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Archive for March, 2010

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Fooling - Sidewalks Are Being Poured Along 14th St.

The de-mallification of N. 14th Street is in progress.  Yesterday the first portion of new sidewalk was poured along the Montgomery Street side of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group’s new office - and the framing is in place for the east side of the 2700 block of N. 14th to get its new sidewalk on Thursday. 

Digging out the remnants of the former pedestrian mall and preparing for the new sidewalk required the removal of the construction fence along the finished and occupied apartments at 2712-14 N. 14th Street.  So, for the first time in a long time, we again have an unobstructed view down the east side of N. 14th Street.

More of this will be put into place over the next few days, which means you’ll soon be able to walk down the street to admire all of the historically rehabbed buildings up close - and start picking out your favorite commercial space for your business.  And if you happen to know of a business that is ready for new space, the good folks at Duffe-Nuernberger Realty are standing by ready to take your call.  Susan Sauer (314-571-7654), Paul Sauer (314-660-2852), or Michele Duffe (314-571-7646) would be happy to help you find the space that suits your needs.

Friday, March 26, 2010

North 14th Street Sidewalk & Street Work in Progress

For those who were beginning to doubt that the street was ever going to come, this week has provided visible proof that the Crown Square redevelopment does, indeed, include putting the street back in.  The following pictures show the work under way over the past couple days.

The view from inside the ONSLRG office.

The view from inside the ONSLRG office.

Kevin from RVWagner Construction was part of the crew that closed the street and converted 14th Street into a pedestrian mall in the 1970s; now he's part of the RVWagner crew digging up the mall to put the street back in.

Kevin from RVWagner was part of the crew that closed the street and converted 14th Street into a pedestrian mall in the 1970s; now he's back on the scene as part of the crew digging up the mall to make way for the return of the street.

 

The cross-street of Montgomery is getting opened up, as well.

The cross-street of Montgomery is getting opened up, as well.

The view from Warren.

The view from Warren.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office has become a popular spot to watch the action.  A reflection of Johnnie Owens can be seen in the glass.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office has become a popular spot to watch the action. A reflection of Johnnie Owens can be seen in the glass on the left.

Joe Sweet is stopping by every day to check on the progress.

Joe Sweet is stopping by every day to check on the progress.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Old North’s “Authorized Census Questionnaire Assistance Center”

As the sign on the construction fence at N. 14th and St. Louis Avenue says, the former Parks Drug Store building at 2720 N. 14th Street (at Crown Square) is serving as an “Authorized Census Questionnaire Assistance Center.”  What this means is that if you are experiencing any problems filling out your Census form that you should have received in the mail by now, you can stop in to get help from a real person Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon. through April 19.

Visitors to the Authorized Census Questionnaire Assistance Center will be greeted by Old North resident Heidi Sever, who has been trained to answer questions about the Census.  Please spread the word and send your neighbors by to thank Heidi for her service to the community.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The Word on the Street… Work is about to Begin!

The final piece of the Crown Square redevelopment of the former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall is finally about to be put in place.  After more than a couple years of work rehabilitating 27 buildings spread over 8 blocks and countless hours in construction meetings and coordination of work with scores of contractors, subcontractors, investors, city, state, and federal agencies, the only thing left to be done is putting the street back in.  As of this week, the Missouri Dept. of Transportation has issued their long-awaited ”notice to proceed” - which means that early next week construction crews will get started on the work of building new sidewalks, installing street lights, planting trees, and paving a new street! 

We’re all a bit reluctant to project a completion date since the weather remains a factor beyond our control, but the sight of construction crews hard at work will be a great relief for all of us in Old North St. Louis who were getting tired of answering the daily question of “when’s the street coming?”  Rest assured that a huge celebration will be planned for the grand re-opening and, whether complete or almost-complete, the Old North St. Louis House & Community Tour on May 8 will feature the tremendous progress on and off the street.

While residents and visitors alike may be growing tired of this view, they can start spreading the word that the end is in sight -- and it's still better than the way things used to be (below).

While residents and visitors alike may be growing tired of this view, it still is better than the abandoned mall lined with deteriorated and collapsing buildings not too long ago (below).

Almost three years ago, this was a typical view of the buildings along the 2600 and 2700 blocks of N. 14th Street.

So, once again, thank you all for your patience - but we especially want to express our gratitude for all who are making this phenomenal transformation possible, including all current and past staff at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and our development partners, Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance (RHCDA), architects at Rosemann & Associates, contractors at E. M. Harris Construction Co. and their many subcontractors, the new contractors on the block from R.V. Wagner, and too many funders/investors and public officials to list here (we’ll get to that in a future post) — and special thanks to all at MODOT for approving this final and crucial piece!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Habitat for Humanity Starts New Project in Old North

On Friday morning Habitat for Humanity held its “First Nail” Celebration as the ceremonial start for their new project which will bring 17 new environmentally-friendly, owner-occupied homes to Old North St. Louis over the next 6 months or so.   The event included greetings from local, state, and federal officials, as well as a welcome to the neighborhood by ONSLRG Board President Tino Ochoa. 

ONSLRG board members (from left to right) Gloria Bratkowski, Johnnie Owens, and Tino Ochoa endured the slight drizzle berfore the program.

