Monday, November 23, 2015

Thank You to All Who Helped Old North Achieve Distinction as the “Best Place to Live” in St. Louis

Happy Thanksgiving to all! In honor of this season of gratitude, all of us at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group (ONSLRG) thank everyone who has been a part of making Old North St. Louis the “Best Place to Live” in St. Louis.

And thank you again to the Riverfront Times for putting the spotlight on the great things going on in Old North and for selecting Old North as the 2015 “Best Place to Live” neighborhood in the annual “Best of St. Louis” issue. While the RFT’s few lines of explanation (as shown in the clip above from the print copy) provided a good start, we know there is so much more to the Old North story.  So, for those who have asked what it takes to become a “Best Place to Live” neighborhood, we offer the following, more detailed, mostly objective, rest-of-the-story case for why Old North really is such a great place to live.

Old North is a neighborhood with character and soul - a place with a long & fascinating history… a place with visible progress achieved through a revitalization process guided by an organization that is genuinely of, by, and for the people of the community.
And for any who might question the RFT’s wisdom with this year’s selection - and with all due respect to the many other wonderful neighborhoods throughout the city, it’s worth noting that the RFT hasn’t been the only source to  consider the revitalization of Old North to be worthy of recognition. That list of outside parties who’ve had upbeat assessments of Old North in recent years includes:
  • Focus St. Louis, who picked Old North for one of their “What’s Right with the Region” Awards; and
  • Kaid Benfield, then-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Smart Growth & Sustainable Communities Program, who referred to Old North as “one of the country’s best revitalization stories…”
So, what’s going on in Old North that captured the attention and earned the respect of these outside observers?  The short answer is that it isn’t just one thing. Old North has been reviving and transforming itself through a comprehensive set of initiatives over several years.
A successful and vibrant community will be a place with a mix of positive features and attributes, not simply a place with good housing stock or nice parks, for instance. The more diverse and the stronger the mix of distinctive characteristics, the more likely it is that the community will enjoy a positive trajectory and be able to sustain itself over time. The most important element, however, is a population of community members who establish the vision for what they want their community to be - and are actively involved in the implementation of the various initiatives, as well as the ongoing work of maintaining and building on the progress.
It’s a given that just about every neighborhood will claim that it’s the people who live & work there that make it such a wonderful place. In the absence of specifics, though, that claim can sound rather superficial. With that in mind, let’s consider the “tight-knit bunch” of people who are part of the warm and welcoming community in Old North.
Long-time Neighbors =====
Above Left: Tom Bratkowski with a picnic table & bench he built for the 13th Street Community Garden; Above Right: Gloria Bratkowski with Old North’s Girl Scout Troop. The Bratkowski Family has been in Old North for 4 generations - and they continue to serve in a variety of ways.
As a community with a long and rich history, one of the compelling features of Old North is that history isn’t confined to the history books. Old North is home to people who’ve been a part of the community long enough to be able tell the back-stories of various aspects of the neighborhood’s ups and downs over several generations. Along with residents who moved into the neighborhood 20, 30, or 40 years ago, Old North is also home to residents whose families have been in the neighborhood for several generations before them.  And Old North is such a vibrant place because long-term residents are still actively involved in a lot of community-building efforts, from working in community gardens to serving on committees or on the ONSLRG Board.
…And a Lot of Newcomers, Too!
Old North has a growing population, with new residents welcomed to the community & invited to participate in the ongoing work of community-building =======
Newcomers tell us that there are many reasons they choose to move into Old North, but almost everybody reports that they love the powerful and genuine sense of community. Longtime residents welcome in their new neighbors and readily invite them to attend community events and/or to participate in the shared responsibility of community-building. Damon Moore and his wife, Kausta, (in the left photo above) had just moved into the neighborhood when the Riverfront Times stumbled across him doing work in his new front yard. Asked why he and his wife moved into the neighborhood, Damon responded: “They’re constantly building this neighborhood up, and we want to be a part of it.” And Kausta has since followed up by joining the ONSLRG Real Estate Committee.
