UPDATE AUG. 15, 2011 --The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has been awarded a $2 million federal grant to beging engineering and planning the pedestrian connector, which will link the Gateway Arch grounds with downtown St. Louis, Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay announced Friday.
“This is a big win for downtown St. Louis that I was proud to support,” Rep. Clay said in a news release. “We have been talking about building a lid to connect the Arch grounds to the rest of downtown for more than two decades. This $2 million grant will fund the first step in that long-anticipated project. It will also give the entire Arch grounds redevelopment project a big boost. As the Congressman who has the honor of representing the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in Washington, I will do everything in my power to help provide the resources needed to complete the project in time for the 50th anniversary in 2015."
FEB. 4, 2011 -- Few cities in all of the world are as closely associated with a landmark as St. Louis is to its gleaming memorial to westward expansion. It comes as no surprise then that local residents are closely following plans to redevelop and enhance the grounds that surround the iconic structure.
While the proposed facelift to the Arch grounds – formally known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial – will offer something for everyone, families with kids are among those who stand to gain the most.
"The whole idea of the project is to make the area accessible and engaging to people of all generations," says Don Stastny, the Portland-based architect who oversaw the competition for redevelopment plans. "We envision this not as just a place for tourists but as a destination for St. Louis families."
The project's architects developed their plans based on the concept of universal design. "That idea goes far beyond normal considerations of accessibility," Stastny says. "The plan is to make the area much easier to access and enjoy."
As part of this concept, areas that are today only accessible by stairs will eventually include ramps and other features for use by those with wheelchairs or families with children in strollers.
The redevelopment will touch all corners of the Arch grounds, which include not only the grassy acres surrounding the landmark but also the Old Courthouse and even Kiener Plaza in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Also included in the redevelopment plans is East Bank Park, a 100,000-square-foot pavilion area in East St. Louis, Ill. Planners envision an aerial tram system that will transport visitors to and from East Bank Park in enclosed gondolas on a mile-long trek over the Mississippi River.
Another kid-friendly feature will be a 20,000-square-foot Children's Garden on the north side of the grounds. Stastny says that the specific components of the Children's Garden have not yet been determined but will likely include wide areas for kids to explore and investigate exhibits based on America's westward expansion.
Kiener Plaza will be similarly transformed and will include a 9,000-square foot area for children to play. Proposed highlights include a water-play area and a carousel.
The Arch museum space also will be greatly expanded and enhanced insuring that kids have increased learning opportunities in addition to the increased recreational opportunities. Stastny says that when renovations are complete, the park's museum space will be nearly 50 percent larger than it is today and will have areas specifically designed with the younger set in mind. "We're looking at including a number of exhibits and features for younger kids," he says. "These will be much more touch-and-feel type exhibits."
The proposed redevelopment is expected to cost nearly $600 million and will take years to complete. Planners are currently targeting late 2015 for project completion. The park and the Arch will remain open throughout the redevelopment.
Renderings courtesy of CityArchRiver 2015.