This Friday, another victory for the revitalization of Washington Avenue begins with the removal of the four-story skywalk between 6th Street and 7th Street. The demolition of the unused bridge – which is viewed as both a physical and psychological barrier for pedestrians - is part of a larger plan for the redevelopment of the buildings it currently connects.
Opening in 1985, the St. Louis Centre mall was positioned as the catalyst for a rejuvenated downtown. The large-scale development was home to over 100 businesses at its early peak, and 20+ restaurants. It had skywalks connecting both the Famous Barr (now Macy’s) department store to the south and to Dillard’s on the adjacent northern block. The urban mall was shuttered and sold in 2006, with new developers planning a mixed-use residential/retail redevelopment. Shortly after, the property was again sold and will now serve as a parking garage for business tenants at One City Center. The entire building will be ‘shelled’ with a modern glass facing and street-level retail space will be added.
The Dillard’s location, formerly the Stix Bear and Fuller building, recently secured financing for a $142 million overhaul. The renovated building, renamed The Laurel, will include an Embassy Suites Hotel and apartments.
City officials, downtown patrons and St. Louis urbanists are enthusiastic about the removal of the sky-bridge. In a recent post, Paul Hohmann of local preservation blog Vanishing STL, recognized the benefits of an unobstructed view along the vibrant Washington Avenue:
“Opening Washington Avenue will have an amazing impact in terms of re-connecting the area east of the former bridge with the rest of Downtown St. Louis. For the first time in 25 years one will be able to stand at Fourth Street and look west down the street canyon Washington Avenue as far as the eye can see.“
While removal of the bridge’s innards has already started, the demolition officially starts on Friday, May 21st, at 5:10 p.m. with the first swings of the wrecking ball. In celebration, US Bank and Emmis Radio are sponsoring ‘Bridge Bash’ on Washington Avenue between 7th Street and 9th Street. America’s Center will cater the open-to-the-public event and local blues guitarist Big Mike Aguirre will provide the background music for the destructive sounds of progress made by the wrecking crew.
I'll be there tomorrow (as I'm sure the rest of you will), listening to Aguirre, chowing down and reveling in the havoc. Hopefully, I'll be able to get some good video of the destruction, talk to some folk and see what their thoughts are on what it means for Washington Avenue and what it may mean going forward for the urban landscape/planning of downtown St. Louis. See you there.