Architects Downtown Green Space JNEM

The Design Competition’s Jury, and Its Grand Jury

by Michael R. Allen

This morning, the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation announced the jury that ultimately will select the winning entry in the International Gateway Arch Design Competition. The eight jurors are:

Robert Campbell, architecture critic at The Boston Globe and contributing editor for Architectural Record;

Gerald Early, Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and Director of the African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis;

Denis P. Galvin, former Deputy Director of the National Park Service;

Alex Krieger, founding principal of Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, architecture and urban design firm and professor at the Harvard School of Design, Cambridge, Mass.;

David C. Leland, an urban strategist and managing director of the Leland Consulting Group, Portland, Ore.;

Cara McCarty, curator of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York City;

Laurie D. Olin, partner and landscape architect of the OLIN Studio, Philadelphia;

Carol Ross Barney, founder and Principal of Ross Barney Architects, Chicago.

Notably, there is only one St. Louis resident on the panel, Gerald Early. However, the fact that the local juror is a scholar of cultural history and not someone deeply tied to the local architectural community is refreshing. Cara McCarty is also a scholar with a local connection; she used to serve as a curator at the St. Louis Art Museum.

Some wonder why there is not more local representation on the jury, and that is a valid question. Certainly there are local architectural critics, professors of architectural history, architects and designers whose credentials match or trump those found in this jury. There has been rumbling from local architects that the program requirements for the competition is out of reach for local firms, and jury spots could have provided consolation.

However, the jury would not do well for St. Louis if it were fraught with the politics of representing local talent or special interests. The jury must be able to independently evaluate the submissions free from the wires of local politics. That goal has been accomplished. We now will have a rare opportunity to watch architectural heavyweights from other places examine St. Louis, which should be a welcome breath of fresh air.

The jury’s composition, however, should not consign local critics to passivity. In fact, having St. Louis’ leading critics and designers outside of the official process allows them the free reign of critical engagement that only those with deep local understanding can offer. All of us concerned with the competition should step up to demand excellence, praise good decisions, call out bad decisions and work to guarantee that the design competition is truly a great moment for our city.

The decision to have a competition, after all, is political. Politics can water down great ideas. The ambitious deadline for completing the winning design is a political threat to realizing a transformative change in connections between downtown and the riverfront. The jury can’t tackle that problem — that’s up to the rest of us. Citizens remain the grand jury.

Downtown Green Space I-70 Removal Infrastructure JNEM

International Design Competition Will Look at a Big Picture

by Michael R. Allen

The New Year will bring to St. Louis an international architectural competition centered on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The only other such competition to take place in St. Louis also concerned the Memorial; in 1948, a competition selected for the Memorial the designed landscape of architect Eero Saarinen and landscape architect Dan Kiley. That selection gave a declining American river city a triumphant architectural boost and a place in postwar architectural history. The Gateway Arch designed by Saarinen became the internationally-recognized symbol of the city.

Will the new design competition lead to the implementation of a design as boldly modern as the Arch? Probably not. After all, the program for the competition is realization of the National Park Service’s new General Management Plan (GMP) for the Memorial. That plan’s preferred alternative is not a blueprint for radical upheaval of a significant landscape but a corrective program for finding remedies to that landscape’s flaws. The new CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, spearheaded by attorney Walter Metcalfe, Mayor Francis Slay, Memorial Superintendent Tom Bradley and national parks advocate Lynn McClure, is sponsoring the competition and raising money for implementation of the winning entry.

The competition thus wisely avoids a fruitless effort to construct a parallel icon near the Arch. The architectural genius of the Gateway Arch is elegant and unparalleled. Few contemporary architects — or even starchitects with their tedious “signature” touches — could match Saarinen’s vision. Likewise, the Kiley landscape is a masterpiece. To attempt to add to the Memorial design through iconic design is folly. John Danforth’s museum proposal was fueled by the incorrect assumption that any large new building on the Memorial grounds could be anything other than pretty clutter.

Still, the design competition is a clarion call for vision of a different kind. The GMP acknowledges the spatial obstacles to pedestrian access to the Memorial. In the GMP, there is discussion about the terrible infrastructure on the west and south sides of the Memorial that make pedestrian access difficult. The GMP discusses the moribund riverfront, the dormant east riverfront and other things that make the Memorial grounds a very divine landscape surrounded by an ugly cityscape and divided from urban vitality.

