Demolition Hyde Park JNEM North St. Louis Riverfront

Long Lost: First Home of Bremen Bank

by Michael R. Allen

The following scanned clipping comes from the January 9, 1949 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Some readers know of the 1927 Bremen Bank building diagonally across the intersection of Broadway and Mallinckrodt streets; that lovely historic building remains the home of the Bremen Bank.

This clipping is interesting because its caption tells the story of what has happened to large buildings built for specific large tenants when the original tenant moves out. First another large user might come along, with a less prominent use of the space (her, a real estate office). Then comes a second wave of office use, and further depreciation of value. Finally, the property is eyed for a larger development. The story here ends a few months after this blurb appeared in the newspaper. After Mallinckrodt purchased the lovely old bank building, it wrecked it. While the blurb mentions federally-subsidized atomic energy activity, Mallinckrodt actually wrecked the Bremen Bank for a worker parking lot. To this day, the site remains vacant save a small building built on the east end if the parcel in 1994.

In 1949, such industrial expansion along Broadway north and south of downtown was not uncommon. Such expansion came on the heels of the 1947 city Comprehensive Plan, which streamlined land uses to industrial in formerly mixed-use areas along the riverfront while calling for a zoning plan that would allow such anti-urban uses as surface parking on a major thoroughfare. Alas, that zoning plan remains in place, while the land use plan finally changed in 2005. Also remaining is the notion that industrial sites need to spread outward, surrounded by parking and open land, and not be more integrated into city neighborhoods. A clipping like this demonstrates that there are formidable constants in historic preservation and urban design. Nearly sixty years later, a lot remains the same.

North Broadway around Bremen Bank, however, does not remain the same. Mallinckrodt’s expansion — much of it for parking — erased most of the pedestrian quality of that street scape. Besides the bank, only a few other small businesses are open there. Interstate 70 forms a barrier between this area and the populated section of the Hyde Park Park neighborhood to the west. The city government officially draws the Old North and Hyde Park boundaries at I-70, further enforcing the separation. Had things progressed differently, the old Bremen Bank could have been retained along with other buildings on Broadway, with Hyde Park connected to its major employer and to the riverfront.

What is puzzling is that at the same time the 1947 Comprehensive Plan’s call for creating an industrial wall along the river was being drafted, civic leaders were also plotting the construction of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial downtown in order to improve the central riverfront. Did no one see the conflict between the policies? There was already an organic urban connection to the river, and it could have been enhanced as the city began its loss of industry. Industrial expansion policies — and, I should point out, the Memorial itself — decimated the street grids, neighborhoods and buildings that bound the city to the Mississippi. The long-term consequences of the old policies are haunting us today. And we don’t have as many resources like the Bremen Bank building around to help reconnect us to the riverfront as we started with.

Downtown Green Space JNEM Riverfront

Clay: Arch Grounds Bill "Technical Placeholder" for Next Congress

by Michael R. Allen

Today’s Riverfront Times carries an article by Kristin Hinman, “Shaky Grounds: Congress may consider putting the Arch’s riverfront park in private hands”, in which Congressman William Clay states on the record the intention behind HR 7252, the bill that he introduced in October to cede control of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to a private group.

Clay’s statement is encouraging:

In a written statement to Riverfront Times, he describes the bill as a “technical placeholder” for the 111th Congress, which begins in January.

“The potential loss of a portion of a national park, even for a worthy public purpose, is a very serious matter,” Clay writes. “And it will require extensive public input and community engagement before anything happens.”

The congressman is correct. I am glad that Clay put his intentions on the record and supports a public process for considering changes. Hopefully, when the next Congress convenes, Clay refrains from introducing any bill until the National Park Service draft management plan is reviewed by the public and formally adopted in the spring.

Downtown Green Space JNEM Riverfront

More Time Needed for Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Planning

by Michael R. Allen

I was out of town Friday when KWMU aired my most recent guest commentary:

More Time Needed for Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Planning

Downtown Green Space JNEM

Needed: Public Input

by Michael R. Allen

As I sat in the Steinberg auditorium on Friday night waiting for the start of a panel discussion on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, I wondered where the crowd might be. The panel discussion was part of this weekend’s student charrette sponsored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Transportation Engineering Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and featured the public match-up of Danforth Foundation President Peter Sortino and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Superintendent Tom Bradley. Joining the panel were moderator Robert Duffy of the St. Louis Beacon, George Nicolajevich of Cannon Design and Professor Eric Mumford of Washington University. The line-up promised to be provocative.

