UMSL, Metro launch University Square, dedicate new sculpture

University Square launch

Preschoolers from the University Child Development Center at UMSL cheer at the dedication of University Square, a new economic development initiative with communities in the Normandy, Mo., area. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Right on cue, the preschoolers who had sat patiently waiting, jumped up to pull the colorful drape off the towering sculpture called “Changing Identities.”

The children, who attend the University Child Development Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, were part of a crowd of nearly 200 people who gathered on the UMSL campus April 17 for two celebrations. The first was to launch University Square, a new economic development initiative with communities in the Normandy, Mo., area and the second was to dedicate Metro’s latest Arts in Transit installation.

The impetus for University Square began with the Great Streets–Natural Bridge Initiative. Construction begins this summer to transform Natural Bridge Road between Hanley and Lucas and Hunt Roads into a pedestrian friendly, landscaped boulevard. More than $14 million will be invested in reducing vehicular lanes from four to two, new lighting, on-street parking, landscaped medians and a roundabout and plaza at the intersection of Florissant and Natural Bridge roads. Completion is scheduled for December 2015.

University Square launch

Unveiling the new “Changing Identities” sculpture are (from left) Betty Van Uum, special assistant to the provost for public affairs and economic development; Normandy Mayor Patrick Green; Wayne Goode, University of Missouri System curator; UMSL Chancellor Tom George; Mokhtee Ahmad, director, 7th District of the Federal Transit Administration; St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley; David Dietzel, chairman of the board, Metro Transit; Catharine Magel, artist and creator of the sculpture; and John Nations, president and CEO of Metro Transit. (Photo by August Jennewein) (Click on the image to enlarge.)

“With the encouragement and support of St. Louis County Economic Council, we embark, today, on a new project designed to leverage public dollars with private investments to renovate and reinvigorate our neighborhood,” UMSL Chancellor Tom George said.

University Square is a community development corporation and an urban redevelopment corporation that will facilitate the revitalization of the area bordered by St. Charles Rock Road, Interstate 170, Interstate 70 and Lucas and Hunt Road.

George emphasized the many community collaborations involved in creating University Square.

“It is not just about a street, but about revitalizing the entire neighborhood,” he said.

“As a result of this significant infrastructure investment, we are embarking on a new project designed to leverage public dollars with private investments to renovate and reinvigorate our neighborhood.”

George and John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Metro Transit, took turns at the podium introducing numerous dignitaries, which included Wayne Goode, University of Missouri System curator; Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County executive; Mokhtee Ahmad, director of District 7 of the Federal Transit Administration; and David Allen, director of Metro Arts in Transit.

Catharine Magel, the St. Louis artist who created “Changing Identities” thanked numerous artists and fabricators who helped complete the sculpture, which is 15 feet high by 24 feet long. Magel’s art career spans more than 30 years, much of it in public art and incorporates painting and sculpting in large-scale ceramic and mosaic works.

Normandy mayor Patrick Green spoke to the crowd about the sculpture at the UMSL South Metro station. It honors the four people who died and another four who were injured in a bus accident at the station in 1997. One of the dead was Cristina Green, the mayor’s sister, a UMSL student and a teacher at UMSL’s Child Development Center.

Media Coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The St. Louis American

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