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Citygarden: An Urban Oasis Blooms in St. Louis

A public garden with spectacular landscaping and internationally renowned modern and contemporary sculpture in a completely open, accessible downtown setting.
Citygarden is an oasis in the City with multi-dimensional appeal — marrying art and nature, stone and water, architecture and design. It features fountains and pools, a waterfall, places to sit and even stretch out, and a café. No walls or fences surround it. Admission is free.

"This new garden is immediately taking its place among the great cultural attractions of St. Louis for residents and visitors alike," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said. "It’s dazzling, and its complete openness in the heart of downtown makes it unique in the country."

The garden occupies the two blocks between Eighth and Tenth and Chestnut and Market Streets. The two blocks, which are owned by the City and cover 2.9 acres, are part of the Gateway Mall, a 19-square block spine of green space that stretches mostly uninterrupted for a little more than a mile from Broadway to 21st Street. The space is framed to the east by St. Louis’s world-renowned Gateway Arch and its historic Old Courthouse.

Slay expressed hope that the garden would serve as a catalyst for the development of the entire Gateway Mall and for all of downtown.

"I’m already hearing from CEOs about how much they love this garden," he said. "With one stroke, Citygarden has made downtown far more attractive as a place to do business and as a place to live too — because downtown’s 12,000 residents suddenly have one of the coolest urban parks in the country in their backyard."

The garden also will stimulate tourism, the Mayor said. Visitors to the Arch will be more inclined to cross Memorial Drive into downtown, and St. Louis’s place on the art map will be enhanced for art lovers all over the world. The City of St. Louis and Gateway Foundation announced in June, 2007 that they would partner in creating the garden. The City owns the garden improvements and will continue to own the land. Its only expenses will be for water and electricity. The not-for-profit Gateway Foundation is providing the funding — an estimated $25-$30 million, covering design and construction and front-end “soft costs” such as financing, anticipated expenses for security and insurance, etc. The cost of the sculpture, which is and will remain owned by the foundation, is separate. Going forward, Gateway Foundation will pay for all costs of Citygarden except water and electricity.

The garden is intended for everyone — downtown workers and residents, St. Louisans from all parts of the metropolitan area, and visitors from around the country and the world. It is aimed at people with and without backgrounds in art, at adults, and at children.

Among its major features are:

  • Three fountains and pools - A 180-foot rectangular basin with a six-foot waterfall at its mid-point between Eighth and Ninth streets near Chestnut. A state-of-the-art spray plaza — with 102 computer-controlled spray jets and custom lighting — between Ninth and 10th streets near Market. A 34-foot-diameter tilted granite disc partly covered by a scrim of water near the corner of 8th and Market.
  • A café, the Terrace View, with indoor and outdoor seating along Chestnut Street, overlooking the garden. Jim Fiala, owner of three fine St. Louis area restaurants, will open the café in a matter of days, offering lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
  • Twenty kinds of trees, including shade and flowering species, as well as shrubs, exotic plants and lush flowers. The Missouri Botanical Garden was consulted on the selection of the plantings, most of which are native to Missouri, and will be consulted on their maintenance.
  • Twenty-four pieces of large-scale modern and contemporary sculpture by nationally and internationally renowned artists. The sculptures show tremendous breadth — ranging from whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, and fun to somber and mysterious; from elegant, lyrical, and sensuous to geometrical and edgy and surprising; from figurative and classical to abstract. But two attributes apply to every one of the 24 pieces: extraordinary quality, and an intention of stimulating a relationship with the viewer. Like Citygarden itself, the sculpture is meant to engage.
  • An audio tour, accessible by cell phone and the Internet, featuring the recorded voices of prominent St. Louisans such as Ozzie Smith, Jenna Fischer, Mayor Slay, and Joe Buck.
  • A stunning eight-foot- tall limestone wall, evoking the limestone bluffs of the rivers that mark the St. Louis area, in the shape of an arc, running along the entire length of the garden’s north side.
  • A meandering 18-inch-tall polished granite-capped wall, evoking a serpentine river, along the garden’s southern border. This wall offers seating and breaks the space into multiple smaller parts, or “rooms,” offering more intimacy and visual interest while showcasing flowers, shrubs, and works of sculpture.
  • A double-row of gingko trees along both blocks on the Market Street side. The City intends later to extend the tree promenade to help knit together the entire Gateway Mall, for which master planning is now complete.
  • A state-of-the-art LED video wall displaying video art and movies.
  • For more information visit CityGarden - St. Louis


Based on information provided by City of St. Louis and Gateway Foundation

© 2009