Alas, the spirit of debate was rather tepid, although the panelists were in top form. First, the critical mass of interested citizens that I expected did not attend. Most of the audience were students participating in the charrette, university faculty and charrette speakers. Curious citizens were not present, nor was the pack of urbanist bloggers who usually pack meetings. The panel was widely advertised, too, so people did know this was going on.

At Sunday, student presentations at Mansion House, I felt the same disappointment. Where were my fellow St. Louisans? Where were even those people already disposed to caring? Where was Sortino? The press, aside from intrepid Post-Dispatch editorial writer Eddie Roth? (Tom Bradley was present.) Even I was late, scheduling something else during that time. The students put considerable intellectual energy into their projects and presentations, and generated many useful ideas. The students were, quite frankly, buzzed by the charrette. There were even smiles!

I am wondering what sort of attention the region’s citizens have paid the Arch grounds debate. With minimal attention and input, proceeding with any plan now is reckless. First, the public needs to be drawn out from whatever barriers that keep them from caring about the fate of the region’s front door. Perhaps the distance of the Arch from our citizens’ daily lives is a block to investment in discussion about design changes. The Arch grounds occupy a spot on the far east edge of the city, and terrible highway infrastructure cuts them off from even immediate urban surroundings. Maybe people don’t think of the Arch grounds as “theirs.”

Perhaps the debate has been too mired in polarization to draw interest. If the discussion is framed in terms of the Danforth proposal, the outcome may seem quite the fait accompli to most people familiar with business as usual in Mound City. The discussion needs to be recast. After all, we are talking about the future of public land. It belongs to the people, and the people ought to direct or at least inform the future of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

One thing that I think is keeping people from becoming interested: there are no visuals to back up any of the ideas about the grounds. The Arch itself is such a powerful visual symbol. Every St. Louisans knows it. Few know what the Danforth Plan looks like, or what a revamped Memorial Drive looks like or even what a lid over I-70 looks like. To most people, ideas for changing the grounds are painfully abstract. To build public excitement, visuals are needed — showing problems and solutions.

Good news: the students participating in the charrette just created a bunch of such images. Hopefully the student charrette ideas can be spread around — the proposals will be exibited starting in late November — and amplified. The Memorial is public land, and we are the owners — that is, as long as we act like we are.

TAKE A LOOK YOURSELF: Over at the Post-Dispatch‘s blog The Platform, Eddie Roth has posted his thoughts and a lovely, impressionistic video featuring sounds and sights from Sunday’s presentations. Check it out here.

Downtown Green Space JNEM National Historic Landmark National Register

Tell Senator McCaskill There’s No Need to Pass Arch Grounds Legislation Now

by Michael R. Allen

On October 3, Congressman William Clay (D-MO 1st) introduced HR 7252, which would downgrade the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds from the current National Historic Landmark status to listing on the National Register of Historic Places and, most important, authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Trust that would allow the Trust to manage the Memorial grounds and construct a museum there. The Danforth Foundation incorporated the Trust in June, with Peter Raven, Walter Metcalfe and Bob Archibald as the corporation’s directors.

Now, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has felt pressure to introduce a companion in the Senate. Believe it or not, word is that some parties want the bill to pass in the current lame duck Congress, while privatization-friendly President George W. Bush and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne are still in office. McCaskill has yet to cave to the pressure. If she did, and the bill were to become law, a public process already underway for planning improvements to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial would be stopped, and a private vision would be enshrined in federal law.

Clay’s bill is inappropriate on several fronts:

  • The bill short-changes the public, which has yet to see the National Park Service’s draft management plan for the Memorial or participate in the planned 45-day public comment period. NPS has released a summary of its preferred alternative, but has not issued the actual draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement. NPS will release that draft in January, with the comment period immediately afterward.
  • The National Park Service has called for an international design competition to be held next year where changes to the grounds could be visualized and a winning entry would be selected by a jury. This process would allow for a wide range of possibilities to be explored. The winning entry might call for something other than a museum on the grounds.
  • Congress should not exercise the power to remove National Historic Landmark status for political reasons (there is a formal process for removing the designation in place within the Department of the Interior).
  • It is an abuse of the purpose of the National Park system for Congress to direct the National Park Service to lease a National Park to a private group solely for construction. We can build a museum at the Memorial — although we already have two there — but we need not cede control to a private entity to do so. Without a public input process, we have no idea if there is support for the museum idea or what sort of museum is appropriate for the site.

