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Reshaping Arch grounds: Public meeting will update progress

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2013 - If you’re wondering what’s happening with all the colorful renderings and plans to revive the grounds beneath the Gateway Arch and connect the grounds with improved surroundings, circle Thursday on your calendar.

That’s when the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation and others pushing to move the $550 million-plus project forward will give the public an update.

Project leaders will present their third annual report to the community in the Ferrara Theatre at America’s Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Reports and updates are scheduled from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Afterward, the public can mingle with project leaders, ask questions and make comments at an open house in the theater lobby until 8:30 p.m.

The focus Thursday will be on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. That part of the project, estimated to cost $380 million, is to be finished by October 2015, the 50th anniversary of the topping out of the Gateway Arch. Major plans for improving the Illinois side of the river will go forward after 2015.

The overall plan is the work of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Brooklyn and a team of experts from around the country who won a national design competition in September 2010.

Ryan McClure, a spokesman for the nonprofit CityArchRiver organization, says the presentations Thursday will cover both “milestones” accomplished in 2012 and an overview of what’s coming this year.

The agenda includes:

  • A look at how the Museum of Westward Expansion beneath the Arch will be expanded and completely redone with all new exhibits, a new layout and a dramatic new entrance on the west side of the Arch grounds.
  • Details about progress of a sweeping landscaped “park over the highway” that will span traffic to connect the Arch grounds with downtown.
  • An update on a $30 million-plus plan to improve the riverfront that includes raising Leonor K. Sullivan to reduce flooding and new amenities for residents and tourists.

Mike Reynolds, Midwest regional director for the National Park Service that oversees the Arch grounds and other areas within the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, will be among the main speakers.
Another will be Maggie Hales, executive director of the CityArchRiver Foundation that’s been the project’s leader and is pulling together the dollars to get it finished. Latest tally: more than $85 million in private and public money so far spent or committed.

Ed Hassinger, district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, will give the update for the park over the highway and other traffic changes designed to improve access to the Memorial grounds, the riverfront, and the new Mississippi River bridge. He’ll also give a run down of construction schedules and discuss how MoDOT plans to communicate all those traffic changes to the public as the work progresses.

David Donoghue, a designer with Haley Sharpe Design based in England, will take you through an overview of what’s coming at the museum beneath the Arch. His firm also is designing new exhibits for the Old Courthouse. “He’ll talk about the design, the expansion, what the visitors experience will be like, how it will be improved,” McClure said.

Susan Trautman is executive director at Great Rivers Greenway. She’ll give an update on plans for Sullivan Boulevard and other aspects of the riverfront plan including a connection with a biking trail to the Great Rivers greenway system, a promenade, a staging area, and access to riverboats and other businesses along the riverfront.

Trautman will also talk about a citizens advisory group being formed by her organization and CityArchRiver. Its mission is to give planners ideas and suggestions for activities and improvements on public spaces within the project area such as the Arch grounds and riverfront, the park over the highway and Kiener Plaza.

Any resident 18 years or older living within the region in Missouri or Illinois has until Feb. 25 to apply to join the advisory group. You can get more information at www.GreatRiversGreenway.org or by calling 314-436-7009.