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Arch Grounds Renovation Project Nearing Completion

Courtesy CityArchRiver

Most of the renovations at the Gateway Arch are scheduled to be finished in October, in time for the monument’s 50th anniversary.

Work on the park over the highway, Luther Ely Smith Square and the riverfront will be done by October, said Ryan McClure, CityArchRiver’s communications director. CityArchRiver is a $380 million effort to connect the Gateway Arch and the city.

The Arch will be open throughout construction, but access to it soon will change, McClure told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday. Starting March 2, the visitor’s center will move to the Old Courthouse.

“You would go to the Old Courthouse and then walk to Walnut Street and enter into the park right by the old cathedral,” he said. “We’ve got a safe passage there for pedestrians.”

MetroLink access also has changed. The Laclede’s Landing stop used to double as the Arch stop; now, Arch visitors are encouraged to use the stop at Eighth and Pine streets.  

“If you get off at Laclede’s Landing, it’s going to be very difficult to get to the Arch during construction,” McClure said. The Eighth and Pine stop is about four blocks from the Old Courthouse; the stop is marked on MetroLink system maps.

The Museum of Westward Expansion will close Feb. 17; a new museum will open in 2017. And the parking garage at the north end of the Arch grounds will be demolished this month.

“Once that garage is demolished, it will be replaced by a 7-and-a-half acre park that we call the North Gateway that will be programmed — it will have all sorts of activities that you can do there,” McClure said. “It will have a natural amphitheater for concerts, a children’s explorers garden, raised walkways, bike paths — a lot of great stuff in that space where a garage used to stand.”

The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission has created a website, getaroundstl.com, to help visitors find parking and get around St. Louis.

On the Arch grounds, the ash trees are being removed and will be replaced with 800 London plane trees. The ash trees are being removed ahead of an impending infestation of emerald ash borers, an invasive beetle that is highly destructive to ash trees.

“It’s been such a devastating predatory bug that has affected ash trees all over the country,” McClure said. But he said that’s not the only reason for removing the trees. “They’ve reached the end of their lifespan, either way, so they’d have to be removed because of that. And they haven’t done too well. They were planted in the ’70s on fill, not good soil.”

Other tree species will remain on the Arch grounds. Before construction started, McClure said there were about 1,200 trees on the Arch grounds. When work is done, there will be 4,000, he said. Landscaping work will be completed by the summer of 2016.

“When people are able to walk from downtown to the Arch, I’m excited to see people start to do that,” McClure said. “The Arch has been separated from the city that it represents since the moment it was completed. To finally have it joined, I’m excited about that.”

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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