The Gateway Arch had come to a crossroads. Cut off from the rest of St. Louis by Interstate 44, Eero Saarinen’s 630-foot-high monument to westward expansion had languished for years, with attendance dipping to all-time lows. But all of that is set to change this month, thanks to the debut of the $380 million CityArchRiver project, which will see an expanded museum and an enhanced 91-acre park, the newly dubbed Gateway Arch National Park.
“It really is a symbol of the renewal of St. Louis,” says Anthony Paraino, the director of communications for Explore St. Louis. “The whole project better connects the Arch with all of downtown and provides easy access to one of the most famous monuments in the country.”
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the renowned landscape design firm behind Brooklyn Bridge Park, outfitted the grounds with more than five miles of pathways, green space for riverfront picnicking, and a pedestrian land bridge that connects the park to the city center and the Mississippi River.
The museum features interactive displays that guide visitors through 200 years of history, including the Lewis and Clark expedition, which began and ended here, and the Dred Scott case, which was heard at the Old Courthouse, also in the park. “Most museums collect and display artifacts,” says Bill Haley, whose firm, Haley Sharpe Design, reimagined the exhibits, “but key events happened here.”
St. Louisans hope that these improvements will raise the area to the level—figuratively, anyway—of their famous monument. “The architectural phenomenon that is the Gateway Arch is one that people travel from around the world to see,” says Gateway Arch Park Foundation executive director Eric Moraczewski, “and now we have a world-class museum experience and amazing park space that they will enjoy and embrace on their visit.”