Meanwhile the Lunsford family (in the right photo above) started showing up for community events in Old North long before they moved into the neighborhood from south city to tackle a rehab. The whole family has been regulars at Old North’s farmers’ market and can be counted on to bring a burst of positive energy to any neighborhood activity.  Life in Old North as become such a central part of the Lunsford family’s everyday activities that “Old North” emerged as the most prominent set of words used in Leah’s Facebook posts (as shown below)…
It’s also important to note that population growth didn’t just happen by itself.  Significant effort went into planning for and developing new housing, including finding and partnering with outside parties, such as Rise Community Development, who had resources and capacity to make larger projects happen. The process also involved considerable time and effort on the part of ONSLRG staff to recruit and assist individuals and families who were open to the possibility of moving into Old North. These ongoing efforts involve everything from hosting the annual Old North House & Community Tour every spring to preparing and distributing an Available Properties List every month and responding to inquiries from visitors who drop in at the ONSLRG office wanting to know more about the neighborhood.
And, as shown in the image above, the development of new housing options continues. Starting at approximately $150,000, new, energy-efficient homes will be available in early 2016.  (Interested buyers should contact Matt Fernandez at 314-241-5031, ext. 101 or by email at
Because a growing population by itself isn’t enough to make a community vibrant and sustainable, ONSLRG regularly hosts events and activities to allow neighbors to get to know each other.  Since strong and supportive relationships don’t happen automatically or through one time events, it takes a variety of occasions throughout the year, such as ONSLRG’s Annual Meeting and Pot-Luck Supper in February, a trivia night in March, the House & Community Tour in May, 20 weeks in a row of the North City Farmers’ Market in the middle of 14th Street from June through October, a big National Night Out celebration in the 13th Street Community Garden (as shown below)…
…periodic happy hours, monthly neighborhood meetings, and the Holidays in Old North Festival, in addition to several other special events, such as hosting this year’s Shakespeare in the Streets on at the intersection of Montgomery and N. 14th Street.
Landmark, Legendary Businesses
Crown Candy*
No story of Old North would be complete without acknowledging the importance of Crown Candy Kitchen as a neighborhood landmark that has drawn customers and visitors to the neighborhood for more than 100 years now.  For many St. Louisans, Crown Candy was their first introduction to Old North - and for many years, the only reason they would have ever set foot in the neighborhood.  Now, Crown’s customers have a lot more to take in and can walk down the street to marvel at the beauty of Crown Square and the view of the Arch and the Downtown skyline framed by the collection of architecturally significant, historically rehabbed buildings along both sides of N. 14th Street.
But there’s more to the Old North business community than Crown Candy, including other legendary businesses, such as another family-owned, much-older business, Marx Hardware (which also made this year’s RFT “Best of” list), and HeadHunters, a barber shop that stuck around the 14th Street Mall for many, many years after all of the other businesses abandoned the dead pedestrian mall and survived long enough to enjoy the revitalization at Crown Square.
Newer, Locally-Owned Businesses
The past few years have brought several new businesses to the heart of Old North, especially at Crown Square, such as:
- Blackmun Footcare, owned and operated by Old North resident, Dr. Annessa Blackmun (shown above)* - which also was selected by St. Louis Development Corporation as the 5th Ward Business of the Year this year;
- Kennedy’s Pet Shop;
- La Mancha Coffeehouse* (a previous SLDC Business of the Year honoree);
- Firecracker Press;
- The Racq Salon;
- Angel’s Touch Home Healthcare;
- The Gallery Clothing Boutique;
- Le Fit;
and others beyond the Crown Square portion of 14th Street, such as Better Life and Perpetua;
… and so many more.
* owned & run by Old North residents
Recent Arrival Nonprofits & Service Providers…
Old North residents are lucky to have many other organizations present within and serving the Old North community, including:
- UrbArts, a home for spoken word arts and poetry slams (with founder / executive director, MK Stallings in the photo above);
- Central Print;
- Building Futures;
- Zuka Arts Guild;
- Magdalene House;
- Peace Weaving Wholeness.
Old North is also home to several other groups that have been around for quite a while, such as:
