St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch
St. Louis is jealous of Chicago. Chicago has created something called the Millennium Park which includes an amazing outdoor concert venue, wonderful gardens, and a shiny metallic sculpture called "Cloud Gate" (perhaps better known as the 'Chicago Bean'). Chicago's park has transformed a worn down part of town, and people and business have returned.
St. Louis has its own shiny mirrored sculpture called the "Gateway Arch" that draws 2.5 million people annually, but former Senator John Danforth, after having spent 2 years and $2 million, has come up with a development plan that would draw more people and business to the area, and revitalize the waterfront like Chicago has done. There is a problem though. The plan would require the city of St. Louis to develop land that is currently owned by the United States, and managed by the National Park Service.
The plan would create a strong, pedestrian friendly connection between the downtown core and the waterfront near the Arch. Ideas in the plan have included the addition of museums, restaurants, and possibly even an aquarium. As it is now, a common complaint of the area is that, besides the Arch, there isn't any reason to stay near the water. "We are wasting our two most valuable assets, the Gateway Arch and our position on America's greatest river," Mr. Danforth said. "There is little to do at the Riverfront, and the Arch, one of the world's greatest and most beautiful monuments, stands in splendid isolation. As a community, we can do better."
Some say that because the park is like an island (surrounded on one side by the Mississippi River, and on two other sides by Interstate freeways), the isolation of the area will be difficult to overcome. The city plan would address this problem by creating a lid over part of one freeway, creating an above ground pedestrian mall.
There are a lot of people skeptical of the entire plan, not the least of whom is the National Park Service. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial deputy superintendent Frank Mares told the St Louis paper, "we've been involved with a number of community planners over the past two years on the riverfront master plan, so it's surprising that one of the partners in the planning efforts has jumped out in front of everyone and come to this conclusion without consulting us." Plus, removing land from a park unit is a very rare thing. NPS spokesperson David Barna told the paper, "it is very difficult to take property out of the national park system. It's hard for me to even think of ... examples. But we do what Congress wishes us to do."
The National Parks Conservation Association has said, "we need to remember that the Arch and the park surrounding it belong to the people of the United States, not just the residents of St. Louis."