The design competition responds to the GMP by calling for radical reconceptualizing of the cityscape on both sides of the river that frame the Arch grounds. The subtitle of the competition is “Framing a Modern Masterpiece,” indicating the challenge ahead: visionary urban place-making around a magnificent landscape that cuts across the boundaries of many government entities.

This competition thus is as much about politics as design. Mayor Francis Slay and Senator Claire McCaskill are deeply involved in the process. There is little doubt that the competition’s fast track — completion of improvements is slated for 2015 — is driven by political concern rather than interest in truly transformative planning. In an interview, I asked competition manager Don Stastny of Stastny Brun if he had ever been involved in any design competition that had a time line of less than six years between the start of the competition and the projected completion of the design. He said that he had not, save a State Department competition for the destroyed Nairobi embassy.

There is a strong tension between the frank analysis offered by the National Park Service in the GMP and the “get it done” attitude of elected officials. Perhaps that tension is productive in a city that lacks any effective planning ordinance or agency. The National Park Service is playing the catalytic role that a city planning agency should already have done. On the other hand, without the competition’s ambitious pace, good ideas might get lost or watered down through slow implementation. The competition process cuts through parochial politics by forcing St. Louis, East St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois to work together and implement solutions that are not neatly confined to parochial politics of appropriations.

Still, there is no need to have everything done by 2015. I like that early date as a spur to slow-moving local governments. However, I am afraid that date could preclude consideration of larger projects needed for connectivity. The competition cannot produce anything as great as the Memorial, but it need not be reigned in by a fixed, arbitrary timeline. After all, Kiley and Saarinen’s plan was selected in 1948 but not fully completed until 1982.


The boundaries of the competition are exciting, as the map above shows. There are several notable inclusions:

  • The east riverfront, a topic neglected in much of the recent debate on the Arch grounds, is included. In fact, a large part of Malcolm Martin Park is included. Unfortunately, the boundary excludes the Casino Queen site and the MetroLink station. The pedestrian path from Malcolm Martin Park to MetroLink should be included, since the walk currently takes place on an unkempt street without sidewalks.
  • The boundary seems to purposely place both the Eads and Poplar Street bridges inside. The Poplar Street Bridge is aging and due for major overhaul. The competition could create a vision for what a new Poplar Street Bridge would look like. Bike and pedestrian lanes are a must.
  • Kiener Plaza is included in the boundary. While the Old Courthouse is part of the Memorial and needs a more graceful frame than the current state of Kiener Plaza, does the plaza really need to be part of this process?
  • All of the Memorial grounds are included, which is fine, but preservation of the landscape is essential. However, jurors in the competition — and leaders of the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation — need to be ready to consider proposals that would reloctae or alter the north parking garage (operated by Metro) and the south maintenance facility.
  • I-70 directly west of the Memorial is included, but the boundary does not extend north to capture all of the elevated section. The GMP states that the National Park Service “strongly supports” removal of the highway, but thinks it unfeasible at this time. Why?

Highway Removal

If there has ever been the right time to consider removal of the depressed and elevated lanes, it is now. There is a great converegence between the design competition — where thinking big is encouraged, and reweaving urban fabric is the foundation for the program — and the 2016 opening of the new Mississippi River Bridge that will carry I-70 out of downtown forever. While the end dates of these projects don’t align perfectly, they are too close to leave unexamined. Highway removal need not be underway in 2015 for the ribbon-cutting; if the competition jury endorses any plan for highway removal, the region will have made major progress.

Obviously, the impact of the new bridge on traffic would need to be studied before removal could be planned. The replacement of I-70 should not be set in stone, since a wide boulevard could be as pedestrian-unfriendly as the current I-70/Memorial Drive configuration. Those two considerations are perfect fodder for a team of design professionals to engage. While we have the world’s best architects working on solutions for the Memorial’s connection to the rest of the city, we would be foolish to not encourage them to study one of downtown’s biggest problems.

We have great leadership in the Memorial’s Superintendent Bradley. Tom Bradley has been a patient, thoughtful and progressive player who has managed to channel converging political forces into a positive direction. Bradley weathered the Danforth museum idea, which did nothing to address the real planning issues of the Memorial, and forced normally complacent local leaders into action that has the potential to truly transform downtown. Stastny likewise should be a great manager, since his philosophy is that his clients must determine the choice to have a competition on their own. He’s not a salesman, but an astute facilitator.

