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Archive for November, 2009

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Much to be Thankful for in Old North St. Louis

Despite the difficult economic times, Old North St. Louis has had a lot to be thankful for this year.  In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we’d like to put the spotlight on just a dozen improvements, achievements or positive developments in Old North during 2009.  By limiting this list to just 12, that means several other worthy events, occasions, or successes won’t be covered here.  So, stay tuned, we’ll try to get around to acknowledging those in later posts.  As it is, the following list includes many items that deserve much more space than a brief mention and a photo or two, but we’ll have to settle for that for now. 

1) Jackson Park Improvements

Part of the improvements at Jackson Park included new playground equipment.

Part of the improvements at Jackson Park included new playground equipment.

2) Support for the Old North Grocery Co-op - Thanks to a very generous 3-year grant approved by the Missouri Foundation for Health, we now will be able to launch the Old North Grocery Co-op at 2718 N. 13th Street.  More funds still need to be raised, but the support of MFH ensure that we can get up and running in 2010.

Something like this will be coming soon to ONSL: interior of a grocery co-op...in Old North Knoxville.

Something like this will be coming soon to ONSL: interior of a grocery co-op...in a neighboprhood called Old North Knoxville.

Planning for the grocery co-op has benefited from help provided by UMSL’s Community Partnership Project and a diverse group of people serving on our co-op planning committee.  The whole effort has grown out of our successes with other food-related efforts, which is why that deserves mention here…

3) Continuation & Expansion of a Variety of Other Healthy Food Initiatives - this year we hosted the 3rd season of the North City Farmers’ Market (thanks again to the ongoing support of the Missouri Foundation for Health!); we enjoyed a bountiful crop of produce grown in the the 13th Street Community Garden; and we started a new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement with Family Harvest (with weekly deliveries by farmer Rusty Lee).

A healthy dialogue about plants in the 13th Street Garden

A healthy dialogue about plants in the 13th Street Garden

4) Opening of 2700 N. 14th Street as the new office for Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, the “Yet-to-be Named” Gallery, and space for neighborhood information and expanded support for neighborhood improvement initiatives.  We’ve posted some views of the exterior of the building and the gallery space in an earlier post, so now we’ll show off some other views of the interior space. 

5) Crown Square Apartments - NOW LEASING!…Yes, now that water and sewer connections have been completed on the 2700 block of N. 14th and nearing completion on the 2600 block, that means our leasing agents at Cohen-Esrey are actually showing apartments and signing leases with people who are taking advantage of the opportunity to live in the heart of Old North at Crown Square.  Give them a call today if you don’t want to miss your chance.

6) Work is in progress making it possible for the return of the street to the 2600 and 2700 blocks on N. 14th Street!  This is the part that is largely hidden behind the construction fences, but rest assured that it’s actually coming soon, thanks to the hard work of our partners at the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance (RHCDA) who have been navigating the complexities of a myriad of regulatory agencies and funding sources.  Stay tuned for more on that topic in a future post.

7) The opening of the Urban Studio Cafe.  The cafe has been warmly received by the community and has turned into a favorite neighborhood gathering spot for residents and outsiders who want a quick cup of coffee, a wireless signal for some web-surfing, a sweet pastry or a nourishing sandwich or cup of soup.

8) Acquisition and stabilization of endangered historic buildings by ONSLRG.  Earlier in the year Old North St. Louis Restoration Group acquired 8 vacant and deteriorated buildings from the City’s Land Reutilization Authority (thanks to support from Alderwoman April Ford Griffin) with the goal of stabilizing them so that they could survive long enough to be acquired and rehabbed by others.  Since then, ONSLRG has succeeded in selling 2 of them to rehabbers, has started exploring plans for redevelopment of 2 others and contracted with E.M. Harris Construction Company to carry out urgen stabilization work at the remaining 4.

9) Completion of historic rehabs at several owner-occupied properties.  While ONSLRG is investing funds to make it possible for future rehabs, several rehabbers have completed (for the most part) on major efforts to preserve and rehab formerly abandoned buildings.  Two of these, 3240 N. 19th Street and 1303 North Market, were featured at ONSLRG’s Annual Old North St. Louis House Tour in May.

