Ray Hartmann talks Framing a Modern Masterpiece and City to River

"…the idea does represent dynamic thinking." – So says Ray Hartmann in the latest St. Louis Magazine. The idea? Removing I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to the new Mississippi River Bridge, an effort being led by City to River. The piece highlights the incredible opportunity presented to St. Louis, the unparalleled design teams currently studying how to weave our national landmark into our city and the citizen-led effort to remove the Interstate.

Ultimately, removing the scar of I-70 and truly reconnecting our city with our riverfront isn't up to Ray Hartmann, or City to River. It will take a sustained, collective effort from many, if not most, in the St. Louis business community and the loud and clear voice of the public. Read on for an excerpt of what Hartmann had to say and pick up the latest copy of St. Louis Magazine to read the whole piece.

….  Even if it's an uncertain proposition as yet, it deserves a serious and open-minded look, especially since an I-70 bypass will alter the basic function of Memorial Drive. It's not as though the status quo, with its strange dark passages and basic disconnection of the Arch grounds from the rest of downtown, is remotely acceptable.

What's most amazing about the idea is how it's come forward as the evolving dreams of a bunch of heretofore-unknown, regular-guy, not-all-that-connected citizen bloggers. I met with three of them–Rick Bonasch, Paul G. Hohmann and Alex Ihnen–and still can't tell you who's in charge.

They are as ego-free as any group of activists I've met in three decades on the job. They say they've met with three of the design-team finalists–and spoken with the two others–and have been told their idea is a solid one. But their fear–which I think is well-founded–is that the 2015 deadline (which they don't care for) and the perceived riskiness of including their idea in the competition might make it difficult for a design team to advance the boulevard concept.

That said, they say they're optimistic that the design plan will at the very least not be inconsistent with their vision.

There is, of course, the small detail that the idea has sprouted up from grass roots, and that St. Louis' good-old-boy decision-making network–however diminished from Civic Progress' heydey of yesteryear–isn't really constituted to embrace ideas that some rich white guy didn't introduce to the civic discussion.