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04.01.2013
Arching Out
St. Louis reveals expanded design for Gateway Arch grounds.
The scheme will improve pedestrian access to the arch.
Courtesy MVVA

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current & proposed
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St. Louis Arch Grounds
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St. Louis has unveiled an updated and expanded design of its City Arch River 2015 project, which is moving forward more rapidly than a galloping team of Clydesdales.

The project now includes more than a reimagining of the Dan Kiley–designed landscape surrounding the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). City planners have added a new riverfront esplanade, a park at the north end of the site, and a renovation of the Museum of Western Expansion. The project’s chief urban design gesture is the creation of an unbroken pedestrian connection spanning the I-70 highway trench that currently separates downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch grounds.

 
Site plan (left). A new landscape replaces a parking deck near the Eads Bridge (right).
 

Funded by a partnership between more than 30 public agencies, including Historic Preservation boards, the Army Corp of Engineers and the Coast Guard, and private organizations like the Great Rivers Greenway, and individual donors, the $380 million project is an exercise in coordination. While a roster as deep as this could quickly spin out of control, the team has yet to bog down the project with the infighting that often occurs when so many cooks are in the kitchen. “It has been a beautiful thing to watch these partnerships work,” said Arch City River 2015 communications director Ryan McClure.

One key factor has lead to the expansion of the project. The Missouri Department of Transportation recently determined that the retaining walls of the sunken sections of I-70 are structurally sound and can be reused, instead of replaced. That discovery saved the project roughly $11 million dollars. The savings have been re-appropriated and put toward what is now a fully funded riverfront esplanade, which will define the eastern edge of the site along the banks of the Mississippi River.

The Museum of Western Expansion will add 50,000 square feet.
 

At the north end of the site, the improved river walk will now end in a four-acre park. The park will replace an aging parking garage with gardens that will have as a backdrop the massive brick piers of historic Eads Bridge.

The project team for the renovation of the Museum of Western Expansion includes James Carpenter Design Associates, Cooper, Robertson and Partners, and Haley Sharpe Design. The entrance to the underground museum will be reoriented to the west, creating a visible link to the adjacent downtown streets. Further, the building will add 50,000 square feet in the form of exhibition space and a visitor’s center. Local design firm Trivers Associates will also restore the nearby historic courthouse and incorporate ADA accessibility into the building.

McClure said that this undertaking is “a historic opportunity” and will “transform the experience at the Arch Grounds for all visitors.” Some of the components of this project have been discussed for decades, since the Arch Grounds were first opened in 1965.

Current design efforts are nearing the completion of the schematic phase and, McClure said, all work under the broad City Arch River 2015 umbrella will be complete by the end of October 2015 to coincide with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds’ 50th anniversary.

Brian Newman