3240 N. 19th Street has enjoyed a remarkable comeback from its previous condition as an empty shell missing its back wall.

3240 N. 19th Street has enjoyed a remarkable comeback from its previous condition as an empty shell missing its back wall.The former charcoal warehouse on the 1300 block of North Market has a new life as a cool, loft-like home.

10) Acquisition of other vacant properties and start of rehabs by individual rehabbers.  The work has only just begun at several other vacant buildings, but individual rehabbers in different parts of Old North are currently in the midst of bringing new life to long-neglected properties on Palm, Benton, North Market, and Monroe, among others.  One of these buildings, at 1307 Benton, is in the able hands of James Cox, right on the heels of getting a ”Most Enhanced” Award from Landmarks Association in May for the home he and his wife, Luz Maria Evans, rehabbed on Hebert.

1307 Benton in the midst of a major makeover.

1307 Benton in the midst of a major makeover.

11) Continued stream of volunteer help.  Much of the successes over the past year would not have been possible without the thousands of hours of help from volunteers - from within the neighborhood and from outside friends, relatives and supporters.  Sometimes these volunteers come as individuals, such as Brian Krueger, who helped out with many different tasks throughout the year, from staffing a table at the North City Farmers’ Market to planting, weeding, and harvesting in the 13th Street Community Garden; on other occasions, we get volunteers by the busload, including SLU Law School orientation service day students (thanks to Kathleen Parvis) and other students recruited and coordinated by New City Fellowship Church.

12) Ongoing support and attention from outside groups.  We also benefit from a broad range of outside groups who help share the Old North story by bringing their members or the general public in for tours and presentations.  This past year was much busier than previous ones, with numerous local groups, such as the regular visits from the Rehabbers Club and Metropolis, educational tours guided by local historian NiNi Harris, and the monthly bike rides coordinated by Bike St. Louis during the summer months; out-of-state visitors, including Iowa State University architecture students; and some foreign interest this years with visits from delegations from as far away as Russia and Thailand (thanks to UMSL). 

Thanks again to all who have made 2009 such an eventful and exciting year!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Day’s Activities Reflect Vibrant Community in Old North

Saturday may not have been a typical day in Old North, but it sure reflected the positive energy fueling the neighborhood’s revitalization and demonstrated how active the community is.  As noted in yesterday’s post here, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is in the midst of moving our offices and community space down the street, to the heart of the Crown Square redevelopment.   While a Saturday ordinarily would be an ideal day to mobilize our dependable army of volunteers to help with the move, many of these individuals were deployed to various other community projects throughout the neighborhood, including:

  • The Metropolis St. Louis tour of Old North;
  • A vacant building board-up initiative, coordinated by the “Macho Action Group”, a division of ONSLRG’s Real Estate Committee;
  • An event focused on the dynamics of community development, held at the Urban Studio Cafe with the Brown School of Social Work; and
  • Construction of a wheelchair ramp by neighborhood volunteers for a long-time resident who experienced complications after hip-replacement surgery.

All of this played out against the backdrop of a beautiful November day, which brought out throngs of visitors to the neighborhood, many of whom chose to wait in the long line out the door at ONSL’s favorite ice cream parlor / lunch spot, Crown Candy Kitchen.  See below for a sampling of photos from this extraordinary slice of community life in Old North St. Louis.

Metropolis visitors toured Crown Square, including ONSLRG's new space (in the background)

Metropolis visitors toured Crown Square, including ONSLRG's new space (in the background)

Graham Lane showed off the creative adaptation of warehouse space as a cool, loft-style home.

Graham Lane showed off the creative adaptation of warehouse space as a cool, loft-style home.

Nico Leone (in the white t-shirt) led a tour through the home he's rehabbing on Wright Street and pointed out that the stairs were built from timbers salvaged from a nearby warehouse.

Nico Leone (in the white t-shirt) led a tour through the home he is rehabbing on Wright Street and pointed out that the stairs were constructed from timbers salvaged from a nearby warehouse.

