When birthdays hit the big 5-0, it’s a pretty big deal. And for the Gateway Arch, turning 50 is such a monumental occasion that there is more in store for the iconic landmark in 2016 and 2017.
Think of it as a birthday makeover for the area surrounding the 630-foot-tall stainless steel Gateway Arch that sits along the Mississippi River.
Here's a quick list of what’s new or in the works for the Arch grounds’ $380 million makeover:
Park Over the Highway and Luther Ely Smith Square completed in October 2015
Landscaping mostly complete on the Arch grounds summer 2016
New museum and visitors center spring 2017 completion
So why all the updates? It was always a part of renowned architect Eero Saarinen’s winning design for the Gateway Arch to include a way to connect the city to the riverfront, along with plans for museums, restaurants, other cultural centers and green space.
And 50 years after putting the Arch keystone in place on October 28, 1965, St. Louis is continuing Saarinen’s vision of the park as a gateway to exploration by connecting it and bringing new life to one of our greatest urban national parks, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial.
Thanks to the CityArchRiver project, the Park Over the Highway now extends over Interstate 44 between Chestnut and Market streets to connect the Arch grounds with the Old Courthouse. This move finally physically connects St. Louis to its most famous landmark.
Now, when people visit the Arch, they will be able to park downtown instead of at the north end of the Arch. Kiener Plaza will be improved and serve as a gathering place that links the Gateway Mall to the Old Courthouse, complete with new exhibits, to the Arch. With the Park Over the Highway, visitors will be able to walk from Fourth Street at the Old Courthouse and see the entrance to the museum that is under the Arch. It will all be a continuous green space to the river without a stair or intersection in their way.
The new museum and visitors center, a glass-and-steel structure that will face downtown, is scheduled to open by spring 2017. The museum under the Arch will be redesigned to tell the story of Westward Expansion in new, interactive ways. Six thematic areas may be appreciated in any order, improving the flow. Before you check out the museum, the place to buy tram tickets to the top of the Arch will be close by.
On the grounds, paths will be added to guide visitors to the ponds that are still part of the national historic landmark. Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard is being raised to help avoid routine flooding that shuts down the riverfront; bike trails will connect it to the North Riverfront Trail.
Nearly 2.4 million people visit the Gateway Arch every year, including many from outside the United States. About 75 percent of visitors to the Arch live more than 100 miles away and about three percent are international visitors.
And what’s a birthday celebration without buying some presents? Custom-designed items, including hats, shirts, jackets, mugs and other goods, are available at the museum store and online.