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Metcalfe makes early exit from CityArchRiver; Andrew Taylor replaces him

Rendering of the exterior of the renovated Arch museum.

The timing might have been better, Walter L. Metcalfe Jr. said Wednesday.

His plan was to remain as chairman of the CityArchRiver Foundation through Oct. 28, 2015, the golden jubilee of the topping off of the Gateway Arch, which is the central feature of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the signature of St. Louis.

Oct. 28 was his marker, Metcalfe said, his exit cue. He said he had no desire to stay on for the next phase of the project, the organization of a conservancy for the Arch-centered project.

Walter Metcalfe at Arch news conference
Credit Rachel Heidenry | Beacon | File photo
Walter Metcalfe

But Metcalfe resigned last week, according to a spokesman for CityArchRiver. No reason was given for his early departure.

Andrew C. Taylor was elected to foundation board as chairman Monday. He is executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings, which, according to the company’s website, is the largest car rental service in the world, measured by revenue, employees and fleet.

Taylor’s spokeswoman said Wednesday he was unavailable for comment — for the moment anyway. He wants to wait until he’s talked to the CityArchRiver staff, she said, and then he’ll talk to reporters.  

In a news release, Taylor said, “I am proud to serve as chairman of CityArchRiver. Walter did an incredible job getting the project to this point, and I look forward to helping move the foundation into its next phase as a conservancy of the Arch grounds and its surroundings.”

Andrew Taylor is not the sole Taylor on the foundation board. His niece, Carolyn Kindle, sits on it as well. She is a granddaughter of Enterprise founder, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist Jack C. Taylor, Andrew Taylor’s father. Jack Taylor founded Enterprise in 1957.

The family has a distinguished history of giving. In the last week alone, the family has made huge philanthropic investments in St. Louis organizations.  Of its $92.5 million given away last week, CityArchRiver received the second highest amount — $25 million — surpassed only by a $30 million gift to Forest Park Forever. The family also gave $22 million in May for projects aimed at underserved populations in the region.

Along with his work for CityArchRiver, Metcalfe is a partner in the Bryan Cave law firm. He came to the massive $380 million project about seven years ago. Under his direction, CityArchRiver has made great strides, one of the most significant the creation of a park over the depressed vehicular lanes west of the Arch grounds, a major bugaboo and source of complaints from the public, as well as significant improvements and beautification of the riverfront.

A competition was announced in 2009 to select a design firm to plan the project and five firms joined the fray for what was regarded a plum commission. All the firms presented their work to the public, and public comments and reactions were solicited. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Brooklyn and Cambridge, Mass., won.

The project is funded with public and private money, and under Metcalfe’s leadership the private goal, about $250 million, is within about $12.5 million of being reached, counting the Taylor family’s recent beneficence. The entire capital cost is about $380 million, not counting conservancy costs.

Metcalfe said he had been looking for a successor for some time, and now that Taylor is in the chair, there was no reason to remain. Taylor is a successful businessman and civic presence, with plenty of experience, so much “he is not going to learn from me,” Metcalfe said.

“In the big picture of life this is not my biggest disappointment,” Metcalfe continued. “I expected by now to be chief justice of the United States Supreme Court,” he said with a laugh.

But another ambition remains, to make clear the omnibus quality of the project he has overseen, one that “is not an Arch project, not a Highway 64-40 project, not a project concerned with building and repaving ramps.

‘This is something for St. Louis,” he said, “a means of uniting and amplifying the region.”

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.