St. Louis makes first move on highway removal

Removal of a downtown St. Louis highway could bring $1 billion of new development to the city.

With its famous Gateway Arch, St. Louis has one of the most iconic skylines in the Midwest. It's a beautiful structure surrounded by a waterfront park along the Mississippi River. But throughout the existence of the Arch, a major highway, I-70, has cut off the park from the rest of the city. It makes for a great quick view for drivers passing by. But for pedestrians who want to visit the city's most famous site and linger around downtown, it's not easy or all that safe.

Last month, I reported that St. Louis was on a list of likely cities to transform their urban highways . And now the city is taking the first steps in transforming I-70 into a more pedestrian-friendly boulevard and redirecting the highway north of the city. St. Louis-based blog NextSTL reports:

[E]vents have quickly conspired in St. Louis to push the proposed conversion of 1-mile of I-70 separating the city from its historic riverfront and iconic Arch from urbanist dream to planning possibility. Friday, the city's development corporation released its "Request for Proposals for Downtown Multimodal Access Study". The bland-titled 22-page document contains the most significant step forward in the effort convert the Interstate to an urban boulevard. [...]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board strongly supported the removal of I-70 downtown. City to River solicited endorsements to study highway removal from downtown stakeholders and received overwhelming support from the St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Commission, hotel owners, business associations and the public. The organization lobbied the competition design teams to include highway removal as an option. In the end, each of the final five design teams concluded that the preferred design solution would be the removal of I-70. Development Strategies, a real estate, community and economic development consultant firm estimated that removing I-70 and replacing it with an urban boulevard would created more than $1.1B in new development opportunities for the city.

This project isn't just about the look of the city or making the downtown more walkable. It's much more than that. How many of the drivers passing by on the highway will spend money in the city? Much less than what could be spent when people drawn to the Arch can more easily interact with downtown.

With the conversion of the highway, the city should be able to grow the area into an even more attractive destination point. And while it will be great for people who visit the site and live in downtown, businesses and developers are itching to see the highway's removal so they can capture the value that comes with a popular city attraction like the Arch.

[Via Streetsblog]

Photo: MoDOT Photos/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com