Several members of City to River were recently invited to discuss issues of riverfront connectivity on a tour of St. Louis with Dan Burden. Burden, named one of Time Magazine’s Six Most Important Civic Innovators in 2001, has consulted for thousands of cities and spends 350 days annually on the road.
Despite his experience in a wide range of American cities, the total disconnection of St. Louis from the Mississippi River and the lack of life along the river took Burden aback. While circling the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on a warm Sunday afternoon he noted that there were no visible users in the entire south third of the park. To Burden it was clearly an issue of creating multiple comfortable connections between downtown and the arch grounds to encourage Cardinals fans to walk to the South end of the park and loft-dwellers to walk to the North end. Burden drew a direct comparison between our situation and that of Cincinnati:
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Mending the Gap
In Cincinnati, the riverfront is also isolated by a major interstate, but thousands of users are periodically drawn to see the Reds and the Bengals at their stadiums. However, the downtown riverfront contains few amenities outside of professional sports. For Burden, that means that St. Louis has great potential; whereas Cincinnati has the people but not the full-time amenity, we have the amenity of an outstanding park and international icon, but we lack the people. With the burgeoning population downtown, all we have to do is connect the dots. City to River believes that the most efficient way to consistently bring people to the arch grounds is to make them a part of downtown.
Burden saw a strategy for reconnection in the nearby St. Louis Riverfront Trail. Praising the artistic vision evident in floodwall murals and in Bob Cassily’s Rootwad Park, Burden suggested that any rethinking of connection between the city and the river must start by creating unique and livable places for people. City to River is in agreement with Mr. Burden and we continue to advocate for the most cost effective solution: the replacement of the soon-to-be redundant elevated and depressed highway lanes with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard from Poplar Street to Cass Ave.