Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arena's Afterlife Architect Envisions Gigantic Aquarium Plaza

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arena's Afterlife Architect Envisions Gigantic Aquarium Plaza

Article excerpt

It would be a wet and wild look for an old friend in distress - giant fish tanks, Sea World-type shows, even a man-made river and raft rides.

And that's only the beginning of Clayton architect Theodore Wofford's vision for The Arena, one of the metro area's best-known landmarks.

Wofford would restore the original twin towers, removed after a tornado damaged them in 1959.

He would build condominium and commercial buildings, a shopping arcade and a landscaped public plaza.

An underground garage would handle some 10,000 cars. And a tunnel beneath Highway 40 and computer-operated shuttles would link it all to Forest Park.

It's all part of a $400 million-plus proposal for The Arena property, which is owned by the city. The plan was drawn mostly by Wofford, a principal in Murphy, Downey, Wofford & Richman, an architecture firm in Clayton.

Wofford says he has lined up European investors for the St. Louis Aquarium Plaza project.

"The Arena is one of the great engineering landmarks of the world," Wofford said. ". . . It would be a terrible mistake to tear it down."

With three of four proposals for the property unveiled so far, Wofford's group is the only one that would keep the 66-year-old landmark with its distinctive roof. Wofford would open up and light the dome area, and let visitors ride an elevator to the top.

The Arena was closed in October, replaced by the $135 million Kiel Center downtown.

Other groups making bids for the 26-acre site are:

A nonprofit organization, headed by the St. Louis Art Museum, that wants to use the property as an extension of Forest Park. The Art Museum would use The Arena property for noncommercial, public purposes, perhaps parking and open space. The group is offering the city $10 million up front, including $1.5 million to demolish The Arena, and $200,000 a year for the next five years.

Balke Properties, a real estate firm with offices near Union Station, which wants to mesh an office-building development with what the Art Museum group is planning. …

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