    I urge my readers to contact Senator McCaskill (via this page) and tell her that the Clay bill is flawed and premature. Sending the same thoughts to Representative Clay (via this page) would be helpful as well.

  • Categories
    Downtown Green Space JNEM

    National Park Service Retirees Oppose Preliminary Plan to "Privatize" Portion of St. Louis Gateway Arch Site

    Former NPS Leaders Object to Turning Over Portion of Historic Site to Danforth Foundation; Parallel Drawn Between Private Invasions of St. Louis Arch and Valley Forge NPS Sites.

    TUCSON, AZ. – October 22, 2008 – The preliminary plan outlined yesterday by the National Park Service (NPS) to allow significant changes to the ground and site for the historic “Gateway Arch” in St. Louis is being opposed by the 675-member Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR).

    In objecting to the NPS plans, CNPSR officials said that the proposed changes to the Gateway Arch site is “a thinly veiled effort to have a significant portion of the memorial’s grounds transferred from NPS jurisdiction and programs to a private institution, the Danforth Foundation.”

    The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) is the official name for the Arch and surrounding landscaped grounds, which are administered by the NPS. The JNEM complex is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the 391 units in the National Park System. In recent months, CNPSR has raised the alarm about private efforts to encroach on and undercut another major U.S. NPS site: Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.

    CNPSR Executive Council Member Don Castleberry said: “First we saw the attempt to ‘privatize’ a portion of Valley Forge and now the target is the the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. We have to draw a line now and say that national parks are not up for sale. Eero Saarinen’s iconic design, which is one of America’s most recognized and admired monumental features, attracts over 250,000 visitors annually. The surrounding grounds are planned to complement and provide for the backdrop for the monumental Gateway Arch. They are in integral part of the design and should not be
    turned over to a private entity.”

    Castleberry is a former regional director, Midwest Region, NPS. For more than eight years, he had management oversight over JNEM.

    The proposed changes to the Gateway Arch site are an outgrowth of a general management planning process, with public input, evaluating a range of five different development proposals for the future management of the JNEM site.

    On October 21, 2008, the NPS announced its preferred alternative, which includes an innocuous sounding plan for “heritage education and visitor amenities”, and proposes a design competition to “revitalize the memorial grounds, expand interpretation, education opportunities and visitor amenities.”

    Castleberry said: “In fact, what this would mean is the construction of a new, large building on the grounds. It would be completely inconsistent with the original Gateway Arch site design, and would conflict with the purpose of the grounds as backdrop to the arch. The existing NPS visitor center/museum is purposely placed underground to avoid conflicting with the original plan. If local interests wish to be helpful in promoting the Arch and not their own agendas, they might consider assisting NPS to make improvements to the existing museum and programs.”

    CNPSR officials said they have no concern with minor changes that are consistent with the original look and feel of the National Historic Site. One possible change would be to improve connections with the surrounding community, including the addition of covered crossings over Interstate 55.

    Even though a “preferred alternative” plan has been selected by the Department of Interior, the process will continue for some time, with completion not expected until 2009. CNPSR urges citizens interested in protecting the integrity of this national monument, to oppose (1) inappropriate development on the Arch Grounds and (2) any transferring of jurisdiction from the NPS to a private organization.