A successful competition will consider every entry on its merits, and its jurors will have the courage to endorse the best plan no matter what its political implications may be. We may never again see another international design competition in St. Louis. We must be as wise as our ancestors — nay, wiser.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

International Design Competition to Invigorate the Gateway Arch Starts Today

Goal is to “Frame a Modern Masterpiece” and Connect the Gateway Arch with the Mississippi River and the St. Louis Region by 2015

FOR RELEASE: December 8, 2009

Contact: Tom Bradley, Superintendent
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
(314) 655-1600

Jeff Rainford
Office of St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay
(314) 622-3201

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The National Park Service and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay today launched an international design competition to invigorate the park and city areas surrounding of one of the world’s most iconic monuments, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

“The competition begins today,” said Tom Bradley, Superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which includes the Gateway Arch. “This competition is a unique and important opportunity to integrate the Arch and the park surrounding it into the fabric of the city and region and embrace the Mississippi River and its east bank. It’s an opportunity to energize the park with new amenities and attractions. By achieving these objectives, we will design people into the area – and establish a national model for urban parks.”

The winning design will be announced in October 2010, with the resulting work completed by October 28, 2015 – the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Arch.

“Critical stakeholders are engaged and the architectural and design communities are excited to get started,” said Slay, who, with Bradley, is a member of the CityArchRiver2015 Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to drive the effort. Also represented in that group are regional business and university leaders, national park advocates and architects.

“We’re very lucky to now have Tom Bradley as a partner in this initiative,” said Slay. “He has worked diligently to drive federal action, solicit community input, and engage and reassure the park advocacy community, all of which have been absolutely essential to launching this competition.”

The competition – “Framing a Modern Masterpiece: The City + The Arch + The River 2015” – is called for in the National Park Service’s new General Management Plan, which was developed with extensive public input over an 18-month period, and approved on November 23, 2009.

“Engaging the wider community, including and extending far beyond the St. Louis region, has been and will continue to be an important element in this process,” said Slay.

The competition will invite teams to create a new design for the Arch grounds and surrounding areas with 10 goals in mind:

* Create an iconic place for the international icon, the Gateway Arch.
* Catalyze increased vitality in the St. Louis region.
* Honor the character-defining elements of the National Historic Landmark.
* Weave connections and transitions from the city and the Arch grounds to the Mississippi River.
* Embrace the Mississippi River and the east bank in Illinois as an integral part of the national park.
* Mitigate the impact of transportation systems.
* Reinvigorate the mission to tell the story of St. Louis as the gateway to national expansion.
* Create attractors to promote extended visitation to the Arch, the city and the river.
* Develop a sustainable future for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
* Enhance the visitor experience and create a welcoming and accessible environment.

The competition is being organized and managed by Donald Stastny, one of the nation’s most experienced design managers. Stastny is the chief executive officer of StastnyBrun Architects in Portland, Ore., and has served as professional advisor for more than 35 design competitions. Among them are the recent Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township, Pa., the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the new U.S. embassy in London and Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Stastny will instruct and assist an eight-person jury. The names of jury members – from design, architecture, landscape architecture and related fields – will be announced in early January 2010, closer to the deadline for initial registration for the competition.

“The challenge is great – to take one of America’s first urban parks and weave it into the fabric of the region,” Stastny said. “I’m confident that this competition will foster an environment in which leading and emerging design professionals can do their best work and walk in Eero Saarinen’s footsteps. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the participants – and I’m proud to be involved.”

“This competition will honor the character-defining elements of the National Historic Landmark, which includes the Gateway Arch and its grounds,” said Lynn McClure, Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, America’s leading voice for our national parks.

“The national park, downtown St. Louis, the riverfront and the Illinois side will finally be brought together as a vibrant and exciting destination,” said McClure, who is also a member of CityArchRiver2015 Foundation.

Dr. Robert Archibald, President and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society, praised the competition plan, stating, “This park symbolizes the American spirit, the sense of optimism and energy. The Gateway Arch is truly stunning; as magnificent today as it was the day it was completed. We need now to free it of its isolation and connect it to the region and the river on whose banks it sits.”

Archibald was among a small group of civic leaders tapped two years ago by Mayor Slay to explore new options to connect the city, the Gateway Arch and the river, and to bring new vitality to the riverfront.

This new competition honors the spirit of the 1947 national challenge that inspired architect Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch design. In the effort to produce a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the era of American Westward expansion, the jury chose the most audacious entry – a gleaming 630-foot stainless steel arch. It was the first of several masterpieces by the gifted but short-lived Saarinen.

Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch instantly became an international destination and won immediate recognition as one of the world’s premier works of public art. The grounds immediately surrounding it, designed by the late Dan Kiley, are also widely recognized as a landscape masterpiece. However, those grounds, and the city streetscape, highways, and the Mississippi riverfront which they abut, lack the “buzz” of constant activity associated with a vibrant urban park – one of the issues the competition is meant to address.

In addition to Superintendent Bradley, Mayor Slay and Lynn McClure, CityArchRiver2015 Foundation also includes: Bruce Lindsey, Dean of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design at Washington University in St. Louis; Walter Metcalfe Jr., an attorney with Bryan Cave LLP and another of Mayor Slay’s original team of civic leaders; Deborah Patterson, President of the Monsanto Fund and director of social responsibility for the Monsanto Company; and, Dr. Vaughn Vandegrift, Chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. This volunteer group has coalesced over the last six months as the National Park Service’s General Management Plan took shape.

Financial contributions are being handled by the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, a public charity with more than $140 million in charitable assets and representing more than 350 individual funds.

Contributors to the design competition include: Emerson, Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis (Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park), Peter Fischer, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Civic Progress, Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, Danforth Foundation, Bryan Cave LLP, Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, National Park Foundation, Monsanto, Alison and John Ferring, Bank of America and donors who choose to remain anonymous.

Additional information can be found at


Green Space Planning St. Charles County

St. Charles County Preserving Open Space

by Michael R. Allen

A story from Saturday’s St. Charles County Journal, “Green acres: Couple donate land for park,” by Kalen Ponche, caught my eye. St. Charles County residents Dave and Mary Jane Wolk did not want their 67-acre property to be subdivided, so they are donating it to the St. Charles County Parks Department for eventual park space. According the article, the Wolks’ land is not the only park acquisition in the immediate future:

The county plans to spend $3.34 million for a 60-acre property owned by Robert J. and Patricia Day Barnard and a contiguous, 115-acre property owned by New Melle Lakes Development Co. and Apted-Hulling Inc.

(Anyone else surprised to see Apted-Hulling still around?) Besides these sizable acquisitions, the parks system in the county has received other donations from concerned families:

The Wolks are the fourth family to donate land to the county park system. Two of those donations are parks in reserve – 91 acres northwest of O’Fallon donated by Dolores Freymuth, and 100 acres south of Highway 364 (Page Avenue extension) and west of the Missouri River donated by Bill and Nancy Knowles. Officials hope to open the Old Boyd Plantation and Towne Park, donated by Betty Towne, next year.

The St. Charles County Parks Department now owns 2,855 acres and hopes to own 4,000 acres by 2015. These numbers are encouraging. If the past 25 years were years where St. Charles County leaders aggressively pursued development of rich farm land, maybe the next 25 will be years of sensible land conservation. As growth declines in that county, the time is right to safeguard land.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

Still Trying to Make Sense of the Gateway Mall

The western end of the Gateway Mall in 1970.

This week Landmarks Association presents a lecture and a tour related to the impact of the City Beautiful movement on downtown park space:

Lecture: “Making Parks in the Central City: The Evolution of the Gateway Mall”
When: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Location: Architecture St. Louis, 911 Washington Avenue, Suite 170

Michael R. Allen will give a provocative illustrated lecture on the evolution of the Gateway Mall, the never-finished downtown park mall. Starting in the early 20th century with the local City Beautiful movement and the idea of creating parks in the crowded central city, the mall project moved through various plans, revisions and missed opportunities. The city’s 2007 Gateway Mall Master Plan is only the latest attempt to make sense of an idea gone astray in its implementation. Recent discussion about “activating” the Arch grounds renews attention on downtown’s park problem: more open space than activity. Free.

Walking Tour of Memorial Plaza
When: Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.
Location: Meet at East entrance to the Civil Courts Building, 11th and Market streets.

Envisioned as a monumental civic center, the city’s Memorial Plaza area contains a distinguished group of grand public buildings, including the Civil Courts, former Federal Courthouse, City Hall, Municipal Courts, Kiel Opera House, Soldiers Memorial and the Central Library. Led by veteran downtown tour guide Richard Mueller, our tour will cover the buildings and parks that make up the plaza area, with planned stops inside some of the buildings. Reservations requested: 314-421-6474. Free.

