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Arch grounds renovation project gets grant; could be scaled back

December 21, 2011

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar await their turn to talk about the federal grant for the CityArchRiver intitiative at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Wendesday.

Bill Raack, St. Louis Public Radio

The renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds is being called a “magnificent project” by two presidential cabinet members.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were in St. Louis Wednesday to celebrate a new $20 million federal grant for the project. The grant will help pay for a new “pedestrian lid” over Interstate 70 so people can move more easily between the Arch and downtown St. Louis.

Secretary LaHood says $500 million were doled out in this round of TIGER program grants by the Department of Transportation. The Arch was one of only four projects to get as much as $20 million.

“I don’t know if there’s a better holiday or Christmas gift for St. Louis than this one. But this is pretty dang good,” LaHood joked before a group of regional leaders and residents in the  Old Courthouse. Construction of the pedestrian lid is expected to begin next year.

The CityArchRiver 2015 initiative, which will make a number of changes to the grounds surrounding the Arch,  is estimated to cost close to $600 million. Secretary Salazar says he’s confident that funding will be found to pay for the rest of the project.

“We’re going to get it done. It’s going to get done and I have no lack of confidence in our ability to bring people together to find creative ways of getting the money to get the results,” Salazar said.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Superintendent Tom Bradley said the public will be updated on the initiative next month, including information on what  he called a “scaled down, leaner project.” Salazar quickly noted that renovation will be completed as originally designed.

“I’m not talking about anything being scaled back,” Salazar said.

$20 million awarded for Arch grounds upgrade

December 12, 2011

Daffodils in full bloom near the Gateway Arch in Luther Ely Smith Park in St. Louis as temperatures near 70 degrees on a clear spring day in St. Louis on April 12, 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

By the Associated Press

The effort to upgrade the grounds of the Gateway Arch is getting a boost from the federal government – a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt announced Monday that the grant will pay for construction on Interstate 70 near the site of the Arch.

A nearly $600 million effort is under way to redesign and improve the grounds around the monument that sits along the Mississippi River. As part of the project, officials hope to provide easier access to the riverfront and help make it easier to move between the rest of downtown St. Louis and the Arch grounds.

The goal is to have the improvements in place by 2015, when the 50th anniversary of the Arch will be celebrated.

Kiener Plaza could be first part of Arch redevelopment project

July 4, 2011
Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. (via Flickr/Digital Sextant)

Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. (via Flickr/Digital Sextant)

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

Kiener Plaza is likely to be the first portion of the Gateway Arch project to be completed.

Those familiar with the project say it’s slated for completion in the fall of 2013.

The plan for the Plaza includes a performance pavilion, an eating venue, seating, and water features.

Walter Metcalfe with the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, the group that sponsored the design competition, said work on Kiener Plaza can move forward more quickly because it’s not part of the National Park.

“We don’t have all the compliance and permitting processes that are required on the National Park property, which is what we’re going through now, value analysis and environmental assessments,” Metcalfe said.

The Gateway Mall Conservancy, which oversaw the City Garden project, will take the lead in the redevelopment of Kiener Plaza, as well.

The projected cost for Kiener is not yet know, but the entire Arch redevelopment is expected to cost 578 million dollars and be completed in October 2015.

The Arch on Marketplace Morning Report

September 30, 2010

- Listen to / view “A new direction for St. Louis Arch” a feature on Marketplace Morning Report from St. Louis Public Radio’s Adam Allington.

MVVA lays out plan for Arch redesign

September 27, 2010

MVVA's plan for the "North Gateway" section of the Gateway Arch grounds.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the St. Louis media had their first chance on Friday to talk to the lead design team for Gateway Arch redesign.

Michael Van Valkenburgh is the leader of the MVVA team. Foremost on his mind he said is to retain everything that is great about the Arch, while also updating much of the infrastructure surrounding it.

“I think we’ve moved beyond an era where we see parks as an space from the city and we see parks as an escape within the city,” said Van Valkenburgh.” It’s a fundamentally different paradigm.”

With the winning design team now picked, the Press was keen to understand what park features might be considered essential.

Of primary concern to him, Van Valkenburgh said, is building connections along the north, south and particularly the western edge of the Arch grounds.

“That edge [western], where we’re programming activity, “Cathedral Square” and the re-imagining of Memorial Drive and the north and south end are the most important pieces.”

Van Valkenburgh’s plan currently includes a capped lid over I-70, a 28-acre bird sanctuary in East St. Louis and removing Lenore K. Sullivan drive along the river.

The plan also seeks to incorporate a variety of neighborhood oriented activities within the park itself.

Although Van Valkenburgh admits that nothing will be finalized until the end of a 90-day period in which the team and local leaders sit down to decide what is feasible.

