Friday, January 22, 2010

St. Louis County Economic Council to unveil $65 million master plan for Jefferson Barracks

A year-long planning process has culminated in a $68 million proposal for major enhancements to the Jefferson Barracks complex.
According to the master plan, the complex would be transformed into a regional and national visitor attraction, done so in phases over the course of 20 years.

The plan targets the entire Jefferson Barracks complex, about 1,000 acres, consisting of the National Guard Base, Jefferson Barracks and Sylvan Springs County Parks, the National Cemetery and the VA Medical Center.

"Jefferson Barracks is rich with history, but the issue is how to formulate it and present it as a place of destination," said St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

The St. Louis County Economic Council received a $269,000 grant toward development of the master plan. Dooley said formulating that plan required "great collaboration" between county government entities and a number of federal agencies, as well as five organizations involved in preserving and promoting the history of Jefferson Barracks.

He said the successful collaboration is significant as the plan for Jefferson Barracks moves forward.

"The master plan says 'here is what we want to take place. Here are the opportunities.' We can't say if this will actually happen," Dooley said.

The St. Louis County Economic Council will hold open house to unveil the master plan on Monday, Jan. 25, 4 to 7 p.m. at the Jefferson Barracks Visitor's Center. A presentation will be held at 6 p.m. Jefferson Barracks County Park is located at the end of South Broadway.

According to the master plan, the goal is to "develop Jefferson Barracks as a national military history tourism destination with museums, re-enactments, historic trails and scenic river overlooks."

Several enhancements to Jefferson Barracks are in the works, projects that were begun prior to the development of the area as a major tourist attraction.

Completion is near for a new Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center for the Missouri National Guard and US Army Reserve. The project includes a three-story, 133,000 square-foot administration building and a one-story, 7,500 square-foot maintenance building.

And work is ongoing at two existing buildings, one to house a Citizen Soldier Museum and the other as home to a Missouri Civil War Museum.

New Museums, Aquatic Center

Major new master plan building recommendations include a Jefferson Barracks Interpretive Center and Presidential Museum/Library, proposed for the current parade ground at Jefferson Barracks County Park. Reconstructed duplexes framing the parade ground would provide opportunities for small museums, shops and cafes.

The former riverfront railroad depot, at the south end of the park, is long gone but a new "interpretive" structure may be built at the former location. The train depot from which hundreds of thousands of soldiers were transported. At one time Jefferson Barracks was the largest military outpost west of the Mississippi.

A trolley to transport people from downtown St. Louis to Jefferson Barracks has also been proposed.

What may prove to be the most controversial aspect of the master plan is its call for construction of a Lemay Aquatic/Community Center at Jefferson Barracks County Park.

The plan also calls for new features at each of the four primary entrances to the complex, including the national cemetery, which "needs a more dignified entrance" off of Telegraph Road, according to Swanick. Expanding that entrance would require eventual purchase of additional properties.

There would also be improved river views and a Great Rivers Greenway riverfront trail. The plan calls for restoration of the WWII Beverage Garden at Sylvan Springs County Park, and improvements to existing buildings and the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Jefferson Barracks County Park.

The VA Medical Center will undergo extensive construction and renovation, with 30 acres eventually being transferred to the National Cemetery.

Planners say that funding for the many improvements will come from both public and private sectors, with support from the county, state and federal governments.

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