- Grace Hill Settlement House (for over a Century);
- The Haven of Grace;
- C.J.’s Place (Places for People);
- Stepping Into the Light;
- Sunshine Ministries;
… and, of course, Old North’s own vehicle for neighborhood-driven and respectful community development, ONSLRG, which will be celebrating 35 years in 2016.
The highest profile arts event in the past year was Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’s production of their annual Shakespeare in the Streets in Old North, which featured area residents John Bratkowski, Aniyah Wilson, and Robert Green, along with Old North’s very own police officer, Richard Schicker of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s 4th District.
But there is so much more art happening within the boundaries of Old North.
Recent hightlights have included a new mural by William Burton and Robert Ketchins; several exhibits in the Old North Gallery; live music within the ONSLRG Gallery, on the stage at the Crown Square corner plaza, in the street…
…poetry slams at UrbArts, printmaking at Central Print, children’s programs at NorthSide Workshop, Friday afternoon concerts at Zuka Arts, improv, drum lessons for the neighborhood Girl Scout troop, daily steel drum music by Jamaica Ray in front of Crown Candy, and on and on.
….residents walking together, outside groups bringing bike tours through Old North, soccer games in Jackson Park…
As a community that dates back to its founding in 1816 as an independent municipality (the Village of North St. Louis) separate from St. Louis, Old North is home to a great mix of structures and historic sites that contribute to the neighborhood’s distinct sense of place.  Residents of Old North embrace that history and character and go to great lengths to preserve what the physical elements that shape the character and beauty of the neighborhood.  Part of that history is currently on display at the Missouri History Museum, with their A Walk in 1875 exhibit (shown above), and much more of that can on a walk through Old North today. Thanks to the efforts of ONSLRG and our partners, and many individual homeowners, dozens of historic buildings have been rescued from the brink of collapse.  We thank all who have helped make this aspect of Old North’s character possible - and we thank Landmarks Association of St. Louis for helping to acknowledge the great contributions of so many in Old North through their annual “Most Enhanced” Historic Preservation Awards, with more awards going to more buildings in Old North than any other neighborhood - as a percentage of total buildings within the neighborhood…
Above: Owners of Old North properties that have been (or will one day be) recognized by Landmarks Association of St. Louis for the quality of their historic preservation.  From left to right: Matt Fernandez future award winner; Dave Eisenbraun, past winner; James & Luz Maria Cox, 2015 & previous year winners; and Susan Tschetter, past winner.
Old North is a place that embraces healthy lifestyles in a variety of ways, most visibly through the weekly appearance of North City Farmers’ Market along the 2700 block of N. 14th Street from June through mid- October over the past 9 years.
The community-wide celebration of healthy lifestyles is also evident through the neighborhood’s 9 community gardens…
… and the community’s Walking Club.
Residents out and about and watching out for each other has also made it possible for Old North to experience a 47% decline in crime from 2010 - 2014, further reinforced by coordinated efforts, including Old North’s Neighborhood Ownership Model and regular collaboration with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s 4th District (especially Officers Lori Wozniak and Richard Schicker)…
So much of what has been mentioned above can be attributed to a simple formula of community-driven initiatives matched with support from outside partners.  While the full list of partners and supporters would be too long for this space, some of them do need to be acknowledged here, such as several who’ve provided funding support for some of our programs recently: the City of St. Louis Community Development Administration, Bank of America, Regional Arts Commission, Trio Foundation; some who’ve provided funding and program support, such as Gateway Greening, Ken Kranzberg and STL North LLC; some who’ve worked with us on various aspects of our mission, including our Crown Square development partner, Rise Community Development, Community Builders Network (which is assisting with ONSLRG’s collaborations with other nearby CDC, Community Renewal and Development and Northside Community Housing)… and partners who’ve made it possible for our staff to take on so much more work than we could otherwise afford to do by providing us with more people power in the office - Mission St. Louis and AmeriCorps VISTA for making it possible for Jessica Payne and Brendan Ziebarth to work with us, and AARP for making it possible for Charlotte Harris to keep an eye on our front desk;
and several hundred residents and outside friends of the community.

