showed the levee seamlessly blending with the boulevard, eliminating the awkward level changes, second roadway and entirely eliminating parking from the levee. It is unclear now how whether level of the levee will change as well whether parking will be allowed along the new boulevard. The water marker pylons in the water though have apparently been eliminated. A public presentation by CAR and MVVA later this month will hopefully answer some of these questions, but so far, the concept seems to bring vast improvement to the existing conditions along the riverfront.

CityArchRiver 2015 Report to the Community will be Held January 25

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Public event will provide an update on the effort to enhance the visitor experience at the Gateway Arch

What: Project leaders will update the public on the design plan and next steps for CityArchRiver 2015, which will connect, invigorate and expand the Gateway Arch and its surroundings. Detailed plans for the park over I-70, Museum of Westward Expansion entrance, and new access for the I-70 corridor will be unveiled. This event is open to the public.

Where: Ferrara Theatre, America’s Center, Downtown St. Louis
Main entrance is on Washington Avenue at Eighth Street

When: Wednesday, January 25
Doors open at 5:30 pm
6:00 – 7:15 pm – Public presentation, Ferrara Theatre

Who:
Deborah Patterson, President, Monsanto Fund, and Member of CityArchRiver 2015 Design Competition Board of Governors, M.C. for Report to the Community
Tom Bradley, Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Walter Metcalfe, Jr., Lead director, CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation
Susan Trautman, Executive Director, Great Rivers Greenway
Michael Van Valkenburgh, President and CEO, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Arch Grounds: Less Parking, Improved Connectivity by 2015

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Over the past couple months, City to River has focused on the single biggest way to improve the impact of MVVA’s plan for the Arch Ground’s in the context of improved connectivity, a key goal of the competition: removing I-70 through downtown, especially the elevated lanes north of Washington Avenue. The removal would be transformative for downtown and would improve quality of life immensely. But City to River is focused on much more than highway removal: we’re about reconnecting the urban core to the Mississippi River. Removing redundant and costly infrastructure is certainly one way to accomplish this, but MVVA should be commended and recognized for other strategies they have undertaken. We would like to take this opportunity to focus on the aspects of the MVVA plan that will undoubtedly upgrade connectivity between downtown and the river.

the vast majority of current visitors enter and exit the north end

The most transformative and least glamorous feature of the plan is the relocation of the arch grounds parking garage into downtown. By removing the obtrusive parking garage from the north end of the Arch grounds, people visiting the Arch will be funneled through downtown. This shift will inherently increase downtown pedestrian activity and will spread its associated benefits throughout downtown. More people will dine at restaurants and will patronize stores. The Arch’s couple million annual visitors will help fill the numerous grossly underutilized garages and surface lots currently occupying downtown. By simply making Arch visitors visit downtown before they venture towards the monument and river, the connections between each are improved drastically.

the MVVA proposal would create new points of access

By removing the monstrous parking garage from the grounds, MVVA will be able to gain the physical space required to address the extreme lack of accessibility that has plagued the Arch Grounds. Since the location of the new series of ramps falls within the footprint of the demolished garage, the design team is freed from the constraints of historic regulations. They have the freedom to mold the landscape to connect Washington Avenue elegantly to the Mississippi River. Along the path that ramps down to the river, various access points to Laclede’s Landing have been improved. The path for cars to travel down to the river may be gone, but in the pedestrian realm the connection to the river will be much nicer.

existing conditions - photo by Mark Groth

Both of these elements involve quality of life improvements and will undoubtedly improve the experience of visiting the Arch. The experience at the river, along Lenor K Sullivan Blvd will also be much improved, and will be covered in more detail in the coming days.