After nine months of little news, the plan to redevelop and renew the
Arch grounds was presented by Michael Van Valkenburg at an American
Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA) – St. Louis Chapter event
Tuesday at the Forest Park Visitor’s Center. The roughly 25-minute
presentation provided no new information. Though the presentation was
not made available to the press or public, Van Valkenburg stated that
several slides had been presented previously. All images offered
appeared to be the same as those offered at the January public
A slide at that presentation depicted reversed I-70 ramps at
Washington Avenue, the removal of the north parking garage, closure of
Washington Avenue adjacent to the Eads, the “lid” over the depressed
Interstate lanes, ADA ramps to the riverfront, and the reconfiguration
of Third Street at Laclede’s Landing. In addition, the south gateway
adjacent to the Poplar Street Bridge and addition of land on the east
side were shown as not being completed by October 2015.
Although these elements were shown in January, they were not
explained. Several elements, such as the removal of the water gauges, remain unexplained. The headline from that event was the announcement that a
gondola over the Mississippi River, originally offered by the Behnisch
design team, had been added to the design plan in lieu of other
considered south gateway options. Now the news, as reported by the St.
Louis Beacon and Post-Dispatch, seems to be that what we saw in
January has been confirmed. Aspirations for 2015 have been officially
This isn’t necessarily a negative, as it should allow us to more fully
consider the unique opportunity to recreate our city’s relationship
with our iconic monument and river. It is a positive step for the
CityArchRiver organization to have Michael Van Valkenburg
communicating with the St. Louis community. However, the lack of any
additional information after nine months begs more questions.
The initial rejection by competition organizers of the City to River
presented plan to convert I-70 between the PSB and new Mississippi
River Bridge to an urban boulevard focused on the project’s assumed
inability to be completed by October, 2015. CityArchRiver has now
confirmed that much of the initial design plan, including very
significant elements such as expansion of the east side park, south
gateway and gondola will not be completed by October 2015. Why, then,
does the City to River option, supported by many St. Louis businesses
and organizations, and all five of the competition’s finalist design
teams, remain unconsidered?
Has there, in fact, been any revision or refinement of the design plan
first presented in January 2011? Why not spell out any changes and
explain the process involved? How has the design team arrived at the
decision to close city streets, reinvest in Interstate infrastructure
and reconfigure traffic patterns? Is this choice based on a
longitudinal traffic study?
The standing $578M effort to reinvigorate the Arch grounds could not
have more significant public implications. Why then, does the process
continue to be opaque and uninviting to public input? What incredible
contrast to the very public Forest Park Forever process that has
rewarded the St. Louis region with one of the very best large urban
parks in the nation.
It’s time to consider not only the most expedient, but the best
available options in the remaking of our region’s front door.