Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

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.

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.

Upcoming Event Seeks to Re-envision the Mississippi Riverfront

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Although it has been a busy month for City to River, we want to take a moment to redirect attention from the situation at the Arch Grounds to a process that has great potential to achieve reconnections between St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Most St. Louisians are undoubtedly familiar with the North Riverfront Trail. This single trail is currently responsible for 60% of the length of currently accessible connections between St. Louis City and the Mississippi. City to River is supporting current efforts to improve connections to the Riverfront Trail and to transform an abandoned viaduct into the third elevated linear park in the world.

This of course begs the question: what about the South Riverfront? recently did a thorough write-up of the challenges and opportunities surrounding a South Riverfront Trail. It is interesting to note from that article that the entire Riverfront Trail was planned in 1987 as the St. Louis Riverfront Bikeway. At that time it was believed that a bikeway along the entire riverfront would “create demand for more extensive access to the river” and serve as “the first step towards the evolution of the St. Louis Riverfront”.

STL River Front Bikeway Feasibility Study 1987

Fortuitously, Great Rivers Greenway is currently planning to complete the Riverfront Trail from the Arch Grounds to the South Bank of the River Des Peres. At this point there is still understandable ambiguity surrounding precise alignments, but this project has the promise to open up a significant stretch of inaccessible riverfront to the citizens of St. Louis. Two open houses will be held this week to explain the goals of the project and update the public on the process. This is not an event to miss!

For those of you interested in the intimate connectivity between riverine systems and neighborhoods, there will also be a region-wide clean up of the much-maligned River Des Peres watershed on October 8th. A T-shirt and snacks will be provided.