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MVVA lays out plan for Arch redesign

By Adam Allington, Saint Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – 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.