Archive for December, 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Part 4 (and Final Installment) of Old North’s Amazing Year in Review

The previous three installments of this Old North Year in Review (click HERE for Part 3, which includes links to the previous two posts) have been spread over the past 3 days with a lot of events, developments, and other neighborhood happenings in Old North, but still left a good amount out.  So now, on the last day of 2011, we’ll try to cover a lot of ground and touch on everything else not mentioned in the previous 3 posts.

Old North’s comprehensive, neighborhood-wide revitalization has taken many years of hard work and has been showing positive results over the past several years.  One of the ways ONSLRG has helped make so many different pieces of the revitalization happen has been through recruitment and coordination of volunteers from outside the community to support the efforts of neighborhood residents.  Therefore, we need to thank all of those who came in to work with us throughout 2011.


As usual, we received a lot of help from students who worked with ONSLRG this year as interns or practicum students, including Melissa Danielle Alper (Coro Fellow), Sarah Belcher (Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis), Caleb Bess (Washington University), Alyssa Festenstein (WU), Miranda Gilstrap (WU), Molly Johnson (St. Louis University), Angela Kress (WU), Jim Schebek (SLU), Annie White (WU), and no doubt others that we’re failing to acknowledge.  Thank you to all for providing hundreds of hours of professional-level support in exchange for feedback and insights from the veteran members of our staff.

In August and September we hosted a group of volunteers affiliated with Volunteers for Peace, from Canada, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, South Korea, and Turkey, who helped with garden work, painting, vacant lot clean-ups, and numerous other projects.   Thanks also go out to James Anderson for housing the volunteers at his home and to Matt Fernandez for supervising their work.

Other volunteer groups helped with a broad range of activities, from painting the interior of the Old North Grocery Co-op by employees of Ernst & Young; neighborhood-wide clean-ups by St. Louis University students (some through Alpha Phi Omega and the Make A Difference Day of Service, and others through the law school’s orientation’s service day); 13th Street Garden work by Crossroads School students; and other groups.


A lot of the volunteer work throughout the neighborhood took place in community gardens or with clean ups or plantings at other public spaces, often coordinated by ONSLRG’s Green Space Committee led by Gloria Bratkowski, or volunteer leaders for specific gardens, such as Veronica Holden at the 13th Street Garden.  The 13th Street Garden received a new “junior high tunnel” (shown in the background on the left side of the photo above) and informational /educational signage courtesy of Gateway Greening.

In April, neighbors took to the streets, alleys, and vacant lots of the neighborhood as part of the annual Operation Brightside spring clean-up blitz.

Operation Brightside also provided additional assistance to Old North this year through support and volunteers for improvements at Wingmann Park, as planned and coordinated by Aida Rodriquez and Gloria Bratkowski, with Brightside Director Mary Lou Green joining us for a completion celebration at the House & Community Tour in May.

Meanwhile, Matt Fernandez recruited his brother Nick and other Boy Scout volunteers to take on clean up and new plantings at the community greenspace (sometimes referred to as the Enterprise Garden) at Blair and St. Louis Avenue.


ONSLRG’s Social Outreach Committee, with leadership from Thom Fletcher & Amy Corey, kept busy with Quality of Life meetings and exploring new ways to encourage community-building among new and long-term neighbors.  One tool for maintaining a safe and peaceful community is through a coordinated communication between neighbors and the police about neighborhood concerns.  This past summer, the committee worked to bring in 4th and 5th District police representatives to hold Neighborhood Watch trainings with neighbors and to establish a new communications vehicle with a new listserve for neighbors to exchange safety and crime prevention information.

