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The Design Competition Can Create a New Memorial Drive

The design competition Framing a Modern Masterpiece, initiated by The CityArchRiver2015 Foundation, will lead to the selection of a new plan for reconnecting the Arch grounds and downtown St. Louis by the end of the year. The competition is an unprecedented opportunity to reopen the city's front door through a new Memorial Drive that connects rather than disrupts the downtown grid. The moment is now, and won't come again for a generation - let's use it to realize a reconnected downtown.

The core purpose of the competition is to connect the city of St. Louis with our national monument.

It is clear that the major problem concerning the Arch grounds is one of accessibility due to I-70. The competition manual states:

The challenge is to take one of our country's first urban park sites, weave it into the city fabric, explore the role of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as an active part of the downtown and a contributor to economic growth, celebrate the riverfront and mitigate the divisive "moat" of transportation around the site.

A new Interstate Highway System, burgeoning railroads and bustling barge traffic on the river, all signaled prosperity and dynamism for the area and for the nation. Today, those 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. This Competition is about connections and weaving an urban park into the city fabric of St. Louis.

The competition boundaries have been defined and allow for the possibility that entrants can propose full removal of the depressed and elevated lanes of I-70. We encourage design teams to incorporate highway removal into their proposals.

City to River and Community Participation in the Design Competition

City to River is an all-volunteer, community-based, citizens group working to advance the concept of highway removal as part of the program to reconnect downtown to the Arch grounds and the riverfront. The design competition is structured to include community participation. Design teams are encouraged to seek community input in the competition. City to River is not competing in the design competition, but is interested in supporting the process as an open source resource available for consultation with all design teams and others interested in the design competition. In addition, City to River is available to meet with community organizations, business owners, educational and trade organizations to discuss plans for replacing the highway through downtown St. Louis with a new, at-grade boulevard. City to River hosts an online discussion forum as an avenue for generating ideas from the St. Louis community.

Please visit the City to River Blog to join in the discussion.

History of the Design Competition

Throughout 2008, former Missouri Senator John Danforth advocated that the city of St. Louis and the National Park Service (NPS) create a formal framework for revisiting the inadequate connections between the Arch grounds and downtown. Danforth previously had led the call to renew the city's central riverfront and had been calling for better connections since at least 1999.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay embraced Danforth's call, as did the National Park Service. The first major outcome was the adoption by NPS of a new General Management Plan (GMP) for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Adopted in October 2009, the GMP identified the NPS' preferred alternative for the Memorial as a major design competition focused on improved physical connections around the Memorial. The NPS also mentioned as an aside the NPS' strong preference that I-70 eventually be removed.

On December 8, 2009, Mayor Slay and Memorial Superintendent Tom Bradley announced the creation of the new CityArchRiver2015 Foundation, an entity that would implement an international design competition according to the new GMP. The new Foundation's wide range of philanthropic and political supporters demonstrates strong momentum for improving the Memorial's connections. The CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation officially launched the design competition, called "Framing a Modern Masterpiece," in January 2010, with the announcement of final design selection set as September 24, 2010.

The design competition offers an unprecedented convergence of major voices on the Arch grounds connectivity issues. The federal and local governments, business leaders, parks advocates, design critics, local architects and others have all been saying "something needs to be done." Now the forces are combined in a formal process with a strict timeline. We know that solutions will be decided upon within the next year.

The excitement of the competition is a great platform for the idea of renewed Memorial Drive. Never before has there been a call to offer big ideas accompanied by a clear political commitment to building them. Can we use this moment to remove the obstacle that prevents real connection between downtown and the Arch grounds?

For more information visit the Framing a Modern Masterpiece website.
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