A Brief Proposal for Development of the Gateway Mall (1969)

Gateway Mall (1969)

This plan covers just four pages of text and includes just five images. It’s simple in its clarity of the need and potential to create a western terminus to the Gateway Mall in downtown St. Louis. Forty-seven years later, there remains to effective terminus.

The Interstate planned to run north never materialized, and the city and state are set to remake the interchange once built to serve I-755. The area is now part of the NorthSide Regeneration effort. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is being transformed again, and the Mid-Century Busch Stadium, an integral component of the “modern city”, is long gone. Union Station is being redeveloped yet again.

Since 1969, plans have come and gone for the Gateway Mall. Planning for the area seemed to gain traction with the 2009 Gateway Mall Master Plan and community advisory board. That effort was simply deleted, ignored, bypassed with the focus on the Arch grounds and CityArchRiver. Two blocks of the mall were transformed into City Garden sculpture park, and the two blocks of Kiener Plaza are under construction now.

And so what will become of the rest Gateway Mall? Will it become a cohesive space?

Text from A Brief Proposal for Development of the Gateway Mall (1969):

Gateway Mall

The implementation of the concepts set forth in the winning design of the 1966 Gateway Mall competition is vital to achieving the full potential of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and
its relationship to Downtown St. Louis.

The importance of the Mall cannot be over-emphasized. It will integrate a magnificent Riverfront with the retail core, the Civic Center, Mill Creek Valley and the entire City. The Gateway Mall will form the most symbolic urban space in the entire metropolitan area and will be equal to any such design concept throughout the world.

In his book, Site Planning, Kevin Lynch states that, “In a site plan. . .we are dealing with total organization of space. . .  This space is formed with buildings, earth, rock, water, plants and light. The criteria for visual success are first, that this space he imageable, i.e., well structured and vivid in form, endowed with a pervading sense of place. Second, it must be conceived as a sequential experience, rythmically organized, with contrast and variety, yet with strong continuity. Third, it must be meaningful: highly expressive of the nature, function and value of the place and the uses that occupy it.”

The concept of a formal mall can be illustrated by outstanding urban designs in Paris and Washington. D.C. The Gateway Mall proposal and its relationship to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is not unlike the entrance to St. Peter’s Square in Rome where a formal narrow street explodes into the monumental square. This concept was used on a smaller scale in the pedestrian mall at Rockefeller Center in New York. This formal open space composition is bordered on each side by a continuous facade and has an open space terminus at one end, the skating rink, and a tall tower terminating the other end.

Gateway Mall (1969)

This type of balanced composition is needed to achieve the continuity of the Gateway Mall. The Open space and the Arch in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial provide an impressive eastern mall terminus, but as shown in the winning mall competition design, a western terminal element is also needed.

Terminus Site

The City Plan Commission has carefully studied City Block 6471 which was given to the City to be used for a public purpose. This is the site programmed for the terminus. A major element at this point will provide continuity to the mall, as well as create a major entrance into Downtown St. Louis.

The site itself is triangular in shape and includes approximately two-thirds of an acre fretting nearly 100 feet on Twentieth Street and over 300 feet on Market Street. The site is relatively flat with a gentle slope towards the east. The ramps to U.S. 40 and IR 755 are west and north of the site, and the famous Milles Fountain in Aloe Plaza is immediately to the east.

Terminal Development

The winning design of the 1966 Mall Competition by Sasaki, Dawson and DeMay proposes a major structure located on the subject site and stretching across Market Street on the south and the expressway entrance ramps on the north. The City Plan Commission recognized the merits of this proposal; however. at the same time it is realized that such a terminus element may not be feasible in the near future. For this reason. the proposed site development is divided into three stages.

The first stage could be easily implemented in the immediate future. This stage includes development of a public open space having a composition of tall free standing sculptural elements serving as a terminus to the mall. A depressed pedestrian plaza or reflecting pool could be a part of this overall design.

The placement of these elements would permit erection of a high rise public structure as part of the second stage site development. The proposed public building, approximately 150 feet in height would become a powerful terminal element and be linked to Aloe Plaza by the first stage sculptural grouping.

The final third stage, when feasible, would include utilization of the air rights over Market Street and the ramps of U.S. 40 and IR 755. Elevated pedestrian links to possible future development north of the expressway ramps and south of Market Street would not only emphasize the termination of the mall. but would also provide a definition and entrance into the Central Business District.

The development of the terminal site as well as all blocks facing the mall must be designed as integrated elements, contributing to the power of this public open space – the Gateway Mall. The western terminal element is an essential part of this total design concept, and as proposed it would elegantly define this
important public space.

Gateway Mall (1969)Gateway Mall (1969)

Original scanned document sourced from Open Archive STL


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  • gmichaud

    Unfortunately the state of urban design along the Mall turns Market Street into a Gateway Highway instead. Very few human scale buildings relate to the street or the Mall. Basically the neighborhoods that support the Mall are a mishmash of whatever happened to end up there. Extremely poor interface by adjoining blocks to the Mall pretty well exists along its whole length.

  • RJ

    Alex thanks for bringing up a discussion on the long lost Gateway Mall plans as this is a very important project for the City and has been pushed back on the shelf. Several years ago the City requested yet another Gateway Mall Master Plan funded by the Gateway Foundation back in July 2009 and Patricia Roland Hamilton was put in charge of trying to find funding to proceed with this plan. You can find this plan on the city’s website and I had several discussions with Patricia regarding this plan and funding sources. The plan was broken down into different rooms or sections of the mall with the Civic room being the center of activity which is partly being developed with the Soldiers Memorial renovations. There was to be a pavilion for concerts and other civic events. The Gateway Foundation, I believe, funded City Garden to kick start this plan and now they are working on Kiener Plaza. There has never been a clear vision for the Terminus. The continuity suggested in your article was to be provided with street lighting, walkway pavement and signage but each room or section was to have its own personality providing a combination of both local and tourist activities. Their visual conception for a terminus was to create a mound for elevation and to put some type of sculpture or small monument at that site. I have other ideas and believe with the reconfiguration of Market at 20th and the new exit from I-64 there is an opportunity to extend the Gateway Mall to 22nd street instead of 20th. IMO the terminus should be a highly visible 1,000 foot monument commemorating the history and legacy of St. Louis’ role in flight and space. Call the monument the Spirit of St. Louis as it soars to the heavens offering the history of the Charles Lindberg flight and the development of space capsules by McDonnell Douglas and an observation deck at the top with spectacular views of the city. Perhaps Boeing could financially support this idea. I hope this conversation can spur some more movement on the western terminus and the section of the mall from 15th street. Perhaps another funding source could be Great Rivers Greenway as well as private donations from the corporate community and various foundations.

    • Tom Klein

      Sounds like the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston might be another example. Each block was designed by a different group of landscape architects and architects, and are cohesive thanks to paving and lighting. It works well, with each space responding to the neighborhood.