Two years ago, I asked Sen. Jack Danforth and his foundation to study how we can create a world-class riverfront and connect it to the rest of Downtown. Today, the Danforth Foundation’s findings will be made public. They will certainly attract some attention.
After conducting the most detailed study of the riverfront ever, the Danforth Foundation came to what it called a “reluctant” conclusion: we can only create a world-class riverfront and a connector over the depressed lanes of I-70 if a portion of the grounds of the Gateway Arch are made available for active uses.
The study considered — and dismissed — several ideas that I have written about before. It found that building floating islands in the river channel itself would be too dangerous. And it decided that building terraces along the levee would not be economically feasible because of flooding. It concluded that the only remaining option is to try to use a portion of the Arch grounds, most of which does not flood.
I have accepted the report’s conclusions and asked three people Walter Metcalfe, Bob Archibald, Peter Raven to pick up where the study ended. (More about these three in a minute.)
The study’s sponsors which included the Great Rivers Greenway District and the City’s own planning office concluded that a portion of the 91-acre Arch grounds could accommodate the infrastructure needed for a three-block deck connecting Downtown to the Arch Grounds and Riverfront, and could accommodate major public attractions that would create a world-class riverfront.
Could this happen? It would require the transfer of some portion of the Arch grounds to a local entity from federal control by an Act of Congress. And it would require a public planning process that would reassure everyone including me that any new plan would maintain and enhance the beauty of the Arch itself.
And that brings me back to Metcalfe, Archibald, and Raven. I have asked these three wise men to recommend to me the nature of such a local entity and to suggest a public process that will allow us to proceed with the revitalization of the riverfront and the development of the connector.
Senator Danforth and I both believe any improvements at the Arch grounds must come out of a public process, and must enhance the Arch itself. The process will be an interesting — and important — one.
St. Louis grew out of the river. The Arch that sits between the City and the river is the best piece of sculpture in the world. If we can find a way to make all three — City, river, and monument better, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to do so.