Dramatic changes considered for Arch | St. Louis Public Radio

Dramatic changes considered for Arch

May 8, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The National Park Service will consider improvements to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, including a design competition for the area and a better connection between the Memorial and downtown.

The St. Louis riverfront and Arch grounds could be transformed by the Arch's 50th birthday – Oct. 28, 2015 – by a major new cultural attraction.

On Thursday, the National Park Service announced that it would start a public planning process to consider improvements at the Arch, or the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. In a statement, the National Park Service said it had "developed some preliminary concepts" that were congruent with those "encouraged by the Danforth Foundation" last August.

Former Sen. John Danforth, who has long advocated a more dynamic riverfront, said on Thursday, that he was "pleased" with the park service's announcement. Danforth has long believed that "we are wasting our region's two most valuable physical assets – the Gateway Arch and our position on the Mississippi River." Danforth believes the riverfront could be a "magnet" for visitors if it were also the home of a major cultural institution, restaurants and other attractions. The Danforth Foundation spent $2 million to develop a wide-ranging plan to integrate the Arch, the riverfront and downtown.

. . .

As we said last August, we believe we are wasting our region's two most valuable physical assets – the Gateway Arch and our position on the Mississippi River. There is little to do on the riverfront, and the Gateway Arch stands in splendid isolation amidst 91 acres devoted strictly to "passive use." The riverfront and Arch grounds are cut off from downtown by six lanes of Memorial Drive and four lanes of Interstate 70. Small wonder that visitorship is declining and that the Arch grounds and riverfront are often nearly empty.

Yet in our view the potential of these assets is virtually unlimited. The St. Louis central riverfront could be a magnet for visitors from the St. Louis area and from around the nation and the globe. It could offer our region a significantly greater economic benefit. It could be a source of excitement and pride to St. Louisans, and bring new luster to our image worldwide.

. . . 

—Sen. John Danforth, read the rest of Sen. Danforth's statement

Guiding principles

Walter Metcalfe, Peter Raven and Robert Archibald made a statement concerning changes to the St. Louis riverfront and the grounds of the Gateway Arch.

". . . We were guided by these principles:

  • Preserve and protect the Gateway Arch as one of the world's greatest monuments;
  • View the Riverfront, the Arch grounds and what are currently the depressed lanes of Interstate 70 as one integrated project area;
  • Maximize the use and impact of St. Louis' two greatest physical assets, – the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River – for the long-term benefit and enjoyment of area residents and tourists;
  • Ensure that the future of the project area is guided by individuals with a long-term vision for St. Louis and accountability to the public."

Read the rest of the statement, including the recommendations.

Danforth's views were echoed in a statement from lawyer Walter Metcalfe, Robert Archibald of the Missouri History Museum and Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The three of them have been examining the issue since St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay asked them last summer. Among their conclusions are: "a major new destination attraction to complement the Arch"; "seasonal activities" on the riverfront, including restaurants; a "connector" between the Arch and downtown; and an international design competition "for the entire area."

They also recommend that all the changes be in place by the Arch's 50th birthday in 2015. 

To be included on the mailing list about the project, contact:

Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, 11 N. 4th St., St. Louis 63102