Tours & Visits from Near & Far
Because of all of the visible progress achieved in Old North, we received a lot of visitors this year for presentations about our community-based and comprehensive approach to redevelopment and tours to see the results of our work.
In May we received another visit from a delegation of Russian community development professionals, who were here through to participate in a join program of University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Center for International Studies and East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
In June participants in the Agricultural Leadership of Tomorrow (ALOT) program from throughout the state came to Old North to learn about our healthy food initiatives and how ONSLRG has worked with the Missouri Dept. of Agriculture and Missouri farmers, such as Rusty Lee, to bring Missouri-grown products to urban consumers.
Numerous classes from different academic programs at St. Louis University, Washington University, University of Missouri St. Louis, Maryville University, McKendree University (in the photo above), the Principia, as well as urban planning grad students from Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago.
Local historian NiNi Harris once again brought several of her classes to Old North (including the group shown above in June), while Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office led a tour of Old North for the Missouri Historical Society in April.
In September we had a visit from university administrators in town for the North Central Cooperative Extension Association Annual Meeting, who came to learn how the University of Missouri has assisted ONSLRG on multiple community development initiatives.  Special thanks to Dave Baker, Assistant Dean at MU’s College of Agriculture and the planning efforts of Kay Gasen and Kara Lubischer of UMSL / UM-Extension.
One of the highlights of any neighborhood tour or presentation these days is the Old North Grocery Co-op, especially as an illustration of how Old North’s revival is about more than housing or historic preservation.  With research published earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors that shows that a grocery store is the #1 amenity Americans of all demographic categories would want in their neighborhood, Old North can take comfort in knowing that the community has its own grocery store which is getting better and better.   In 2011 the store received a visit by Dr. Roger Beachy, the director at the time of USDA’s National Institute on Food & Agriculture; the co-op surpassed its goal of 200 members (reaching 202 by Dec. 30);  and the building benefited from numerous improvements.
The most obvious changes happened on the exterior, with a wider, double-door opening and an ADA-compliant ramp to make the front entry more accessible, a fresh coat of bright paint across the St. Louis Avenue and 13th Street walls, and a new informational signboard at the entry (courtesy of St. Louis ArtWorks made possible by contribution from Missouri Foundation for Health to ArtWorks).  The co-op is owned by its members, who held their first annual meeting in July, but is operated by staff from ONSLRG, also thanks to a grant from MFH.  In 2011, the co-op began a more extensive planning process for reaching financial sustainability by the end of 2012 when MFH funding runs out.
Sometimes we’re called upon to share the story of Old North’s revitalization with audiences attending events well outside the neighborhood’s borders.  This year we took the show on the road to the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February (along with our partners from Trailnet); to the Society for American City & Regional Planning History conference in Baltimore in November (with UMSL History Dept. chair Andrew Hurley); and in March, Old North was included in one of the sessions at a conference a little closer to home on the topic of workforce housing and community development sponsored by FOCUS St. Louis and University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Because of Old North’s growing list of successful efforts at historic preservation, redevelopment of formerly abandoned spaces with new uses, including community gardens, and creation of new and positive amenities, such as the farmers’ market and the Old North Grocery Co-op, 2011 produced a bumper crop of recognition and awards for the neighborhood, including:
The St. Louis Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects presented ONSLRG with its Civic Stewardship Award in February.
In March Missouri Preservation presented its annual McReynolds Award in recognition of the several years’ worth of work toward historic preservation in Old North through the Crown Square and North Market Apartments redevelopments.  Staff from ONSLRG and RHCDA and architect Rob Wagstaff were on hand to receive the awards and legislative proclamations from State Rep. Penny Hubbard and State Sen. Robin Wright Jones at the State Capitol in Jefferson City.
In November, the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association presented its annual J. Timothy Anderson Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation to the Crown Square redevelopment (as reported in our Nov. 27 blog post).  Kathy Sorkin of the project’s architecture firm, Rosemann & Associates, represented the development team in picking up the award at NHRA’s national conference in Boston.
And, we were able to finish off the year with the announcement of EPA’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in December, with ONSLRG and the City of St. Louis receiving the “Overall Excellence Award” for the comprehensive revitalization of Old North, as reported here on Dec. 1 and with a follow up post on Dec. 3.
As noted throughout the past three “Year in Review” posts, none of the revitalization, nor the awards and other recognitions, could have happened without the support and contribution of multiple partners, sponsors, contributors, friends, and community members.  We especially want to thank the many individuals, companies, and foundations who came forward to help during this very difficult budget year.  Due to several unplanned funding cuts (including, but not limited to, federal funding reductions in block grant support to the City’s Community Development Administration), ONSLRG had to make a number of mid-year budget adjustments and programming cutbacks.
In August we held a benefit gathering with live music contributed by Bill Ash of the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, who recruited 3 of his former students (Ben Minden-Birkenmaier, Louis Makarewicz, & Lauren White) to perform with him as the Gateway Guitar Quartet for the event, while Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. donated a keg of beer.  Thank you Bill, Ben, Louis, Lauren, Urban Chestnut, and all of the individuals who attended, and all of those who responded to our appeals!
No listing of acknowledgments would be complete without noting how much ONSLRG owes to its dedicated Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and staff.  Many of you gave above and beyond the level of involvement your roles called for.  So, with this space we thank the following:
Board Members:
Constantino (Tino) Ochoa, Graham Lane, Grace Wachter, Kathryn Bentley, Gloria Bratkowski, John Burse, Amy Corey, David Eisenbraun, Tom Fletcher, Brian Krueger, Nico Leone, Sean Lowery, Kelli Owens, Kathleen Parvis, Ben Sever.
Advisory Board Members:
Ken Kranzberg, David Richardson, Pam Ross, Kathy Siddens, David Stiffler.
Staff at the Old North Grocery Co-op:
Sarah Kate Buckles, Ben Bowman, Melissa Breed, Joe Ploch.
Staff at the ONSLRG office:
Matt Fernandez, Jane Smith, Sean Thomas.
And for one last time in 2011, THANK YOU to all who have supported the many components of our comprehensive, neighborhood-wide revitalization strategy.  To help us continue that work throughout the coming year, please click HERE to make a secure, online tax-deductible contribution.
Friday, December 30, 2011