This litany of supporters, investors, and friends could continue for quite a while. So, we invite you to add the names of others who deserve thanks and acknowledgments.  Just scroll down to find the Comment box below and share your thoughts!


In light of all of the above, we THANK all who made this possible. If you’re thankful that St. Louis has a dynamic and growing community capable of showing that our city does, indeed, have vibrant, attractive and sustainable neighborhoods, we invite you to help us continue this work.  If you believe it’s important for the city to have healthy and thriving neighborhoods on the north side, as well as on the south side, if you believe it’s vital to our region’s future to have neighborhoods that seek to engage all of their residents in the work of community building and that continue to reach out to various agencies and organizations to join the residents in making the community a better place for all, then we need your support.  Please make a new or continuing contribution today by clicking on the image below.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Join Us Thursday for an Artist Talk with Edna Patterson-Petty & Eugenia Alexander

All are invited to meet and hear from Edna Patterson-Petty and Eugenia Alexander, the artists behind our current exhibit at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group Gallery, this Thursday, October 15 from 7-9 p.m. The artists talk will take place at the ONSLRG Gallery, 2700 N. 14th Street, where you can view the exhibit titled “blended spirits: where two artful souls collide,” which features quilt / textile works by Edna Patterson-Petty and paintings by her granddaughter, Eugenia Alexander.

The exhibit continues through Sunday, Nov. 1, and concludes with a reception on that date from 2-5 p.m.

This exhibit is made possible in part by generous support from the Regional Arts Commission.

Other scenes from the opening reception on Sept 24:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Old North is “Best Place to Live” in Riverfront Times 2015 “Best of St. Louis” Issue

This really isn’t news to those of us who know - and, therefore, love - Old North St. Louis. However, we are thrilled to share the news that yet another outside, neutral party has joined us in the assessment that Old North is the Best Place to Live in St. Louis. The annual Riverfront Times “Best of St. Louis” issue just hit the streets today, and right there on page 28 is the big news that Old North is this year’s selection for Best Place to Live. Click HERE to read the explanation from the good folks at the RFT in their online version.

As the brief article notes, Old North is “flourishing” with much to celebrate, including the redevelopment of Crown Square (where the commercial space is approaching full occupancy, by the way), a significant reduction in an already low amount of crime, a really cool farmers’ market, a “tight-knit bunch” of residents, and the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Village of North St. Louis just a few months away.

Although that little blurb says a lot, we know the full story deserves much more space than the RFT had available in their very jam-packed Best of issue.  So, stay tuned for a follow up from us on some of the reasons we agree with their conclusion. In the meantime, all who call Old North home or have their business here can share in the credit and take a bow for this well-deserved acknowledgment.  As the Shakespeare in the Streets production of The World Begun just last week conveyed, Old North is a magical place with some one-of-a-kind characters who are passionate about their community.

If you don’t believe us, we invite you to come on by to see for yourself. And if you’d like to get in on the action and share the excitement, we’ve got an endless supply of opportunities. To learn more, stop by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office at 2700 N. 14th Street (1 block south of Crown Candy), visit us at our info booth every Saturday at North City Farmers’ Market, give us a call at 314-241-5031, or send us an email at  And, if you’re interested in helping us make more good things happen in Old North, feel free to make a secure, tax-deductible contribution online by clicking HERE or on the arrow or button below.

