Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Vision for Transformative Change: The Brilliant Simplicity of a New Memorial Drive

For my first post on this site, I set forth my personal "vision for transformative change" of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, home of the Gateway Arch.  My idea was for "the creation of two world-class, architecturally significant destinations, designed and positioned to engage the Memorial grounds in new ways, and to evoke and complement the Arch while deferring to it as the undisputed centerpiece of the Memorial."  Check out the original post if you are interested in my ideas for the "Gateway Arcade" and the "Gateway History and Cultural Center."

As I mentioned in that post, my idea was really nothing more than an exercise in thought, intended to encourage people to "think big" in their plans for the redesign of the Memorial and the ongoing revitalization of downtown generally.  I received a lot of positive feedback on the post, but also a fair amount of commentary suggesting that this sort of mega-project approach was much less desirable than smaller-scale, organic growth.  That is a view of redevelopment I certainly agree with generally, but I do think that the Memorial lends itself to new, above-ground improvements that would have the benefit of not requiring the destruction of any existing downtown buildings.  I still believe that the buildings I proposed could be great additions to the Archgrounds.

BUT . . .

I have since been utterly convinced that there is a far superior way to achieve the goal of reconnecting the City to the Arch and the River.  When I mentioned City to River in my first post, I was only vaguely familiar with the group's vision for removing the downtown portion of Interstate 70 (actually, what will become the former Interstate 70 once the new Mississippi River Bridge is completed).  Before I had given much thought to the proposal, it seemed to me, frankly, as much a fantasy as my own proposal.  Now that I have become more informed . . . well, let's just say that I have seen the light, to the point where I have joined the group and am actively advocating their vision.  (Be sure to check out today's front page Post-Dispatch article on City to River.)
A new Memorial Drive, at Spruce Street
In my opinion, there are so many things to love about City to River's idea: it is a way to truly reconnect the City to the Arch and the River; it is the best and most comprehensive way to heal our City's wounded riverfront; it is a long-term investment in the City; it is, like the Arch, brilliant yet simple and obvious; and it is achievable.  My hat is off to the folks who have created and worked tirelessly on this idea for the last several years, and I am excited to be on board to help spread their vision for a truly transformative change.

Understandably, people have many questions about City to River--questions about (among other things) the scope and feasibility of its proposal, effects on traffic, and cost issues.  I have found that once people (like me) get answers to those questions, they tend to have a sort of "a-ha!" moment where the idea becomes, as they say, a "no-brainer."  I strongly encourage people to look over City to River's website, including the summary of its proposal and the answers to the group's most frequently asked questions.  I would also ask readers to help with City to River's efforts as much as possible.  Here's how you can help (from the City to River website):

"City to River strongly encourages all St. Louisans to take an active role in promoting the reconnection of the City to its riverfront—after all, this is a decision we will all live with for the rest of our lives. You can help by contacting political leaders, spreading the word to family, friends, and colleagues, helping us contact downtown stakeholders, and communicating with the competition jurors and design teams. In addition, there are likely to be opportunities to help more directly with our efforts in a volunteer capacity as the design competition progresses this summer.

For more information, find out What You Can Do or contact us at

To track our progress please visit our blog, become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We encourage people to check in often to track new developments and to see where City to River may need your help.

Of course, we will answer any other questions the community may have to the best of our ability. If you have other questions or need additional information to determine how to support City to River's efforts, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at"

1 comment:

  1. City to River really is the starting point for any effort to improve the Arch grounds. The chance to do this affordably is a serendipitous by-product of the new I-70 bridge, don't let the opportunity pass. Is there significant local political opposition to City to River?