Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spotlight: Building Interrupting the Gateway Mall Is a Mayor's Regret

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spotlight: Building Interrupting the Gateway Mall Is a Mayor's Regret

Article excerpt

The Gateway Mall the grand plan for bringing verdant tranquility to the gray density of downtown St. Louis goes back 100 years.

The plan was much more ambitious when first proposed by city officials in 1915. It called for about 2 miles of grassy mall between 12th Street, now Tucker Boulevard, and Grand Avenue. (Chestnut and Market streets have always been the north-south boundaries.)

But over the years, compromises were made especially in the early 1980s, when three historic buildings were demolished and, oddly enough, a new nondescript office tower was erected.

"I was never really pleased with the compromise," said former Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr., who presided over that piece of the mall's development. "But you do what circumstances allow."

"It originally was part of the 'City Beautiful' plan," Schoemehl said, referring to the 1890s urban-planning movement that called for grandiose artistic expressions in civic projects.

In the late 1920s, the original 2-mile vision was cropped down to a reach of green between the Old Courthouse to 21st Street, near Union Station.

The Art Deco Civil Courts building went up in 1930, breaking that space into two smaller sections.

In the first years of the 1930s, buildings were cleared between 12th and 15th streets, across from City Hall, to create Memorial Plaza. Then in 1940, Aloe Plaza and the Milles Fountain were built across from Union Station. Other buildings were cleared from the area by 1950.

So that took care of the strip west of Tucker, leaving only the strip from the Civil Courts to the Old Courthouse. And that section would be haggled over for 30 more years.

First, there wasn't much money to do anything because voters twice rejected bond issues to pay for it. Besides, the economy of St. Louis was far less than booming in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All that existed by 1982 was Kiener Plaza, and the Richard Serra steel-plate sculpture at 11th Street.

Also complicating things were the number of old buildings (some deteriorating) in the space, including three deemed as historically significant: Buder, Title Guaranty and International. …

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