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More Than Just a Parking Lot
The Muny Festival & Parking Plaza

by Landscape Architecture by DG2 Design

More Than Just a Parking Lot

DG2 Design and the Engineers at Horner & Shifrin collaborated to revamp the 11-acre parking lot, located in Missouri's Forest Park. Completed in 2015, the landscape included bio-retention cells, 9 sidewalk islands and various native plantings including trees, shrubs and perennials, to provide a sustainable and pedestrian-friendly space.

Known affectionately to locals as simply "The Muny," the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre amphitheater in Forest Park, Saint Louis, Missouri is the nation's oldest and largest outdoor musical theater and has been underserved by the adjacent asphalt parking lot for 75 years. The venue produces multiple musical theater productions that receive 350,000 patrons every year during the hot and humid summer months in St. Louis. Replacement of this parking lot was long overdue, as cracking asphalt and potholes began to dominate the site and become quite an eyesore. DG2 Design, of Eureka, Mo., partnered with the Engineers at Horner & Shifrin to develop plans for renovation.

The design team was contracted by the City of Saint Louis' Board of Public Service, the entity which oversees improvement projects within Forest Park. The project scope included a complete renovation of the parking lot, which must be able to serve the many visitors of the theater and park, while also providing a pleasant park atmosphere with a low-impact to the adjacent landscapes and waterways.

Creating a Pleasant, Sustainable Space
Completed in 2015, the new design for this festival and parking plaza changed the vast expanse of asphalt into a sustainable solution that utilizes bio-retention cells to control stormwater runoff on the large site. Strategic grading and curb cuts allow all the runoff from the impervious surfaces to be directed to three separate planted bio-retention cells that filter and slow stormwater runoff. The new concrete curbs along the bio-retention extend deep below the pavement layers to provide structure to the cells. Any sediment or pollutants now have time to infiltrate through this carefully selected soil matrix, which is 50" thick. Local stone was also used in the swales of the planting areas. Native perennials including sedges, rushes, grasses and wildflowers have created an extensive root system that keeps the soil highly organic and provides opportunity for stormwater to enter the ground, rather than just being piped directly offsite.

More Than Just a Parking Lot

The landscape architects utilized an extensive native plant palette including an estimated 100 trees, 850 shrubs and more than 4,000 perennials.

More Than Just a Parking Lot

There are 30 area/street light poles situated throughout the parking lot to illuminate the space for both parking and events.

An extensive native plant palette of trees, shrubs and perennials were utilized to provide pollinator habitation and increased stormwater infiltration. An irrigation system was provided to establish the plants, and will remain as a failsafe during prolonged periods of drought. Inspired by the picturesque beauty of Forest Park, the designers have created much more than just a parking lot. This dynamic space compliments the variety of green spaces throughout the park, and improves water quality downstream from the site. Plant species selection was also inspired by some of the Missouri native prairie, savanna, and forest landscapes in the park. Care was taken during construction to protect and preserve several landmark trees near the perimeter of the parking lot, some of which are over 100 years old and provide roosting habitats for the park's local owl population. New canopy trees are maturing nicely to provide shade and reduce heat within the parking lot.

A Hangout Spot for Pedestrians
The western half of the asphalt parking lot has been programmed for pedestrian-friendly festivals and events. Multiple utility hookup locations provide power and water to market vendors and food trucks alike. This large plaza also provides a spot for visiting commercial buses and RVs to park within Forest Park, a large tourism draw for St. Louis.

More Than Just a Parking Lot

Local "Meramec" gravel was used in 12" stone diaphragms on the steep side slopes of the bio-retention cells to help dissipate stormwater inflows and reduce erosion.

Additional landscaped islands break up the parking spaces and direct vehicular and pedestrian circulation in a clear and well-defined manner. New curbed islands and 10-foot-wide concrete sidewalks create an accessible and safe route for pedestrians. A serpentine concrete walk was also used near the theater's southern entrance to create small pockets of lawn picnic space for ticketholders. An additional pedestrian connection was also provided from the southwest corner of the site off Union Drive.

This $3 million project was funded by Forest Park Forever and will serve the needs of The Muny and Forest Park for decades to come. The Muny finally has a parking lot that is reflective of their stellar theatrical performances.

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2019.

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November 18, 2019, 8:01 am PDT

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