Part 3 of Highlights of Old North’s Event-Filled Year in 2011

On Wednesday and Thursday we reviewed Old North’s population gains, the new businesses that have set up shop in the heart of the community, and some of the events that took place in Old North this year.  (Click HERE to see Part 1 and HERE for Part 2) Now, we take a look back at even more events and high profile developments that took place in 2011…


The first ever Open/Closed conference in March held its opening and closing events with standing room only crowds at ONSLRG’s gallery in March, including a presentation by Juan William Chavez on bee colonies at the former Pruitt-Igoe site and a screening of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.

On September 29, the founding meeting of the Community Builders Network of Metropolitan St. Louis took place at ONSLRG’s gallery, with a convening of executive directors from community development corporations and key partners from throughout the St. Louis area.

The first-ever Old North Holiday Market took place on Dec. 17, thanks to great planning and coordination by our practicum student Molly Johnson.


Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates held their second annual exhibit at ONSLRG’s gallery from November 18 through December 11, this time featuring the work of two artists, including former Old North resident, Seitu James Smith (shown in the photo above).

Also for the second year in a row, Cinema St. Louis hosted several film screenings for students from schools in Old North (including Ames Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School, shown above) as part of their St. Louis International Film Festival.

In February the St. Louis Rescue & Restore Coalition held their exhibit, “Freedom from, Freedom to” at the ONSLRG Gallery to raise awareness about human trafficking and the fact that slavery still exists in our world.

Starting with an opening reception on September 1, the ONSLRG Gallery hosted the ReBuild Foundation’s “(en)Visioning Hyde Park” exhibit of photographs taken by young participants in their summer photography program.


Work finally got underway at the historic building at 1306 St. Louis Avenue, where a partnership between Ken Kranzberg and ONSLRG is rehabbing the long-abandoned building to accommodate Northside Workshop, a new community art center established by award-winning artist Juan William Chavez.  Watch for an opening in the spring of 2012.

Another art-themed public investment happened at the intersection of Warren and N. 14th Streets with the painting of a street mural by Lucas Rouggly and volunteers recruited through his Love the Lou organization.

Completion of Jackson Park Improvements & Ribbon-cutting Celebration… thanks especially to Miranda Gilstrap and Trailnet.

(Other green space work, including Wingmann Park improvements and 13th Street Community Garden work, will be in the next post.)

Habitat for Humanity continued their home-building in Old North with 12 homes under construction along N. 13th Street and along the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Clinton.

Due to time restrictions, that will have to do for today’s post.  But there still is much more to come.

