On the sunny Wednesday, construction workers used a sledgehammer to pound into place a bolt, as they were setting a bridge section into place.
The workers were on what will be an elevated walkway that connects 1st Street in St. Louis with the north overlook of the Arch grounds.
The CityArchRiver Foundation and National Park Service on Wednesday gave a status update and tour of progress at the North Gateway, a 7.5-acre active park space that is under construction and will replace the former Arch parking garage.
The work is part of the ongoing renovation of the Arch grounds and surrounding areas.
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The future park, scheduled to open in the fall, is set to include a natural amphitheater, children’s garden, the raised walkway, bike paths and other attractions.
“It’s a real exciting piece of the project,” said Ryan McClure, communications director for the CityArchRiver Foundation.
The children’s garden will include native plantings that Lewis and Clark would have seen during their expedition of the western part of the country.
Once this space is developed, the idea here is we’ll be able to have different types of programming, whether it’s programming by the park or one of the groups down here, or somebody looking for a weekend or afternoon concert series.
Rick Ziino, interpretive specialist for the National Park Service.
The amphitheater, where people will be able to bring their own chairs or blankets to sit on, will have electricity to allow for concerts, events, festivals or other programming. It will hold about 2,200 people.
“Once this space is developed, the idea here is we’ll be able to have different types of programming, whether it’s programming by the park or one of the groups down here, or somebody looking for a weekend or afternoon concert series,” said Rick Ziino, interpretive specialist for the National Park Service.
Construction of the new park space is part of $380 million worth of work taking place around the Arch grounds. The project is being paid for through a combination of federal grants, Missouri state grants, sales taxes levied in St. Louis, money from Bi-State Development and other agencies, and private donations.
McClure said 58 percent of the project is coming from private donations.
“This project is something the entire St. Louis region, both sides of the river, made happen,” McClure said.
The St. Louis community really made this happen. It’s something we as a region should really be proud of ... both Illinois and Missouri. Getting this done and having this brand new experience brings more tourism to the St. Louis region (and) it will bring more locals to the park.
Ryan McClure, communications director for the CityArchRiver Foundation
“The St. Louis community really made this happen,” McClure added. “It’s something we as a region should really be proud of ... both Illinois and Missouri. Getting this done and having this brand new experience brings more tourism to the St. Louis region (and) it will bring more locals to the park.”
To make the new park area possible, a 1,200-space parking garage north of the Arch was demolished.
However, McClure said an analysis found there were 1,600 unused parking spaces on a normal day in downtown St. Louis that are a 5-minunte walk from the Arch grounds.
“With this new configuration, folks would be able to park in downtown, walk through downtown and get to the Arch,” McClure said. “Not only is that a great experience for visitors, but also it spurs development in the downtown, which is another goal of this project.”
Most times, the Cardinals are playing at night on weekdays, and downtown workers have left. On weekends, downtown workers aren’t present, and there are only six days during the year when downtown workers are present and a day Cardinals game is occurring.
“Even then there’s enough parking for Arch visitors,” McClure said.
As part of the work around the Gateway Arch, the Great Rivers Greenway District recently opened a renovated riverfront that connects to the area’s bike trails.
Renovations around the Arch include a revamped Luther Ely Smith Square, which opened in November.
Kiener Plaza work, the expanded museum under the Arch, and old Courthouse renovations are expected to be completed in 2017.
Vote for the park
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park and the CityArchRiver Foundation are involved in a contest with 19 other national parks to receive more grant money for repairs around the park.
The CityArchRiver Foundation hopes to obtain money to repair stairs leading to the north and south overlooks at the Arch
The park is competing for a $250,000 grant from National Geographic. The top five vote-getters will receive funding, McClure said.
McClure said the repair of the overlook stairs is expected to cost $2 million to $3 million.
“We’re cobbling together funding to get this done, but this is something the public can help just by voting online,” McClure said.
Voting at voteyourpark.org runs through July 5.