Facelift for Gateway Arch will change riverfront

News-DemocratOctober 9, 2013 

— The St. Louis area's signature landmark, the Gateway Arch, is approaching the second component in the $380 million facelift and expansion with a scheduled Nov. 14 groundbreaking.

The riverfront project -- with an estimated price tag of $33 million -- will turn the flood-prone Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, which runs just east of the Arch, into an elevated 1.5-mile promenade with plantings, bike paths and new lighting, according to Maggie Hales, executive director of CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, the not-for-profit group overseeing the site's expansion.

The elevated promenade is set to open to the public in 2015, which is when the entire project -- which also calls for the construction of a $48 million park over Interstate 70 -- is also set for completion.

The groundbreaking for the project's first phase of road improvements that will include the park over Interstate 70 took place in August.

"I think there's a lot of civic pride in this project," Hales said. "Really feeling like the St. Louis region is a first-class city and we should be doing more to maintain that and improve it and make it grow. And I think a lot of people firmly believe that after completion that this will help keep St. Louis competitive."

The expansion will also turnaround declining attendance at the Gateway Arch, which drew 3.3 million visitors annually in the 1990s. Since then, however, attendance has dropped by 30 percent to 2.3 million visitors per year.

The centerpiece of the Gateway Arch project, the $172.3 million expansion and renovation of the entranceway and museum underneath the Arch, is set to begin next year.

The $380 million envisioned for the Arch project includes $69 million in tax dollars from the federal government, as well as state and local government. Another $90 million in funding is coming from Proposition P, a 3/16 of 1-cent sales tax that voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County approved earlier this year. The rest of the money needed for the project's completion and for an endowment to pay for operation and maintenance costs, is to come from a private funds campaign seeking to raise $250 million.

A future phase of the Gateway Arch project centers on the construction of an aerial tram that would run from the Arch grounds to the Poplar Street Bridge. The tram would then run along alongside the bridge to Malcolm W. Martin Park, on the East St. Louis riverfront just south of the Casino Queen. So far, no money has been allocated for the aerial tram.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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