And, as mentioned in the past two posts…THANK YOU to all who have supported the many components of our comprehensive, neighborhood-wide revitalization strategy.  To help us continue that work throughout the coming year, please click HERE to make a secure, online tax-deductible contribution.

We invite you to check back tomorrow for the final segment of the Old North Year in Review.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Highlights of 2011 in Old North - Part 2

We started reviewing the highlights of 2011in Old North with yesterday’s post with the spotlight on the neighborhood’s 28% population growth over the past decade.  (Click HERE to see Part 1of our Year in Review.)  Today, we take a look at some of the other developments that took place this year that have made Old North more sustainable and desirable with businesses and amenities within an easy walking distance for all neighborhood households, and easily accessible by bike or bus for those coming from outside the neighborhood.

The most notable development on this front has been the addition of several new businesses at the heart of Old North, including:

La Mancha Coffeehouse at 2815 N. 14th Street, owned and operated by the Holden Family, opened in the space formerly occupied by the Urban Studio Cafe.  Another highlight this year for this Old North gathering spot was the selection of Veronica Holden as “Best Barista in St. Louis” by Riverfront Times in their annual Best of St. Louis issue.

The Racq Salon & Spa at 2605 N. 14th Street, owned and operated by Racqueal Carter, opened over the summer.

Closet Repeats at 2603 N. 14th Street, owned and operated by Yvonne Reed, opened in August.

Rambles Gift Gallery & Boutique at 2611 N. 14th Street, owned and operated by Maria Falconer, opened in October, and is the most recent retailer to set up shop at Crown Square.

Perpetua Iron LLC, co-owned by Old North resident, Janet Sanders, opened its workshop at 2802 Blair, bringing a combined 50 years of metalworking experience to the craft of designing and fabricating custom wrought iron railings, fences, gates, fireplace screens, and other items.  Since they’re only available by appointment, visit their website at to see their work or to contact them.

Those new businesses have received a lot of warm support from Old North residents but also benefited from a steady stream of visitors who came to the neighborhood for various events throughout the year, including:

Several organized bike rides and tours that started in or passed through Old North, thanks to our friends at Trailnet, Great Rivers Greenway, and Gateway Greening.

One of the City of St. Louis’s Open Streets Days took place in Old North on October 8, thanks to collaborative efforts between ONSLRG, the Mayor’s Office, the City’s Office of Special Events, and numerous other groups (and special thanks to ONSLRG’s practicum student Molly Johnson).

Old North St. Louis House & Community Tour on May 14, which also included a new component…

the Old North Home Grown Street Festival (which, unfortunately, had to have much of its activities move indoors due to the cool and rainy whether on the street), featuring a lot of locally-produced arts, crafts, music, and other goods, and the traditional free Crown Candy ice cream for visitors to the tour.  Thank you to all of the vendors, exhibitors, volunteers, tour site hosts and homeowners who opened up for the tour, Crown Candy, dozens of tour sponsors (especially lead sponsor PNC), and, especially the event’s planning committee led by Kathleen Parvis.

And, from June through October 15, the 2700 block of N. 14th Street was the setting for our fifth season of the North City Farmers’ Market, which happened every Saturday morning.   Thank you to the vendors, the dozens of volunteers who helped with setting up and taking down the tables and tents week after week, the Market team (Cassandra Howard, Veronica Holden, Ivy Tominack, and the rest of the ONSLRG staff), and our primary funder, the Missouri Foundation for Health.

And, as mentioned yesterday, THANK YOU to all who have supported this ambitious agenda.  And, if you feel compelled to help us continue that work throughout the coming year, please click HERE to make a secure, online tax-deductible contribution.

2011 included so much more than all of this, so tune in tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 30) for Part 3 of the year that was in Old North.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays from Old North…& Part 1 of an Award-Winning Year in Review

As we wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and best wishes for the holiday season, this is also a good time to thank all of our friends, partners, and supporters who helped make possible another full year of events, awards, and new business openings in Old North.

Among the top stories of 2011, perhaps the biggest was the news that…


The Census Bureau released figures showing that Old North had reversed at least a half century-trend of population losses and actually grew by 28% between 2000 and 2010.  We start off with that bit of news because no matter how impressive anything else might be, Old North wouldn’t be a viable or sustainable community without people wanting to live there.

