Designated a national historic site in 1935, the 90-acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is most known for its iconic Gateway Arch, a symbolic accolade to pioneers like Lewis and Clark, who completed their expedition along the Mississippi River. A new enhancement project connecting the city, arch and river is adding 11 new acres of parkland, five miles of walking and biking trails and new event spaces to the mix. The goal is to not only create greater access between St. Louis’ downtown core, the arch grounds and revitalized riverfront, but to highlight the historical significance of St. Louis in early westward expansion.
Two blocks from the arch, groups can experience the revitalized 19th century Old Courthouse with its galleries and exposed windows offering views of the city, arch grounds and riverfront. New interactive exhibits take a step back in time for some of the most controversial court cases preceding the Civil War, including Dred Scott v. Sanford and Virginia Minor’s fight for women’s suffrage.
The Museum of Westward Expansion is receiving serveral enhancements, including a new glass climate controlled entrance with views of the Old Courthouse and city. More space and new exhibits that explore the first journeys into the Western frontier will anchor the museum through six thematic areas.
The longest arched bridge in the world when it was completed in 1874, the riverfront at Eads Bridge will soon be the arch ground’s northern border, with Laclede’s landing on the other side. Improvements to Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard will make the Riverfront at the Eads Bridge more accessible and bike friendly, while new green space will make the arch grounds more accessible to Metrolink riders and the riverfront more accessible to all visitors.
Other highlights of CityArchRiver include:
-A Lewis and Clark Explorers’ Garden with a raised walkway featuring views of the Eads Bridge and the Mississippi River.
-An urban park over I-44 between Chestnut and Market Streets will join the arch grounds with the Old Courthouse, finally physically connecting St. Louis to its most famous landmark. Six blocks of northbound Memorial Drive will be converted to park space.
-Washington Avenue will end at Memorial Drive allowing the park to expand directly to the Eads Bridge and Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard along the river.
-East Slope Pathways will now meander from the arch to the riverfront, instead of the current steep stairs or incline.
-Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard will be elevated, reducing the number of flooding occurrences that close the riverfront during the year. This will provide access for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles to a 1.5 mile promenade for activities and commerce between Biddle Street and Chouteau Avenue, with connections to existing bicycle trail networks.
-Redevelopment of Kiener Plaza will create a central hub for activities to welcome downtown visitors to St. Louis and the arch, all within walking distance from great attractions, including the MX (Mercantile Exchange), City Garden, Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium.
Much of the CityArchRiver project, which broke ground in 2013, is expected to reach completion this October, just in time for the Gateway Arch’s 50th anniversary celebration.