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St. Charles’ Riverpointe project proceeds, with some changes, despite pandemic

After several years of planning and organizing, the city of St. Charles started the Bangert Island Riverfront Transformation Project in early 2019. In mid-2020, it was renamed the Riverpointe Project. 

As of November 2020, Brad Temme, the city’s director of engineering, reported that Phase 1 of Riverpointe was under construction.

While the city failed to receive U.S. Dept. of Transportation Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grants (applied for in 2019 and 2020) to help offset the project’s estimated $15.8 million cost, Temme said the project will not be slowed down. “We had not counted on those grants, and other funding sources had already been identified,” he said.

Regarding the state of construction, Temme said, “We now have approximately 7 acres pad-ready and are currently working with the Corps of Engineers to permit the construction of the back 13 acres of Phase 1, which should start late this year or early next year. The pandemic has slowed some of the development deals down, but we still have several in the works that will be a great start. 

It’s not only the name of the development that has changed as the city has moved from concept to construction. The project plan also has been tweaked.

Riverpointe rendering (Source: City of St. Charles
Riverpointe rendering (Source: City of St. Charles)

Originally, the Riverpointe plan called for creating a water-quality basin at the outflow of Crystal Springs Creek and elevating over 100 acres above the 500-year floodplain. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had planned to remove decades of sediment deposits from a side chute of the Missouri River that had essentially tied the 160-acre Bangert Island, currently a St. Charles County park, to the St. Charles riverfront. As a result, Bangert Island would become an island once more. Those measures were expected to prevent the catastrophic flooding experienced by the area in recent years.

However, that plan has changed to include raising the entire Riverpointe project above the floodplain, enhancing the area’s existing habitat and foregoing the creation of the water-quality basin.

According to Dan Mann, assistant city engineer, “The entire Riverpointe project will be elevated above the 500-year floodplain to prevent flooding of the development, while also protecting adjacent flood-prone properties along Arena Parkway. Extensive flood modeling has shown that raising this area will not increase downstream flooding and (will) help prevent catastrophic flooding experienced by the development area in recent years. 

Mann also clarified that the water-quality basin recently had been pulled out of the plan.

Riverpointe model/aerial view without water basin.(Source: City of St. Charles
Riverpointe model/aerial view without water basin. (Source: City of St. Charles)

“In developing the river model of the area, the city learned more about the ecosystem and river hydrology,” Mann explained. “After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built wing dikes and revetment (retaining walls) over the upstream inlet of the side channel chute several decades ago, it changed the flow of water in the side channel.

“In all but the most extreme flooding events, the chute flows upstream, opposite the Missouri River, and continues to deposit more sediment without other improvements. Because of this and other challenges of constructing the deep water basin, the Riverpointe Development no longer includes the deep water feature (water basin), and will preserve the Bangert Island area from development.”

Mann did note that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue to search for solutions to the ongoing creek and slough wetland degradation that results from the sediment deposits. One option, he said, might be a wetland park that would focus on enhancing and restoring the existing Crystal Springs Creek and wetland habitat.

While the recreation aspect of the water basin no longer exists, Mann did confirm that “one of the new tenants in Riverpointe will be an amusement park.” He also reinforced that Riverpointe is an extension of the existing Streets of St. Charles. The resulting combined development will stretch 1.6 miles along the west bank of the Missouri River south from I-70 all the way to the Family Arena.

Robby (Robert) Greve, a member of the “STOP Riverpointe” citizens’ group in St. Charles, told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine, “The changes made to these plans were the top of my ‘grateful list’ this Thanksgiving. I, along with many other citizens and conservation organizations, have been asking the city to reconsider these deep-water detention basins for well over a year now, due to the 60-plus acres of forested, wetland habitat that would be destroyed. A big thanks to city staff and leaders for changing course.”

Still, Greve said the conservation organizations with which he consults believe developments like Riverpointe will still cause flooding issues, despite U.S. Army Corps approvals. The group, he said, is advocating that the city consider a pier-style development that they say could better mitigate the potential for sending damaging floodwaters to communities downstream and they are asking other cities to do the same. For example, Maryland Heights is being asked to consider a pier in its plans for a new development near Creve Coeur Lake.

Riverpointe in November 2020 with phase 1 elevation complete. Crystal Springs Creek pictured at right. (Source: City of St. Charles)

Additional concerns expressed by some STOP Riverpointe members include the relocation of the Katy Trail above the 500-year floodplain, the potential harm the new development could bring to existing small businesses owned by Main Street merchant members of the group and its effect on air, water and land quality.

In shepherding of Riverpointe, Greve said the city of St Charles has the opportunity to push more sustainable development at all stages. For example, he suggested, “Utilizing geothermal heating/cooling throughout, where each system installed is the equivalent carbon offset of planting 750 trees. It is my hope that our leaders will start looking beyond tax revenue implications, towards securing our children’s and grandchildren’s future.”

Rendering provided by City of St. Charles: Lombard Extension

Riverpointe still is expected to create over 4,000 permanent jobs when complete, in addition to keeping the construction industry working despite the pandemic.

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