This achievement was made possible due to the efforts of many people and organizations over many years.  Part of the credit no doubt goes to the good folks at the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance (RHCDA) who agreed to partner with ONSLRG in producing housing units in parts of the neighborhood where no one was living in 2000.  It would seem to be obvious that a change from 0 residents at a particular parcel of land to ANY residents at all would result in a population gain, especially when multiplied numerous times throughout the neighborhood.  However, at least one published report about the neighborhood’s growth generated a few of skeptical comments from readers who clearly have not been in the neighborhood at all or at least in a long while.

While there’s no need to respond to every skeptic out there, it’s occasionally encouraging for us and our supporters to demonstrate what the changes have looked like in Old North.  And since a lot of our more recent photographic evidence has focused on vacant buildings transformed into nicely rehabbed homes, the following shots show new houses that have sprung up on formerly empty lots.

Other than the bragging rights that come along with positive Census numbers, more people also means more people power for community building.  We’re not just improving the streetscape of the neighborhood, we’re infusing the community with more social capital.  And for that, part of the credit goes to the long-term residents who have created a welcoming atmosphere that attracts others from outside the community, including many who could choose almost anywhere in the region.  So, part of the credit also goes to the people who have made that choice to move into a community that is still a work in progress and have quickly joined the efforts to make the community a better place.

This has been good news for Old North, but also good news for the City of St. Louis as a whole because some of these people have moved into Old North from outside the city limits - or even from outside the St. Louis Metro area.  People such as:

Nevels & Eulonda Nevels and their daughters, who moved into Old North from Richmond Heights.  The Nevels family contributed not only to the quality of life in Old North but also to the whole city through Eulonda’s job with the YWCA and Nevels’ teaching job at St. Louis Public Schools, which selected him as their “Teacher of the Year” for 2011.  (Watch for a future blog post about that later.)

Chicago native Tino Ochoa & his wife, Zoila Rendon.  Tino has taken on many volunteer responsibilities over the past 8 years or so in Old North, and because of his commitment and passion, he was recruited to serve as chair of ONSLRG’s social outreach committee, then to serve as a member of the executive committee, and most recently as ONSLRG’s Board President, while juggling law school, and now, his more than full-time job with law firm of Bryan Cave.  Meanwhile, when not supervising social work practicum students working for ONSLRG, Zoila has put her MSW to work at other non-profits, most recently assisting BJC Hospital.

Graham & Viveca Lane, who moved to Old North from Kansas - and quickly shared their discovery with a national audience through an article published in Money Magazine in January of 2008.  While Viveca has been answering the call of duty in the airs over foreign lands (including Libya), Graham has contributed countless hours of service to the community through neighborhood clean-ups, building-board-ups, various construction chores at the Old North Grocery Co-op, and as a board member - and now Board Vice President - with ONSLRG.

Ben & Heidi Sever, who moved into Old North from Webster Groves.  As an attorney and jewelry-maker, Ben and Heidi could have taken their talents just about anywhere, but they chose to move into Old North so that they could bring life and charm back to a crumbling, city-owned empty shell of a building on N. 19th Street, and chronicle the thrills and challenges along the way through a cool blog with a name that reflected the condition of the building at the time they took it on:  While Heidi brought a new jewelry-making business to the city, Ben has contributed much of his time to various neighborhood initiatives, and as chair of ONSLRG’s Real Estate Committee, has overseen (with Graham Lane) improvement efforts that require healthy doses of muscle and sweat (and thus, this band of volunteers has earned the name, The Macho Action Group).

Old North’s new residents have arrived from different directions and taken different paths that led to their new homes on the north side of the city, but the common denominators for many have been a desire to live in a community that is in the midst of a revitalization — and a desire to get involved with that process.  That doesn’t happen by chance.  Attracting people with talent and a sense of responsibility takes a lot of time and effort.  Marketing the community, providing assistance to current and prospective residents, and facilitating opportunities to get involved are just a few pieces of what Old North St. Louis Restoration Group does in pursuing a mission to “revitalize the physical and social dimensions of Old North in a manner that respects the community’s historic, cultural, and urban character.”  ONSLRG wouldn’t be able to do that work without consistent financial support over many years, including from the City’s Community Development Administration, and more individual, corporate, and foundation contributors than can be named in this space.  THANK YOU to all who have supported this ambitious agenda.  And, if you feel compelled to help us continue that work throughout the coming year, please click HERE to make a secure, online tax-deductible contribution.