ONSLRG board members (from left to right) Gloria Bratkowski, Johnnie Owens, and Tino Ochoa endured the slight drizzle berfore the program.

Habitat for Humanity's Executive Director Kimberly McKinney expressed her excitement about being in Old North.

Habitat for Humanity-St. Louis executive director Kimberly McKinney, expressed her excitement about the start of construction in Old North and the recent award from the Home Depot Foundation for HfH-STL's sustainable design features.

Tino Ochoa emphasized how the Habitat home-owners will be joining a neighborhood that already is enjoying a good deal of positive development with Crown Square, the upcoming grocery co-op, and much, much more.

Tino Ochoa emphasized how the Habitat home-owners will be joining a neighborhood that already is enjoying a good deal of positive development with Crown Square, the upcoming grocery co-op, and much, much more.

Dignitaries and future homeowners (including a few current Old North residents) hammer the first nails into the framing that will go up at one of the first houses on the 1900 block of Hebert.

Dignitaries and future homeowners (including a few current Old North residents) hammer the first nails into the framing that will go up at one of the first houses on the 1900 block of Hebert.

And in a symbolic gesture of the teamwork and support this project requires, the group collectively raises the first wall.

And in a symbolic gesture of the teamwork and support this project requires, the group collectively raises the first wall.

To learn more about this project, to volunteer, and/or to get on Habitat’s list of prospective homeowners, call 314-371-0400.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Old North Co-op Gets Help from Student Volunteers

When the Old North Grocery Co-op finally opens for business toward the end of June, the list of people to thank will be quite long.  One of the most recent additions to that list is a group from the John Carroll University chapter of Students Today Leaders Forever who rolled into Old North from Cleveland this past Monday morning.  These college students were on a cross-country tour as part of an alternative spring break in which they spent some time taking part in service projects in different cities each day.

While in Old North, these students helped out with a lot of the messy work of interior clean-up (or clean-out) at the building that will house the co-op.  The photos below show just a sampling of the day’s activities as the 40 or so volunteers mobilized to begin the process of transforming the former horseradish factory into a neighborhood grocery store.

With hardhats, goggles, and face-masks, this crew prepared to remove an obsolete kitchen and open up some space. The photo below shows the progress achieved in just a couple hours of work.

With hardhats, goggles, and face-masks, this crew prepared to remove an obsolete kitchen and open up some space. The photo below shows the progress achieved in just a couple hours of work.

 

The building still has a long way to go before it’s ready for opening day, but thanks to the energetic and committed group from Students Today Leaders Forever, we got a great start last week.  We’ll continue to report here about other sources of support that are being made available for this great community-building and public health initiative.  In the meantime, if you’d like to pitch in with future work days or contribute in other ways, contact the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group at 314-241-5031 or send an email to info@onsl.org.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

ONSLRG Welcomes Matt Fernandez as new Community Development Specialist

This week ONSLRG welcomed Matt Fernandez as the organization’s new Community Development Specialist, which means Matt now is getting paid to show up for work every day, after the past several months as a part-time contract worker and two previous stints as an intern. 

On his first full day on the job, Matt shows his willingness to do the dirty work of community development

On his first full day on the job, Matt showed his willingness to do the dirty work of community development.

Already known to many in the neighborhood through his involvement in various projects over the past several years, Matt has been able to hit the ground running due to his familiarity with the community, the organization, and the broad range of issues affecting Old North.  Meanwhile, Matt’s educational background is uniquely suited for working with us, not just because he has an undergrad degree in Urban Affairs and a master’s degree in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development.  While those degrees are good training for neighborhood development work anywhere, Matt took that one step further and made Old North St. Louis the focus of his research throughout his education, including using his Master’s program “capstone project” to explore redevelopment options for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home area.  In addition to his two internships with us, Matt also worked at Landmarks Association while he was in grad school and gained significant experience working on preservation issues.

One important part of the job of the Community Development Specialist is to meet with prospective homebuyers and/or people interested in rehabbing opportunities in Old North.  As someone who has purchased a vacant, deteriorated building in the neighborhood and is in the midst of his own major rehab project, Matt can speak with credibility about the attraction of the neighborhood – and can offer firsthand insights about the process of putting together and managing a project.  And, with direct experience with the challenges of construction & historic rehab, Matt can speak the language of the construction contractors and development partners we have to deal with in our current and future projects.

Another key factor in Matt’s selection was his demonstrated willingness to do whatever needs to be done – whether that means mopping the floor, carting tables and chairs, swinging a hammer, scheduling an appointment with an appraiser, or meeting with a real estate agent at odd hours.  Matt was able to put those skills to work on his first full day on the job, this past Monday when an army of 40 college students arrived to tackle some of the interior clean-out of the future Old North Grocery Co-op building.

Matt (in the brown jacket) providing last-minute instructions to the volunteers from Students Today-Leaders Forever on Monday.

Matt (in the brown jacket, back to the camera) providing last-minute instructions to the volunteers from Students Today-Leaders Forever on Monday.

If you’d like to send your own welcome to Matt - or ask him about homebuying or rehab opportunities in Old North, send him an email at Matt@onsl.org or give him a call at the ONSLRG office, 314-241-5031, ext. 101.

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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