“We need to have conversations with people here, who may strongly like, or strongly dislike, or maybe just have better ideas about some of these areas,” Van Valkenburgh said. “This will very much be a period of some refinement.”

Local officials are still shying away from discussing a budget, though many people, Mayor Francis Slay among them, have hinted that a variety of resources are available.

Early estimates to complete the project run in the neighborhood of $300 million.

© Copyright 2010, St. Louis Public Radio

New design at Arch grounds requires balancing act

September 23, 2010

Audio Story:


(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)
The current pond on the Gateway Arch Grounds.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch, is entering a new era.

This week landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team were named the winner of an international design competition.

Their design includes a green lid over Interstate 70 to reconnect the downtown to the monument,a new west facing entrance for the museum, and a few additions to the grounds, including an ice rink and Urban Ecology Center.

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports the goal is to bring more people to the Arch but preservationists say any changes to the monument’s landscape must be done carefully.

If you ask St. Louisans when they last visited the Arch, for most, it’s been a while.

Darnell Miller took his son to the Arch six years ago. Lesia Hudson says she hasn’t been there since 1982, and Cameron Atwood took his mom up in the Arch some ten years ago.

All three work downtown, practically in the shadow of the Arch.

It’s a problem the man who oversees the Arch and its grounds for the National Park Service, Tom Bradley, is well aware of.

“People do visit usually when Uncle Joe visits every five or ten years,” Bradley said. “We want to change that.”

He says the challenge is to give visitors more to explore without marring the vision of the monument’s creator.

Back in 1947 architect Eero Saarinen envisioned above-ground restaurants, cafes and museum buildings here on the grounds as part of his winning design.

But a decade later, when the project got underway, Saarinen wanted a modern landscape to better match the simple but bold form of the Arch. That meant no buildings above ground.

Bob Moore is an historian for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

Bob Moore, historian for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

He says Saarinen did not like clutter.

“Just to give you an example, if you’ve ever seen the chairs that he designed, the tulip chairs, they only have one support because he said there was a clutter or forest of legs under the table,” Moore said. “He was doing the same sort of thing here. It’s a real simplicity. It was almost a Japanese zen-like simplicity that they were looking for.”

Saarinen, along with landscape architect Dan Kiley, designed curved walks and reflecting pools that mirror the Arch itself.

The winner of the current competition, MVVA, suggests additions to that landscape, like a natural amphitheatre, ice rink, and Urban Ecology Center.

That makes St. Louis preservationist and historian NiNi Harris a bit nervous.

NiNi Harris, author of Historic Photos of the Gateway Arch and also a preservationist and historian.

“There’s a lot of pressure and discussion to put all sorts of stuff here that, ten years from now, will we look at as just clutter as trendy?” Harris asked.

The author of “Historic Photos of the Gateway Arch,” Harris has spent a lot of time on these grounds.

She feels the Arch and its Modern landscape are perfectly matched.

“There is a soaring beauty to them,” Harris said from a bench on the grounds. “There is a confidence in this whole design. We are so fortunate to have it. We need to be very careful as we think through things to have on these grounds.”

Harris says she trusts the National Park Service will be a good steward, and she hopes St. Louis residents will support the agency.

Back at his office in the Old Courthouse, supervisor Tom Bradley says now that the winning team has been announced the National Park Service will have plenty to do.

He says they’ll work with MVVA to make sure the team’s design complies with historic preservation and environmental regulations and with the current landscape.

“To some degree the heavy lifting really starts because we become a client, we work with the firms,” Bradley said. “So it’s going to be a lot of give and take.”

If all goes as planned the work should be finished in 2015, in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the Arch’s completion.


© Copyright 2010, St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates wins Arch redesign competition

September 22, 2010

A presentation image for MVVA's vision for the redesigned Arch grounds. Pictured is their imagining of a "historical landscape pond."

Adam Allington and Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Organizers of the competition to redesign the grounds of the Gateway Arch have chosen Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. for the project

CityArchRiver made the announcement three days early after several bloggers, including Urban STL, broke the news. Team leaders will be introduced on Friday.

East-Coast-based MVVA has worked on a variety of high-profile urban parks including Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and the Don River Park in Toronto.

In St. Louis, MVVA is proposing a green capped lid over Interstate 70 that does not include the removal of Memorial Drive. The plan also includes a beergarden, a bird sanctuary and an ice-skating rink, as well as removing the parking garage at the north end of the park and replacing it with an amphitheater.

The competition jury called MVVA “a strong team with solid methodology.” As a team, said Arch superintendent Tom Bradley in a statement, MVVA “showed great reverence for the beauty and significance of the existing site, while suggesting improvements and attractions in line with our competition goals.”

MVVA will spend the next 90 days developing a construction budget and finalizing plans. The public will be able to track MVVA’s progress with monthly Web updates.

>> CityArchRiver site

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