St. Louis has unveiled the newly-renovated Gateway Arch Park after a five-year, $380-million restoration project, providing a spectacular backdrop to the iconic Eero Saarinen monument.
The areas surrounding the Gateway Arch had been an unsightly mass of freeways, parking garages, and detours that separated the monument from the city. Landscape designers Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, who previously worked on complex urban green space projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the White House stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, have made the area accessible again.
"There was an inhospitableness about the whole place before that we were trying to make more humane and make a better visitor experience," says Van Valkenburgh.
A former multi-level concrete garage has been transformed into an outdoor amphitheater, while a grassland bridge now crosses the busy interstate. Also, the arch is now connected to downtown by a series of paths that flow from the Old Courthouse and the revamped Kiener Plaza.
According to Chicago Tribune writer Blair Kamin, "In contrast to the old highway bridges that led to the Arch, for example, the new land bridge uses acoustical walls and plantings to keep the interstate out of sight and muffle the sound of cars and trucks. It succeeds so well that many visitors will not be aware that they're walking across a bridge."
A new 45,000 square foot museum, designed by Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates, with interactive multimedia displays and galleries that document the history of St. Louis, has also been added. The former underground museum now features a glass foyer that gives visitors breathtaking views of the Mississippi.
The official reopening will accompany the return of the Fair Saint Louis, a free annual food and culture festival that was halted due to construction.
"The fact that this is all fluid now, that it's a park that just kind of unfolds into the downtown, is going to give us a lot of opportunities to attract people that otherwise wouldn't have come," said Missy Kelley, president and CEO of Downtown STL Inc. "Once people are down here, they come for one reason, then they see all the other assets that downtown St. Louis has to offer, not to mention beautiful buildings to look at and beautiful buildings to eat at or shop in. I think there's a wonderful opportunity for our downtown economy to take a very positive turn because of this."