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Attorney Walter Metcalfe wins prestigious RCGA award

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 21, 2011 - Walter L. Metcalfe Jr., a lawyer and civic leader increasingly known as a varsity rainmaker for St. Louis, especially the Gateway Arch and its environs, is winner of the Regional Chamber and Growth Association's "Right Arm of St. Louis Award." It is the association's most prestigious award.

The award was presented at a dinner at the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel Thursday night.

Metcalfe is senior counsel and a former chairman of the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP, one of the nation's largest and most influential firms. His partnership in the firm provides him an office in the Met Life Building and a bird's eye view of the Arch grounds. He has noticed that while thousands of people visit the Arch itself every day, few venture beyond the Arch grounds to explore the considerable resources of the city beyond the Arch's boundaries.

His observations led eventually to his being one of the prime movers and the guiding force behind efforts to reconnect the grounds of the Gateway Arch to the rest of St. Louis.

That isolation is a thorny city planning issue, where real and perceived barriers separate valuable resources in sight of each other. Two of the most serious of them are Memorial Drive, the western boundary of the grounds, and Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, commonly called Wharf Street. Both thoroughfares have been called scars on the cityscape.

Metcalfe decided to do something about it.

Over the past several years, a series of meetings and negotiations were conducted to provide opportunities for area residents to express opinions about the riverfront and to offer solutions.

St. Louis and the National Park Service, which is the proprietor of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, were participants. An organization called The City + The Arch + The River was formed to oversee and coordinate activities. Eventually, that organization was incorporated as a foundation and sponsored an international competition to find a design team to accomplish a plan.

The field was winnowed down to five firms, and in September the foundation announced the winner: Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, of Brooklyn. On Wednesday Van Valkenburgh will present an update on the progress of the concept design work plan at a public meeting at 6 p.m. in the Ferrara Theatre of the America's Center.

Two important aspects of the plan will be discussed, namely Memorial Drive and Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard. Metcalfe will be front and center.

In addition to his leadership of Bryan Cave and his work to resolve the problems of the Arch grounds, Metcalfe was associated with the expansion of the St. Louis Convention Center. He also helped to organize Grand Center and represented the Missouri Botanical Garden, Monsanto Company, the University of Missouri and Washington University in the organization of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur. He also is a member of the board of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Note: Mr. Metcalfe is a supporter of the Beacon.

Robert W. Duffy reported on arts and culture for St. Louis Public Radio. He had a 32-year career at the Post-Dispatch, then helped to found the St. Louis Beacon, which merged in January with St. Louis Public Radio. He has written about the visual arts, music, architecture and urban design throughout his career.

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