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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!

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 29th, 2009 at 5:21 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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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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