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Planners hit fundraising goal for Arch grounds renovation

LA Johnson
The Gateway Arch.

Updated 5 p.m., Jan. 26 with capital campaign informationRenovation work at the Arch Grounds still has more than a year to go, but planners have finished finding the money to pay for it.

CityArchRiver Foundation, the nonprofit organization helping coordinate and raise funds for the project, announced Tuesday it has completed its $250 million capital campaign.

“This is the largest private investment in a national park since the renovation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the 1980s,” said Maggie Hales, president and CEO of CityArchRiver Foundation.

The capital funding comes mostly from local companies, nonprofits and individuals. A full list of lead donors to the CityArchRiver Foundation is available here.

$221 million will pay for construction at the grounds and surrounding areas. And, $29 million will seed an endowment to help maintain and operate the park.

The remainder of the $380 million project is covered by state and federal funding and proposition P – a local sales tax approved by voters in 2013.

In a press release, CityArchRiver Foundation says it will now transition from to helping maintain the new park into the future and continue to raise funds.

Original article - The Gateway Arch was officially completed on Oct. 28, 1965. That means the national monument, synonymous with St. Louis and westward expansion, is coming up on its 50th anniversary. 

Renovations of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the grounds the Arch stands on, were originally meant to be completed with the monument’s birthday but have now been pushed back.

Maggie Hales and Tom Bradley.
Credit Aine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio
Maggie Hales and Tom Bradley.

Luther Ely Smith Square, the heftiest renovation to the Arch grounds, creating the “park over the highway,” is set to be finished this week, in time for anniversary celebrations starting this weekend. Riverfront upgrades, which were pushed back due to flooding, will be finished late this year. Landscaping under the arch will take place next summer, and renovation to Kiener Plaza as well as new exhibits for the Arch’s museum will be ready in the spring of 2017. 

Maggie Hales, the president and CEO of CityArchRiver, the organization that was charged with raising money for the $380 million renovation project, which was publicly and privately funded, said that if all goes according to plan, the new-and-improved Arch could bring in the economic equivalent of one additional Cardinals season each year.

We want to bring visitors back up to 3 million a year and we want to keep those visitors for an extra half day. - Maggie Hales

“We expect this project to bring visitor levels to where they were 10-15 years ago,” Hales told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday. “The Arch, not unlike other national park sites, had lost some visitors. We think this site lost visitors because it was severed from the city and the museum hadn’t changed for years and years. We want to bring visitors back up to 3 million a year, and we want to keep those visitors for an extra half day.”

Tom Bradley, the superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, said that visits to the Arch had dropped during all the construction, but it would be worth it in the end.

“I had the benefit of coming here seven years ago and looked at this with fresh eyes,” Bradley said. “Some of the things people had grown used to jumped out at me: The crossing from the Old Courthouse to the Arch, negotiating your way across Memorial Drive … all that changes with this. It will be a very smooth transition into the park.  Our driving issue is to weave the park into the city and to get rid of all these barriers. I think it is going to be a much more sustainable park. It will be much more successful.”

Both Bradley and Hales addressed several issues that have come up in the past months on “St. Louis on the Air:”

  1. Funding. The total capital cost for the renovations was $380 million. That was made up of $159 million in federal, state and local funding, and $221 million in private money that CityArchRiver raised.
  2. Parking. No new parking was built on the Arch grounds. Bradley said that it made more sense to use parking in downtown St. Louis than to take up 11 acres of park grounds for a new parking structure. Hales also said that the parking facilities in downtown St. Louis available for Arch visitors are as close to the new Arch entrance, on the Western edge of the park, than the old parking facilities are to the north leg of the Arch.
  3. Stains. Bradley said that extensive analysis had been done inside and outside on the stains that appeared on the Arch and that they are benign. Cleaning will be considered down the road.
  4. Illinois. “It is part of our long-term aspirations to bring the east side into the overall CityArchRiver project, but it was more than we could do at the time, so the Missouri components are being done now,” Hales said. There’s no timetable for anything that could happen across the river, but a design was submitted by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, that will be revisited in the future. “That might include a gondola across the river,” Hales said.
  5. Trees. There used to be 800 Rosehill Ash trees on the Arch grounds, those have since been taken out due to the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that destroys ash trees. The trees were replaced with the London Planetree, but that is not the only type of tree. There are more than 2,000 trees on the Arch grounds.
  6. Fair St. Louis. “As far as we know, they’re coming back,” Bradley said of the Fourth of July celebration’s move to Forest Park during construction. Hales added that Fair St. Louis organizers had met with designers during the planning stages to make the Arch grounds more amendable to such an event.
  7. Trams. “We retrofitted a lot of hi-tech equipment to make the trams very reliable,” Bradley said. He also said that the motor-generator sets will be replaced in a couple of years.
  8. Museum. “The new museum will be brighter, fresher, much more interactive,” Hales said. “Lots of media, lots of learning, lots of layers .” For example, about one-sixth of the exhibit will be devoted to Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley’s monument and landscape design, with video and replicas. Hales said the museum was taking an “expressive approach,” meaning that people who visit “won’t be taught so much as you’ll be asked to engage and ask your own questions.”
  9. Celebrations. There will be several events held in the next week or so to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch, the first of which will be held on Saturday at Kiener Plaza from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. More information can be found here

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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