Thanks again to J. David Levy for allowing us to use his photos from Shakespeare in the Streets.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Critics Have Spoken: Shakespeare in the Streets Old North “the Best Ever”

It’s not always easy to get consensus in a diverse community, but there seems to be almost universal agreement that Shakespeare in the Streets Old North was a tremendous success. The reviews from community residents and professional critics have been overwhelmingly positive. The production by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis earned praise for the intelligence, sensitivity, and depth of the script; for the masterful direction of a cast that included a mix of professional and amateur actors;for the energy and talent of the acting; and everything else, from the set design that took full advantage of the architectural beauty and character of the street to the pre-show music by Renaissance Rhythm & Blues.

Post-Dispatch theater critic Judith Newmark referred to the production of “The World Begun,” Nancy Bell’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” as “a hilarious romp through the Old North neighborhood…— and the best Shakespeare in the Streets show yet.” Read the full review on by clicking HERE.

Gerry Kowarsky of HEC-TV’s “Two on the Aisle” theater review program gave his “heartiest” recommendation and asked, “How can the script by Nancy Bell be so smart, so honest, so moving, and so thoroughly enjoyable all at the same time?

Neighborhood residents and other community members were thrilled to have the essence of their community captured and conveyed in such a compelling performance. The spirit and voice of the community came through so well due to the great care taken and respect shown by the entire Shakespeare Festival St. Louis team, from Executive Director Rick Dildine to all of the staff and crew, including community engagement & education director Jennifer Wintzer, playwright Nancy Bell, director Jacqueline Thompson, production manager Tom Martin, designer Mark Wilson, streets project coordinator Kristin Rion, and so many more who deserve to be named.

The full cast included the following:

MIKE Patrick Blindauer
MALVOLIO John Bratkowski*
VIOLA Marlene René Coveyou
SEBASIAN Michael Cassidy Flynn
DUKE ORSINO Lawd Gabriel
ROBERT Robert Green
ANTONIA Tarecka “Queenie” Smith and Aniyah Wilson
OLIVIA Erin Renée Roberts
SIR TOBY BELCH Richard Schicker
MARIA Lisa Tejero*
FESTE Christoffer Ware

Congratulations to all involved!

And here’s what Shakespeare Festival St. Louis thought of the production:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Please Excuse Our Email Issues at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group

The server processing our official ONSLRG email was out of commission, unexpectedly, from this past Thursday until just moments ago (Wednesday afternoon). That situation has now been fixed.  However, just about anything sent to us over the past week most likely didn’t get to us until the flood gates opened, which means we’re now working our way through the hundreds messages that are finally showing up in our inboxes. We apologize for any missed or lost messages and any inconvenience this may have caused.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shakespeare in the Streets Coming to Old North September 17-19

Mark your calendars & start spreading the news: Shakespeare in the Streets will take place in the heart of Old North, at the intersection of N. 14th & Montgomery Thursday, Sept. 17-Saturday, Sept. 19.
Details about the performances, including cast information, can be found in the official announcement from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis by clicking HERE, and on the website for the event by clicking HERE (where you can learn a lot more about some of the familiar Old North faces you’ll see on stage, food options, and parking info).
It’s not too soon to start inviting all of your friends, work colleagues, and family to join you in Old North for the evening, including dinner before the show at one of Old North’s fine eating establishments.
Watch for more details here between now and Sept. 17 - or search the #WelcometoOldNorth hashtag on Facebook and Instagram to meet some of the residents and business owners who have contributed to this project, from sharing their stories to welcoming the Shakespeare in the Streets team into their storefronts.
Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dope Poets Tourney Coming to UrbArts & ONSLRG Gallery Aug. 27-Aug. 29

Over 24 poets from throughout St. Louis will compete in this multi-day poetry slam tournament starting next Thursday in Old North St. Louis.

For more information, visit the UrbArts website,

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Help Us Plan for Sustainable Development within the Context of Historic Old North St. Louis

As reported in the Old North Community News back in May, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Old North St. Louis for a new effort to help lay the groundwork for future development that respects the neighborhood’s historic character while also promoting environmental sustainability. EPA has contracted with a design team led by SWT to work with the City of St. Louis, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group (ONSLRG), and other community stakeholders on this project.

