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 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.
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.
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.