    The 675 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are all former employees of the National Park Service with a combined 20,000 years of stewardship of America’ most precious natural and cultural resources. In their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the broad spectrum of political affiliations. CNPSR members now strive to apply their credibility and integrity as they speak out for national park solutions that uphold law and apply sound science. The Coalition counts among its members: former national park directors and deputy directors, regional directors, superintendents, rangers and other career professionals who devoted an average of nearly 30 years each to protecting and interpreting America’s national parks on behalf of the public. For more information, visit the CNPSR Web site at

    Downtown Green Space JNEM

    National Parks Conservation Association Concerned about Potential Development on Grounds of National Historic Landmark in St. Louis

    October 21, 2008

    Lynn McClure, Midwest Regional Director
    National Parks Conservation Association
    P: 312. 263.0111, Cell: 312.343.7216

    “Visitors to the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis would benefit from improved services and a revitalized Museum of Westward Expansion. But the National Parks Conservation Association is concerned after reviewing the

    Downtown Green Space JNEM

    NPS Expected to Announce Preferred Alternatives for Arch Grounds Today

    by Michael R. Allen

    The National Park Service is expected to release its preferred alternatives for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Management Plan today. Will the NPS enshrine the wishes of the Danforth Foundation, or look beyond the top-down plan for a true vision of the total potential of the Arch grounds? Will NPS consent to some development of the grounds? Will NPS look to an expansive plan for connecting the grounds to downtown, or endorse the drop-in-the-bucket, overpriced “lid” idea? Will the NPS act will diligence as in its role as the defender of a National Historic Landmark? We shall soon find out.

    In the meantime, read the excellent article on the Cultural Landscape Foundation website, Jefferson National Expansion: Kiley’s Iconic Memorial Landscape at Risk!” by Lynn McClure and Alan Spears.

    Downtown Green Space I-70 Removal JNEM Planning Streets

    The Greening of Memorial Drive

    by Michael R. Allen

    I count on my readers’ intake of other blogs on the same subjects that I cover, which is why I rarely link directly to the excellent posts made by other local urbanist bloggers.

    Still, sometimes a post elsewhere is so intriguing that I just want everyone in the world to read it. Rick Bonasch’s post “Yin, Meet Yang” today on STL Rising is one of those. In June, Rick introduced a plan for reworking Memorial Drive that is daring, bold and intelligent — take out the depressed and raised sections of I-70 and Memorial Drive, and put in an at-grade parkway that is both friendly to pedestrians and inspiring to drivers who get a great view of the Gateway Arch. This idea trumps the “lid” plan that offers little change to the ugly mess of roadways that detract from the Arch grounds’ western edge and prevent real access between downtown and the grounds. The “lid” is showy but also expensive, ineffective and unsustainable. For less money we could have a real urban design solution; for more, we can have a band-aid that covers about ten percent of a big wound.

    Today, Rick offers a new reason why the idea of reworking Memorial Drive is a good one — it can be very green.

    AIA Green Space JNEM Parks

    AIA St. Louis Supports Design Competition for Arch Grounds

    Last week the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects sent the following letter to Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Superintendent Tom Bradley:

    Dear Mr. Bradley,

    On behalf of the architectural community, we wish to thank the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial for the opportunity to participate in St. Louis community open houses. We believe that the new management plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial presents new challenges, new possibilities and new dreams; an embodiment of the pioneer spirit seeking a better future.

    Unlike other memorials preserving an historic event or an American leader(s), this national park is a tribute to change, a tribute to action and a tribute to energy. We can only image the spirit of the early pioneers as they began their westward trek for a better life. We must continue to learn from, and be inspired by, the bold spirit of the pioneers moving to a better life.
    The late Architect Sam Mockbee of Auburn University (AIA Gold Honor recipient, 1995) charged architects with his mantra, Proceed and Be Bold in their work and in their lives. AIA St. Louis now forwards this mantra. We ask that the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Proceed and Be Bold.

    To that end, then, we recommend that an international design competition be held to determine how the grounds can better connect to the city on the north, south, west and the river. A design competition will bring the park to the city, and the city to the park. A design competition can explore expanded programming. We found the proposals at the open houses only beginning to touch on solutions.

    The Arch founds its future and its voice from an international design competition in 1947. From that competition, a wise jury selected Saarinen’s Gateway Arch. Saarinen’s program was never completed, and today the grounds and surrounding present new challenges that can be met with a design competition.

    We understand that the Danforth Foundation may fund such a design competition and ultimately fund the award winning design. This opportunity must be seized with great vigor and with boldness by the entire St. Louis community. We look to the National Parks Services for bold leadership to meet this astounding opportunity.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to opine. Please know that AIA St. Louis and its members welcome you to our community and we are hoping to develop a strong and collaborative relationship with you and your office.