A New York Times story is portraying the Gateway Arch renovation as an example of St. Louisans coming together in the face of racial tension.
The story points out that voters approved a ballot proposition to collect $85 million in sales-tax revenue for the project four years ago, and that private individuals, businesses and organizations have donated another $250 million.
“It’s a measure of how this city feels about its global icon,” Gateway Arch Park Foundation Executive Director Eric Moraczewski is quoted as saying. “The arch brought us together.”
St. Louis and its suburbs have dealt with peaceful and violent protests since 2014, when Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Missouri.
In September, a second wave of unrest resulted from the acquittal of Jason Stockley, a white St. Louis police officer who shot and killed Anthony Smith, a black man suspected of drug dealing, in 2011.
“City planners hope the arch, a symbol of the country’s pioneer spirit, will help reunite its residents,” the Times story states.
The $380 renovation, known as CityArchRiver, is beautifying the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds, enlarging its underground visitor center and more directly connecting both to downtown St. Louis.
The arch is the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, standing at 630 feet and covered with stainless steel. It was designed in 1947 by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965.
“After more than two decades of discussion, planning and design, the (renovation) is intended to significantly improve access to this city’s reviving downtown and reverse 12 years of steadily diminishing attendance,” the Times story states.
“A little more than 1.2 million people visited the arch last year, the lowest number since it opened in 1967, according to National Park Service figures. Before the turn of the century, the arch drew as many as four million visitors annually, making it one of the most popular National Park Service attractions.”
The Gateway Arch Park Foundation has launched a new website at www.ArchPark.org with renovation details and information on its membership program, public events and other ways to support the project.