When the renovated Jefferson National Expansion Memorial reopens next summer, it will connect the Gateway Arch to the city it represents.
The $380 million CityArchRiver project will include a west-facing entrance that links the museum and visitor center to downtown. The five-year project aims to make the park more accessible and interactive, said Ryan McClure, director of communications at Gateway Arch Foundation.
“You’ll have a welcoming, connected experience,” McClure said. “You’ll be able to enter through the Arch visitor’s center from Fourth Street to the Arch, to the river. There will not be a stair step or intersection in your way.”
Inside, the 46,000-square-foot, multi-level addition will showcase U.S. history through multi-sensory displays.
The renovations will allow visitors to learn about history from multiple perspectives through interactive participation, said Rhonda Schier, chief of museum services.
“Lots of kinds of experiences that are very contemporary to modern thinking to make it a more engaging, interesting and educational experience,” Schier said.
Galleries will include hands-on exhibits, full-motion videos and computer simulations for visitors to choose their own explorations. There will be smaller-scale versions of stage coaches, teepees, steam locomotives and ships that people can touch.
Schier said the renovated grounds will be more accessible for people with disabilities. The tactile exhibits will have something for people who are blind or have low-vision to touch as well as Braille texts. In the tram lobby, a replica of the observation deck will include a live-stream webcam video from atop the Arch for those who cannot or do not want to take the ride.
In addition to museum renovations, new spaces will accommodate school trips and education programs. The center will also be available for members of the public to rent for private events.
‘Calling card to the world’
Before construction, the St. Louis Arch grounds attracted about 2.5 million visitors each year. McClure said he anticipates the renovated space will attract 1 million more visitors a year.
But he said museum officials also hope to convince local visitors to stop by the Arch grounds more. On average, St. Louisans come to the Arch about once every six years.
“We certainly want them to come more often and see this is as their park. Because it is their park,” he said. “This is our undeniable calling card to the entire world.”
The renovated memorial will reopen in July 2018, in time for the annual Fair St. Louis festival.
“I think it’s going to be a great way for people to rediscover their park,” McClure said.
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An earlier version of this story misstated the date the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial will reopen.