Memorial Drive (St. Louis)

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Memorial Drive outlined in red runs by the Arch Grounds on both sides of I-44.

Memorial Drive runs north-south in Downtown St. Louis, Missouri. It is between the city's central business district and the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and Gateway Arch. It has an intimate relationship with Interstate 44 (formerly Interstate 70); for most of its length it runs above the sunken highway, but north of Washington Avenue it goes under it as the highway ramps up above the city.

Memorial Drive has been the topic of heated debate for a very long time. The consensus that a connection problem between the Gateway Mall and the Arch Grounds exists has produced calls for Memorial Drive to be removed, for a "lid" to be placed over the depressed highway with a landscaped plaza acting as a median, or for the removal of the highway altogether and the conversion of Memorial Drive into a boulevard. In 2009, an international competition was launched by the National Park Service, who controls the Arch Grounds. The Framing a Modern Masterpiece[1] competition is intended to address this connection issue along with other concerns about downtown vitality.

History[edit]

In the 1930s, work began on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the section of 3rd street running along the western border of the memorial was renamed. The memorial construction continued to 1965, when the Gateway Arch was completed. In the years that followed, Memorial Drive was slowly integrated into the then-Interstate 70, which opened in 1970.

In the years that followed, citizens and urbanists complained of the city being cut off from the memorial by the highway and Memorial Drive. Various calls were made for placing a lid over the sunken highway, and designs were drawn up by the large, locally based firm HOK. The Missouri Department of Transportation did several studies to research the impact of closing the road and diverting traffic along other routes. So far nothing has happened, but in 2009 MoDOT applied for stimulus funds for repairs on Memorial Drive which would keep it more or less as it is.[2] In December 2009, the National Park Service announced an international competition to improve the memorial and has included Memorial Drive in its plans.

The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge which opened in 2014, rerouted I-70 north of downtown, and its former route through downtown and under Memorial Drive was redesignated as I-44.

Framing a Modern Masterpiece[edit]

The design competition accepted entries through the end of 2009, with a 10-month design process from December 2009 to October 2010. The competition deals primarily with reconnecting the park to the city and river. The notable areas are the riverfront park in East St. Louis, the riverfront next to the arch grounds, Poplar Street, Washington Avenue, and Memorial Drive. The construction should be finished by 2015.

The stated goals of the competition are to:

  • Create an iconic place for the international icon, the Gateway Arch.
  • Catalyze increased vitality in the St. Louis region.
  • Honor the character defining elements of the National Historic Landmark.
  • Weave connections and transitions from the City and the Arch grounds to the River.
  • Mitigate the impact of transportation systems.
  • Embrace the Mississippi River and the east bank in Illinois as an integral part of National Park.
  • Reinvigorate the mission to tell the story of St. Louis as the gateway to national expansion.
  • Create attractors to promote extended visitation to the Arch, the City and the River.
  • Develop a sustainable future.
  • Enhance the visitor experience and create a welcoming and accessible environment.
  • For more information about the scope of the competition, please see

References[edit]

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