Yeah, I'll be there, but I'm a junkie. At least at this point I've invested enough time and energy to be compelled to take notice every time Michael Van Valkenburg sneezes and what may be a food cart or rock garden lands on the Arch plans. If you want to know every detail of the process to this point, visit the urbanSTL Arch grounds competition page.
So why should you and shouldn't you attend the January 26 Arch update and report to the community event?
You should attend because there very well may be some big surprises. The competition organizers often repeated that they chose a winning design team and not a winning design, and that all design submissions were property of the competition. I'm willing to bet that we won't see the Benisch gondolas reappear, but what about a true pedestrian realm on the Eads bridge instead of MVVA's wider sidewalks? What about more significant development on the east side?
How will parking be addressed? Will incredibly expensive underground garages remain the preferred solution, even as MVVA and other teams recognized the glut of underutilized existing parking within three blocks of the Arch? Will an integrated parking system, at a small fraction of the cost of new parking, be introduced?
And then there are the streets. Will the design close Washington Avenue adjacent to the Eads, despite the consensus of the competition committee that such a move would be unnecessary and unwise? Will Lenor K. Sullivan drive remain open or be closed? And of course, what about Memorial Drive and I-70?
The Michael Van Valkenburg submission stated that "the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear." This apparently will not happen by October 2015, but will what will be done help or hinder this eventuality? How will improved access to the Arch grounds be accommodated? More infrastructure, expensive infrastructure, increased complexity is certainly not the solution and there should be a collective shout of "NO" from the community if this is what appears.
Short of an Interstate ramp that literally takes one through the legs of the Arch itself, no added traffic infrastructure is going to improve the visitor experience and lead to more visitors. I hope I didn't just give the competition a new idea.
So why shouldn't you attend? Well, surely you have a family, or pet, or favorite TV show that demands your attention. It will be easy enough to follow the event via the urbanSTL Twitter feed, and read the same-night write up on urbanSTL.com.
Also, it's very possible there will no new news. Perhaps the plan will stay largely the same and more time will be spent discussing the staging of tree replacement due to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle than how a new Arch grounds will integrate itself better with the city in which it sits. Maybe we'll be looking at more highway ramps. Maybe we'll be looking at a $80M lid and little else.
Lastly, the City+Arch+River Foundation states that this presentation will be the beginning of a larger public input process. Your voice can still be heard. No questions will be taken and no input requested on the 26th, but if you support City to River's effort to ultimately remove I-70, care deeply about amenities at the underpass park (beneath I-64), or have another cause, there should be another opportunity. If you are going to attend an Arch grounds event, if you want to have your voice heard, stayed tuned for a chance to do just that.
Here is the winning MVVA design (click here for a full review of the MVVA submission):