ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It was a big party Thursday on the St. Louis Riverfront — so big that they laid out a 2,016 foot long picnic table for those coming down to celebrate the reopening of Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard.
“As we cut this ribbon, we will begin a new era on our riverfront,” says Susan Trautman with Great Rivers Greenway. “We believe that sharing a meal together and bringing our diverse communities together to do that is a great way to celebrate.”
Trautman is overseeing the $380 million project that includes the newly redesigned riverfront.
The celebration didn’t stop with the ribbon-cutting, which featured Mayor Francis Slay, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Congressman Lacy Clay and many other local officials. Fireworks went off over the riverfront to herald in a new era for the city’s “front porch.”
“This is the effort to connect the river to the Arch, and the Arch to our downtown, to make the Arch Grounds an easier place to visit,” Slay says.
Those who came down for the ceremony seemed to appreciate all the new features, such as bike racks, benches, power outlets, signs and a street level stage for public events.
“So far, I’m impressed,” a visitor says. “Anything we can do to revitalize this riverfront. It’s a great asset and unfortunately we in St. Louis have not capitalized on that.”
“I hope it makes it more accessible to come to the Arch and that people will come down and take advantage,” another visitor tells KMOX News.
Nixon calls the $25 million renovation of the 1.5-mile section running beneath the Arch a “transformational project.”
“This is a game-changer for the St. Louis riverfront,” Nixon says. “It is a major cultural institution and economic boost for the region, and while it is bound to be a source of deep pride for the people of the St. Louis region, it also belongs in a very real sense to the people of Missouri.”
Trautman made sure to thank voters in St. Louis city and county who helped pass Proposition P in April of 2013.
“It is a shining example of what happens when we set our agendas aside and we work together,” Trautman says.
A main feature of the newly-reopened Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard is that it was raised an average of 2 feet to help keep it above the flooding Mississippi River each summer.
Trautman says that will mean the riverfront will be 70 percent more accessible during the critical tourism season, encouraging more tourists and more vendors to come down to the riverfront.
“There have been many attempts to revitalize this riverfont, and a few people told me it couldn’t be done,” Trautman says. “What set the CityArchRiver initiative apart from previous attempts was an incredible vision, major team commitment, and the overarching goal of a really great visitor experience.”
As mentioned earlier on KMOX News, the massive Gateway Arch Grounds makeover isn’t done yet.
Officials expect the expanded visitor center and the new museum to open sometime in 2017. The Arch Grounds themselves are set to reopen this fall.
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