Among EPA’s goals for the project: “to demonstrate how a neighborhood can protect, preserve, and rehabilitate its historic architecture while incorporating green features that enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors; improve the community’s environmental conditions; put public investment to its best and highest use; and help revitalize the neighborhood, spurring additional economic and social benefits.”

Now, we’re at the stage when Old North residents, businesses and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to participate in the process. Next week there will be  be three separate events designed to gather ideas, suggestions, and feedback from the community.

Tuesday, August 25: Full Day Public Charrette

….The charrette will bring together a diverse group of perspectives including experts in sustainable design, urban planning, economic development, architecture, and historic preservation with city officials and neighborhood residents and advocates. During the charrette, the design team and participants will explore a full range of strategies that will address the unique challenges of Old North and build upon the neighborhood’s historic character and recent development achievements.

Preliminary strategies and schematic designs will be presented to initiate dialogue on each of the project focus areas, potential interventions, and the overall neighborhood vision. The planners will facilitate focus group discussions on the following topics:

•             Economic Development

•             Perception, Brand/Identity

•             Housing /Historic Preservation (Vacant Properties, Land Use, Form-Based Code)

•             Transportation (Streets, Bike/Ped, Transit)

•             Environment & Energy (Hydrology, Air Quality, Renewable Energy)

Although the charrette is open to all, space is limited, so advance registration is required.  Register by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.: Public Open House

An Initial Public Open House will be held to initiate a community dialogue about the overall neighborhood vision and gather feedback about possible interventions.  Preliminary design concepts will be on display and d planners will be available to answer questions and to hear your ideas.  All are welcome and no registration is required.

Thursday, Aug. 27: 4:30-6:30 p.m. : Second Public Open House

A second Public Open House will be held on Thursday evening to enable interested residents and citizens to see how initial ideas have been modified to incorporate community feedback into design options for the project area.

All of the above events will take place at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group Gallery, 2700 N. 14th Street, STL, MO 63106.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

TONIGHT: Join Us for the Old North National Night Out Celebration at 13th Street Community Garden

Spread the word:  All are welcome to join us for a community-wide National Night Out celebration at the 13th Street Community Garden, 2700-16 N. 13th Street (just north of Montgomery and just south of St. Louis Avenue).

We’ll be grilling hot dogs, roasting marshmallows, providing face-painting, music and games for all ages.  If you can, please bring picnic blankets and/or chairs, your musical instrument, a dessert or side dish to share, and beverages of your choice.

For more information, feel free to contact us at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group by phone: 314-241-5031 or email,

To get you in the mood, we offer a few images from past years’ National Night Out celebrations:

See you this evening!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Old North in the Spotlight, Locally & Globally: “Experience St. Louis” Features Profile of ONSL; & German Marshall Fund Report Examines Old North’s Approach to Revitalization

Old North is in the news once again for all of the good things going on in the neighborhood…

Thank you to the City of St. Louis Communications Division for featuring the continuing revitalization of Old North in the July/August 2015 issue of Experience St. Louis, as written by Kathleen Dudley, the publication’s creator and editor.

Stop by the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office or any of the other businesses along N. 14th Street in Old North to pick up your own copy of Experience St. Louis.


Meanwhile, to get a more global perspective on Old North, you can take a look at a recent report by French urban researcher, Celine Gipoulon, as published by the German Marshall Fund. This report was based on analysis of different approaches to urban revitalization in three Rust Belt cities, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, with Old North presented as a case study for community-driven initiatives.

Click HERE to view the article online or to download a PDF of the report.


Welcome to the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group's blog. What's New in Old North chronicles the dramatic transformation under way in the neighborhood of Old North St. Louis. As a neighborhood just north of Downtown St. Louis, Old North is becoming a dynamic urban village of new and historic homes, a landmark eating establishment, beautiful community gardens, and a diverse, friendly, and engaged community.


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