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Q&A: Great Rivers Greenway’s Susan Trautman
From St. Louis Magazine: St. Louisans will finally be able to visit the Arch Grounds when the iconic downtown spot reopens April 8. Kiener Plaza will open in May. The completion of these two projects mark the culmination of CityArchRiver’s $380 million renovation of the grounds surrounding the Gateway Arch after four long years (nearly twice as long as originally announced). Great Rivers Greenway executive director Susan Trautman addresses some of the challenges along the way and discusses how the revitalized landmark can help connect St. Louis through its green spaces.
What were the biggest challenges in reshaping the Arch grounds? You can’t build a park or a greenway without community engagement, without a variety of political and bureaucratic issues. In this case, there were about 13 regulatory agencies, about 20 stakeholders just on the riverfront—the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers, the Port Authority…and we were working adjacent to two historical landmarks—the Arch and the Eads Bridge. Then you had all kinds of new utilities that had to be installed, and we basically rebuilt the entire road. And we had three floods in the process.
That’s not to mention two bond levies. How is the budget shaping up? From the Proposition P side—Kiener Plaza and the Arch grounds—we still have a balance of contingency funds. We’ll work with CityArchRiver and the National Park Service to make sure that bond money is spent how taxpayers directed it. A lot of it will go toward the museum, site work, and landscaping.
Can you give us a preview of Kiener Plaza? It’s totally different. We took out the amphitheater. Gone are the worn lawns and tired landscaping. It’s going to be a more peaceful oasis during the day, but it’s also designed to host big civic events. Kiener is our living room. It has a big courthouse lawn that can be used for an amphitheater. It has beautiful marble and granite stepping stones, a new playground, shade gardens, fountains… It has an urban oasis feel to it. It’s designed to draw in people, so instead of walking around the edges of Kiener in a square, it’s more of an X pattern, bringing you right to the heart of the park.