I am speaking to a bankers’ group tomorrow. Here’s some of what I am planning to tell them.
With the exception of the recently completed Washington Avenue streetscape, most of downtown’s public spaces — the streetscapes, the riverfront, the parks, the Gateway Mall are pretty unexciting and not very functional. Downtown’s most striking asset, the Gateway Arch, might as well sit on an island in the river.
That’s why we’ve been working on a streetscape plan for downtown designed to make entering, driving, and walking downtown a better experience. Funding is not available to implement the entire plan at once, but pieces of it are being constructed as downtown buildings are developed. In the very near future, you will see the streets and sidewalks around the Old Post Office, the Syndicate Trust Building, the Marquette Building, the Post-Dispatch, and others, improve sharply.
In addition, a vehicular and pedestrian traffic plan is now being written. This plan will be implemented in conjunction with the installation and activation of new traffic signal controllers that will make driving more efficient and walking safer and more pleasant.
With financial support from the Great Rivers Greenway District and the Danforth Foundation, nationally recognized consultants are already drafting a plan for the central riverfront.
Similar design work is in progress for a “lid” over the downtown lanes of Interstate 55-70 that now form a barrier between the riverfront and Arch grounds and the rest of downtown.
Later this fall, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects will conduct a charrette for the Gateway Mall area a two-day experience in which architects, engineers, and planners from all over the country will come together to brainstorm about a public space. The ideas resulting from this experience will form the basis for transforming the mall into a space that bridges the northern and southern halves of downtown and brings residents, workers, and visitors together.
And, once we’ve set the stage with an attractive physical environment, what we do downtown will play a large part in whether or not the built environment succeeds.
That’s why we’ve established the new Celebration Center, a partnership designed to pick up where St. Louis 2004 and the Final Four left off by making sure that there is always something exciting to draw people downtown. The new Celebration Center has already staged “Live on the Levee” a preview of what we intend “Summer in the City” to be. And its assignments will continue to grow bigger and more numerous as our venues are completed.
I’ll let you know what the bankers say.