The history and fortunes of St. Louis' Gateway Mall have run in parallel with those of the City itself. The initial concept for the Mall emerged at the turn of the last century, when St. Louis was an economic hub, a bustling city. The Gateway Mall was envisioned as a grand Beaux-Arts inspired design by landscape architect and planner George Kessler in the city's 1907 Plan. This plan established Market and Chestnut Streets as large boulevards extending to Grand Avenue with a generous green space separating them.

Beginning in the 1950s, the City of St. Louis entered a decades-long period of decline, losing much of its economic base and population, mostly to its own suburbs. During this period, several plans for the Mall were proposed but not realized. No single vision evolved for what is now known as the Gateway Mall. The land west of Tucker was cleared decades before the final buildings east of Tucker came down in the early 1980's. From its inception to the present, the evolution of the Mall has been primarily piecemeal, focusing on the incremental assemblage of land.

In the past decade, downtown St. Louis has undergone a regeneration. Several separate yet interconnected efforts have brought it about: new residents of all ages are moving downtown; retailing is coming back to the streets; a new Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, has opened; and the Peabody Opera House promises to bring the vibrant arts downtown. The cumulative opportunities created by these events will help to unlock the potential of this exceptional resource.

Anticipating these changes, in 1999 the city created the Downtown Plan which identified a series of strategies for the revitalization of downtown St. Louis. These complex strategies are being realized, with only one portion remaining: the completion of the "Public City". This has begun, with attention being paid to the Riverfront, the Arch Connector project, and now finally the rebirth of the Gateway Mall.