Arch ground renovations connect city to river, past to future

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - After five years of group efforts, the work is almost complete to better connect the Gateway Arch to the city it represents. The Arch has proudly stood above the Mississippi River as a symbol of St. Louis and our nation’s pioneering spirit for more than half a century.

"If you think about the Arch being built over fifty years ago, this is the first major renovation since then. So people need to come just to be a part of the celebration and the history of it," said Susan Trautman, the CEO of Great Rivers Greenway.

The goal of the project has been to erase the barriers between the river, the Arch, and the city.

“I think previously a lot of people came to the Arch and they went up in the Arch and they left,” said Eric Moraczewski , Executive Director of the CityArchRiver Foundation. “This is a full park that people are going to get into and they’re going to love and they’re going to want to stay.”

Visitors will find lots of things refreshed and others that are completely different. Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard has been elevated, reducing the threat of flooding by 60 percent. Yes, the Arch staircase is still there, but the new East Slopes Pathways provide an accessible path to and from the riverfront.

“We have five and a half new miles of pathways and bike tails around the Arch grounds. You can access the riverfront without steps for the first time. And you have great access to Laclede’s Landing from our north riverfront tail,” explains Trautman.

Gone is the parking garage on the park’s north border. The area now known as The North Gateway, opened last November, adding 7.5 acres of usable park space and fresh views of the Eads Bridge. The Park Over the Highway is complete, connecting the  Old Courthouse to the Arch grounds with green space. Arch tram rides resume in late April. A redesigned Kiener Plaza will be completed in May. Work on the renovation project will wrap up late this year with the opening of the new underground museum at the Arch.

“We have great partners is Great Rivers Greenway, the city of St. Louis, the National Park Service, BiState Development, and the Jefferson National Park Association. We all get to work together in a very cohesive manner to make sure that the city and the people around us, the region, get to experience the best possible park that they deserve,” said Moraczewski.

The Arch and its grounds are a triumph of architect Eero Saarinen, and the updates to the park honor his legacy.

“Our lights in here are actually an original Eero Saarinen design that was found in one of his sketchbooks and were brought into the park for the first time ever. They had never been fabricated.”

The walkways are now lined with London Plane trees, the placement of which allows better access to the park’s reflecting ponds.

Despite so many changes, CityArchRiver still says that most frequent question they get it is, “Will the McDonald’s riverboat be back?”

Moraczewski  laughs, “We don’t have current plans for a McDonald’s riverboat, but we are actually discussing it with McDonald’s currently.”

There will be food and souvenir vendors down on the riverfront for visitors this summer.

The $380 million project was paid for by a mix of federal, state, and local funds, private donations, and $100 million in tax revenue from Proposition P, which was approved by St. Louis city and county voters in 2013.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to come out and she what they’ve invested in. Because it was the voters that passed Prop P,” said Trautman.

Want to see the changes for yourself?  Then come down for “Spring Into Your Park.” It’s a grand opening celebration at the new North Gateway on Saturday, April 8, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’ll even be a special opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

More information: “Spring Into Your Park grand opening celebration.