This program is part of “Architecture Weekends,” generously funded by the Whitaker Foundation.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

Vintage Old Cathedral View

by Michael R. Allen

This 1950s-era postcard view of the Old Cathedral is intriguing. Most of what is seen here around the cathedral is gone: the small buildings on Third Street seen at left, the Pierce Building in the background (well, it’s now reclad as part of the old Adam’s Mark Hotel), the Merchant’s Exchange, the residence next door and the free-standing column in the foreground (from the United States Courts and Custom House, already demolished). I wonder where that column went!

What is also missing is the free connection between downtown and what would become the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. That row of buildings at left is right across the street from what was then the mostly-cleared site. People working, shopping and eating in those buildings had great views of the new Memorial site. Could we ever rebuild that western edge to be so urban? Not without removing the interstate highway first.

Demolition Downtown Green Space

The Buildings that Stood on the Old Post Office Plaza Site

by Michael R. Allen

Today at 4:00 p.m. the Old Post Office Plaza will formally open. (More on the design later.) Located on the 800 block of Locust, the site was most recently occupied by surface parking. Yet there was a building standing there as recently as 2002, when demolition commenced on the building shown at right in the photograph above. The photograph, taken by Landmarks Association of St. Louis in 1980, shows that the block facing the Old Post Office was once typified by relatively narrow, short commercial buildings — exactly the kind of buildings that allowed small business to thrive downtown. The view above is looking west toward Locust’s intersection with Ninth Street.

These buildings were not celebrated like their larger, more obviously important brethren. The Old Post Office, Arcade Building and Century Building are household terms to preservationists, but few chronicle the lost small buildings that gave downtown variety in architectural style, form and scale of commerce. In 2009, we have so few left that many people can’t remember days when even streets east of Tucker had many great small buildings. These were reminders of downtown’s own rise from the heart of a small city to the center of a metropolitan region.

When I first started coming downtown as an adolescent in the early 1990s, I remember small buildings on Market, Locust, Clark, Washington and other streets, occupied by small businesses ranging from high-volume fast food restaurants to dusty bars. These gave downtown a character that unitary visions like tall office buildings and plazas have erased. While the Old Post Office Plaza takes no buildings down directly, it does take away a site where new commercial infill could have been built. Alas, we also are still taking down small downtown buildings, too, as the Hotel Indigo project one block west of the Old Post Office Plaza illustrates.

On the other end of the block, toward Eighth Street, stood the St. Nicholas Hotel. Built in 1893 and designed by Louis Sullivan, the hotel was not a small building, but it was no giant compared to later downtown hotels. The St. Nicholas met a strange fate when it was remodeled into the Victoria Building, an office building, in 1903. Eames and Young redesigned downtown’s third Sullivan masterpiece, creating a hybrid building that historian David Simmons and others have praised as a noteworthy work in its own right. Whatever one thinks about the alteration of the hotel, we all can agree that its demolition in 1974 was a senseless loss for downtown. During plaza construction, debris from the hotel’s demolition was unearthed, reminding us of the plaza site’s history.

There are merits to the Old Post Office Plaza, and the site will enter into a new life. Erasing surface parking downtown is always an improvement. Yet the plaza is another reminder of the lionization of large scale projects over preservation of the small things that make downtown a pleasant living environment.

Downtown Green Space

Ballpark Farms

by Michael R. Allen

Today’s announcement that the St. Louis Cardinals will build out the Ballpark Village site with a softball field and parking lot in time for this year’s All-Star Game is no big surprise. We all knew that Ballpark Village development was behind schedule, that the recession would stall the project further and that the Cardinals would hastily concoct some beautification plan before the All-Star Game. Yet this is definitely not what we wanted to show the world this year — a surface parking lot instead of an urban development under construction.

The softball field, however, is a good idea that echoes one offered by Rick Bonasch in a blog post on STL Rising dated March 27, 2008:

What about bringing the site to grade, removing the Ballpark Village Parking Lot, planting sod, and building one or two small diamonds for amateur games?

Sometimes good ideas take time to be adopted. One year isn’t bad in St. Louis!

The problem is the huge amount of surface parking that will be built on the site. While a softball field is whimsical, attractive and useful, a parking lot is the ultimate sign of the failure of civic imagination. Transitional uses can be helpful to an urban environment if they offer an activity as people await a development project. A new surface parking lot is not helpful to a downtown that has shed its stagnation for a new life as a vibrant cosmopolitan center.

