Downtown Green Space

Studying Downtown Park Space: Less is More

by Michael R. Allen

According to a post on, the Gateway Foundation has chosen a team led by Thomas Balsley and Associates of New York and Urban Strategies of Toronto to develop yet another master plan for the ribbon of disconnected parks known as the Gateway Mall.

Meanwhile, the Downtown St. Louis Partnership seems close to closing a deal to develop part of the north side of the 800 block of Locust as a plaza.

With the Gateway Mall, nearly perpetually under construction and study since the 1920s, the city has a chance to make relevant a mostly unused belt of green space of dubious utility. With the plaza on Locust Street, the city could see a project that will end up as much an albatross as the mall did. A wiser plan would be to take the existing green space and bring it back to life instead of creating more open space downtown.

Enclosure and density in balance with open space are the hallmarks of a thriving city. Seeming random and unplanned open space are tell-tale signs of a city struggling with its own identity. That’s a struggle St. Louis need fight no longer; downtown has the amazing modern grounds of the Gateway Arch, the Gateway Mall and the American original Lucas Park. As the Gateway Mall study shows, what is needed is reconsideration and enhancement of existing space — not creation of more poorly-christened park space.

What better testament to the city’s success could there be than a dynamic, visually punctuated Gateway Mall and a sleek new tower on the 800 block of Locust Street?