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In late October, the National Park Service outlined its preferred alternative for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial management plan and named other options worth exploring. A detailed draft of the management plan is due out in January, but the summary shows improved access to the Memorial and some development of attractions on the north and south thirds of the Arch grounds. One of the ideas that the Park Service also recommended for further study is the exploration of removing or revamping Memorial Drive to build a western connection between the Arch grounds and downtown.
While the details aren't drawn up, the concepts recommended for study are a good basis for spirited public discussion. After the draft management plan is published, the public will get another 45-day comment period. Then, the Park Service is calling for an international design competition to be held in summer 2009. Finally, ideas about the Memorial will be made into visions, one of which will be the winner.
I remain concerned about development at a National Historic Landmark. I love the idea of exploring connections between the grounds and surrounding city. After all, we have a wonderful Memorial surrounded by unsightly infrastructure. It's an urban design failure that should be rectified - and will be, if the Park Service can find funding for its management plan.
Meanwhile, on October 3, Congressman William Clay introduced a bill in Congress that would cede control of the Memorial to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Trust, a non-profit formed in June by the Danforth Foundation. That bill is premature, and needs to be withdrawn. The public comment period and the design competition need to be completed before we know what legislation is needed. Good things take time, and great things require a lot more of the same.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.