I propose an alternative for the remainder of the Ballpark Village site that will represent the imagination that we all know St. Louis has. Here is my crude rendering of Ballpark Farms

Instead of a sea of asphalt, how about bumper crops of turnips, corn, greens and tomatoes growing in a new downtown farm? Ballpark Farms would offer more green space, an activity node, and educational possibilities for young fans. (High fencing around crops is required, though, to prevent trampling.) Ballpark Farms would show All Star Game attendees that St. Louis is good at coming up with creative, productive plans for its vacant land — that even a patch of downtown dirt is an opportunity we know how to seize.

Downtown Green Space I-70 Removal JNEM Planning

Landmarks Association Comment on JNEM Management Plan Calls for Better Connections

Landmarks Association of St. Louis submitted the following comment on the draft General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to the National Park Service:

Landmarks Association of St. Louis, Inc. was founded in 1959 with a mission to “promote, preserve and enhance St. Louis’ architectural heritage and encourage sound planning and good contemporary design.” Both facets of our mission statement compel our comment on the draft General Management Plan (GMP) for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM).

Generally, we find that the GMP includes many strong and useful ideas for a future design program that would preserve the unique modern landscape of the Arch grounds while transforming the connections between the landscape and surrounding urban fabric. Landmarks Association commends the National Park Service (NPS) on recognizing the extent to which the condition of the existing connections are a hindrance to both JNEM and downtown St. Louis. We are supportive of many of the ideas common to all of the Alternatives under consideration, including streetscape unification plans, improvements to interpretive programming and museum exhibits, increased visitor activities, improved pedestrian access and encouragement of development of the east riverfront.

True to our mission, Landmarks Association makes the following recommendations for the final GMP to clarify preservation of the Arch grounds and expand the range of possible options for improving connectivity:

1. The NPS should allow removal of I-70 in the GMP. The presence of I-70 at the western edge of the Arch grounds is the biggest obstacle to pedestrian access, at the Old Courthouse, Washington Avenue and other major entrance points. With the projected opening in 2012 of a new Mississippi River Bridge carrying I-70, the elevated and depressed lanes that sever the Arch grounds from downtown will no longer be necessary interstate lanes. One possibility at that time would be exploring a merger of I-70 and Memorial Drive into an attractive at-grade boulevard that would carry through traffic while creating a softer, pedestrian-friendly western edge to the Arch grounds. This idea could be explored through a design competition and traffic study. The current GMP alternatives would not allow exploration of this idea. The final GMP should include removal of I-70 within the parameters of a design competition.

2. The GMP should contain other options for a design competition. The NPS has included in the GMP alternatives a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the problems and opportunities of improved access to the Arch grounds. The preferred alternative calls for a major design competition for resolution of these issues, but we think that NPS has already created a framework for practical, incremental solutions. We think that a major design competition has the potential to generate design ideas incompatible with a landscape designated as a National Historic Landmark containing an iconic work of modern architecture. Division of the competition into phases based on specific areas where there are access problems could allow for an incremental implementation that resolves design problems faster and preserves the integrity of the JNEM landscape. An incremental approach would also allow time to build needed alliances with public and private entities that control infrastructure crucial to improved access but not contained within JNEM. The GMP should not bind the process to a single major design competition.

3. Site history must be part of program expansion. The St. Louis riverfront was the entry point into the city for nearly 200 years. The riverfront’s architectural, commercial and cultural history is key to understanding the significance of the JNEM site, and current interpretive program could be expanded to better tell that story. Architectural elements and artifacts from the riverfront could be prominently displayed in existing or new JNEM cultural facilities or made part of new construction.

4. The GMP should improve access and connections at all sides of the Arch grounds. The current GMP alternatives are weighted toward improvement of access at the western side of the grounds. Improved access at both the south and north ends of the grounds could forge connections between JNEM and the Chouteau’s Landing and Laclede’s Landing areas, both of whose development have suffered from circulation problems. The north end of the Arch grounds are adjacent to the historic Eads Bridge and its MetroLink station, but currently access and visibility of those resources from JNEM is impaired. The central riverfront is unattractive and lacks adequate pedestrian access. We strongly feel that preservation of the cobblestone levee is crucial to the integrity of the riverfront, but feel that parking is an inappropriate use of that levee. While not directly under NPS control, the riverfront offers possibilities for destination-type activity ranging from heritage education to restaurants or other venues on boats and moored structures. Improving activity on the levee itself is key to drawing JNEM visitors to the river itself.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

National Park Service Video on Arch Grounds

The public has only until Monday, March 16 to submit comments on the National Park Service’s draft General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Read the draft plan here. Make your comments online here.