Macho Action Group volunteers cutting plywood and gathering materials for securing vacant buildings.

Macho Action Group volunteers cutting plywood and gathering materials for securing vacant buildings.

Boarding up a building on Palm Street, to keep it protected from the elements and vandals, so that it can survive long enough for a future rehab. Hey, isn't that Graham Lane again?

Boarding up a building on Palm Street, to keep it protected from the elements and vandals, so that it can survive long enough for a future rehab. Hey, isn't that Graham Lane, again?

ONSLRG's practicum student, Meghan Baer, was part of the program at the Urban Studio Cafe with other Brown School social work students.

ONSLRG's practicum student, Meghan Baer (in the purple shirt), helping set up at the Urban Studio Cafe for the program with her fellow students from Washington University's Brown School of Social Work.

The line at Crown Candy stretched out the door.

The line at Crown Candy stretched out the door.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Space for Old North St. Louis Restoration Group!

As of today, the big move has begun - and the first commercial tenant at Crown Square is ready to open for business.  This coming Wednesday, November 11, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group will switch phone service over from the corner of St. Louis Avenue and N. 14th Street to historically rehabbed space at 2700 N. 14th Street.  Although we’re only moving 1 block away, it’s a huge leap for the organization, which, for the first time in its 28-year history, will be operating out of space that reflects the historic rehab we promote and support.

The front of the building soon to be home of ONSLRG and the Crown Village Gallery.

The front of the building soon to be home of ONSLRG and the Crown Village Gallery.

The old Thomas Furniture building as it looked in 2006.

The old Thomas Furniture building as it looked in 2006.

The former Thomas Furniture building, which was previously a Worth’s Department Store, and prior to that, a Kroger grocery store, is one of the 27 buildings that have been fully rehabbed as part of the Crown Square redevelopment of the former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall.  Although the street work is still yet to be completed, 2700 N. 14th can be occupied now that water and sewer service have been connected. 

Workers were still making final touch-ups earlier today.

Workers were still making final touch-ups over the past few days, including at the front reception desk, which has been constructed with timbers from the former floor system of the building at 2612 N. 14th, & a stained & polished concrete counter top.

A view of the gallery from the front door.

ONSLRG's new space will include the Crown Village Gallery, which will serve as a venue for community events, art exhibits, various meetings, and educational programming.

 

Among the cool features are...

Among the cool features are sliding doors, made from salvaged maple floorboards, and repurposed windows saved from other buildings along 14th Street.

Come on by to see us, and grab a box or file cabinet from the old office and walk on down the sidewalk to our back door.  Until the street and front sidewalk work is finished, the entrance to our new space will be the back door, off the parking lot just east of 14th Street.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Old North

Since the last day of the North City Farmers’ Market coincided with Halloween, the end-of-season celebration included costume contests along with some of the other festivities, the fantastic live music, crafts from Old North, and the usual good deals on farm-fresh vegetables, baked goods, and meat.

The first of the two bands that heated up the chilly air.

The first of the two bands that heated up the chilly air.

Joe at the KDHX booth.

Joe at the KDHX booth.

James at the Black Bear Bakery booth.

James at the Black Bear Bakery booth.

Sarah at the Lee Farms booth.

Sarah at the Lee Farms booth.

The Princess & the Pumpkin

The Princess & the Pumpkin

Princess, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, dalmations and other creatures line up for the costume contest.

Princesses, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, dalmations and other creatures line up for the costume contest.

The Dinosaur and Wolverine celebrate their prizes.

The Dinosaur and Wolverine celebrate their prizes.

Some of the adults of the neighborhood celebrated Halloween the night before at a party hosted by Graham & V. Lane at their cool space in the former Ford Charcoal Warehouse.

Han Solo (Graham) and Princess Leia (V).

The spider (Tom) and his ladybug (Gloria).

The spider (Tom) and his ladybug (Gloria).

Graham showing off the features of his one-of-a-kind home.

Graham showing off the features of his one-of-a-kind home.

WHAT'S NEW IN OLD NORTH

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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