On Tuesday night The National Park Service gave the public a chance to comment on its report that considers the potential impacts of renovating the St. Louis Arch grounds.
The comment period runs through March 1 and the complete report and comment form can be found here.
In order to assess how, or if, improvements will impact the surrounding area, the park service considered three scenarios. The park service found that none of scenarios would be detrimental to the surrounding area.
Scenario one is the cheapest, comprised of a park over the highway, and is already funded.
Scenario two is a little bigger, and would provide a large plaza on the west side of Luther Ely Smith Square.
The park service prefers scenario three, which is the most expensive and comes with a lot of bells and whistles including an elevated walkway to Laclede’s Landing.
Downtown resident Steve Kaus says he just moved to the city and also likes the larger of the three scenarios.
“If you’re looking at it from the point of view of a tourist destination or something that really drives tourism back into downtown, three seems like the better option long term,” Kaus says.
St. Louis City and County voters would have to approve the a 3/16-of-a-cent sales tax hike this April in order to pay for scenario three.
A pedestrian bridge, or “lid,” to the Arch is already paid for and $15 million has been committed by Great Rivers Greenway to build a new trail along the riverfront.
Susan Trautman is executive director of Great River Greenway, a publicly funded agency that is constructing a larger system of parks and trails throughout the region.
“It’s absolutely the hub, the backbone to the river ring, so it’s a very significant piece,” Trautman says. “We’re going to be able to connect the confluence greenway to the south Mississippi River greenway and the Arch grounds is the anchor for that.”
Arch Superintendent Tom Bradley says renovating the park grounds will help kick start the local economy.
“Downtown retail could use a shot in the arm to bring more people here and some good urban design,” Bradley says. “We know how to do these things today. And I think that’s what this project is trying to do, not just the Arch, but the downtown core.”
Bradley says he can’t speak to whether or not voters should approve a sales tax hike this April to help pay for the some of the more ambitious improvements.
But he does point to the fact that a quarter of the money used to build the Arch the 1960s came from a bond that was backed by local tax dollars.
Critics of the so-called "Arch Tax" have questioned whether local dollars should pay to renovate a federal park.
Go here for more coverage of the so-called "Arch Tax."
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd