The City of St. Louis Preservation Board is scheduled to vote Monday afternoon on a proposed plan for the Urban Garden, a unique public garden with extensive landscaping and modern and contemporary sculpture on the Gateway Mall.
Approval by the board of the plan would be a significant step toward final approval of the project, which will be built on the two blocks between Eighth and Tenth Streets and Chestnut and Market Streets. The two blocks, now vacant, are owned by the City and cover 2.9 acres.
Plans approved by the Preservation Board are sent to the City's Board of Public Service, which then processes final construction documents – with an eye mainly on technical issues.
"When we announced this project, Mayor Slay called it one of the most exciting gifts the city has received in many years"; said Rollin Stanley, director of the City's Planning & Urban Design Agency. "Now that we have the plans, we are even more excited. This garden will be a breathtaking new addition to downtown, and unlike anything else in the country";
In materials furnished to board members late last week, Stanley and Kate Shea, director of the City's Cultural Resources Office and staff for the Preservation Board, recommended approval of the plan.
"The design will provide a variety of benefits for the City and its workers, residents, and visitors"; Stanley and Shea wrote to board members. "The design is responsive to both modern recreational needs and the City's history. The design continues the Gateway Foundation's commitment to creating and highlighting quality, unique and attractive public spaces within the City, and the Foundation's commitment to maintain the Garden will ensure that the Garden is an asset to the City for many years to come";
The City of St. Louis and the Gateway Foundation announced last June that they would partner in creating the garden. The City will own the garden improvements and will continue to own the land. The not-for-profit Gateway Foundation is providing the funding – estimated now as at least $20 million. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a "cooperation agreement" authorizing the project last July.
Under that agreement, the Foundation has agreed not only to provide the art, but also the entire cost of designing, building, and providing lighting for the garden, as well as the expenses related to ongoing maintenance, security, and insurance. The City's only expenses would be for water, electricity, and mowing the grass.
The plan was prepared by Nelson Byrd Woltz, a Charlottesville, Va.-based landscape architect.
The plan calls for:
• Extensive plantings, selected in consultation with, and maintained by, the Missouri Botanical Garden;
• Three water features – a small pool with a waterfall at the southeast corner of Eighth and Chestnut; a long, rectangular basin between Eighth and Ninth Streets near Market Street, also featuring a waterfall; and a shallow reflecting pool with a spray basin on the block between Ninth and Tenth Streets;
• A restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating along Chestnut Street;
• A seven-foot limestone wall, evoking the limestone bluffs of the Mississippi River, describing an arc along the northern side of the garden;
• A meandering 18-inch-tall polished granite wall, evoking a serpentine river, along the southern border. This wall is designed to offer seating and to break the space up into multiple smaller parts, or "rooms," offering more intimacy and visual interest;
• Space for 20 to 25 pieces of sculpture by nationally and internationally recognized artists;
• Abundant shade trees; and
• A double-row of gingko trees along both blocks on the Market Street side.
The city intends later to extend that row to help knit together the entire Gateway Mall, for which master planning is now under way.
Five of the sculptures have already been selected. They are:
"Four Rectangles Oblique"; by American artist George Rickey;
"Taichi Single Whip"; by Chinese artist Ju Ming;
"Zenit"; by Italian artist Mimmo Paladino;
"Femmes au Perroquet"; by French artist Fernand Leger; and
"Aesop's Fables"; by American artist Mark DiSuvero.
Plans are for ground to be broken next spring, with completion in time for the Major League Baseball All-Star game in St. Louis in July, 2009.