Check back tomorrow for more of our list of highlights from 2011.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Join Us NOW at Old North Holiday Market (11-5 TODAY)

The first ever Old North Holiday Market is now open for business (and will continue until 5 p.m.)!

Participating vendors include…

Local author Amanda Doyle, with copies of her new book, “Finally! A Guidebook to St. Louis by and for St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood,” - and she’s ready to autograph one just for you and everyone on your gift list.

Jewels with Heart

Tiny Montgomery “jewelry, purses, handbags, accessories, geegaws and doodads”

Fable & Lore Necklaces + Sundries

Mound City Soap Company

Heidi Sever Handmade Jewelry

Sun Ministries

Old North St. Louis Restoration Group


La Mancha Coffeehouse

Work/Play Print Shoppe + Brand

and ReBuild Foundation, with copies of the book produced through the Urban Expressions project

…and much, much more.

Oh, and Santa’s here, too, until noon.

Come on by Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, 2700 N. 14th Street, just a block south of Crown Candy Kitchen.  And don’t forget to stop in and shop at the other stores and businesses at Crown Square.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Old North Holiday Market, Sat., Dec. 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. [Updated]

Enjoy shopping for the holidays at the first ever Old North Holiday Market, this coming Saturday, December 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group Gallery, 2700 N. 14th Street.

Participating vendors include:

  • Heidi Sever (with her handcrafted jewelry)
  • Cristin Rae
  • Cat Pic/Tiny Montgomery
  • Parsimonia (Beth Styles)
  • Kevin McCoy-Work/Play
  • Jewelry with a Heart/Rachna Goel
  • Sun Ministries
  • Yeyo Arts
  • Gloria Bratkowski
  • Dayna Kriz and Kids (from the ReBuild Foundation)
  • Mound City Soap/ Carolyn Brogdon
  • Fable and Lore/Chelsie Hellige

…and Amanda Doyle will be on hand to sell (and autograph!) copies of her new book, “Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis by and for St. Louisans, Neighborhood by Neighborhood.”

We’ve just confirmed that Santa Claus will make an appearance and will greet visitors of all ages from 11 a.m. until noon. Bring your camera and get a photo of the kids with Santa.

While you’re in the neighborhood, this will also be a convenient opportunity to take advantage of other holiday shopping opportunities up and down N. 14th Street, and around the corner at N. 13th Street and St. Louis Avenue.  As reported in earlier posts, you can find a great array of gift options at Closet Repeats (2603 N. 14th), the Racq Salon & Spa (2605 N. 14th), Rambles Gift Gallery & Boutique (2611 N. 14th), ONSLRG merchandise, such as t-shirts and mugs (2700 N. 14th Street), Poor Souls Society Art Gallery (2701 N. 14th), Therapy Boutique (2717 N. 14th), Crown Candy Kitchen (1401 St. Louis Avenue), La Mancha Coffeehouse (2815 N. 14th), and Old North Grocery Co-op (2718 N. 13th Street, at St. Louis Ave.).

For more information, visit the Old North Holiday Market Facebook event page, (and be sure to select the “Going” option at the upper right side of the page so that all of your friends will be inspired to join you!) and keep up with all of the latest news on Twitter: @HolidaysinONSL.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Smart Growth Award Attracts Media Spotlight & Other Positive Buzz for Old North

Since the announcement on Thursday that the revitalization of Old North had won this year’s Overall Excellence in Smart Growth Achievement from EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities, a number of news outlets and various websites and blogs have covered the story.

To see the video about Old North that was prepared for the award ceremony, click HERE.  In addition to Sean Thomas of ONSLRG, the video features comments from Archie Cole, owner of Head Hunters Barber & Beauty Salon; Veronica Holden, neighborhood resident and owner of La Mancha Coffeehouse; Graham Lane, neighborhood resident; and Maria Falconer, owner of Rambles Gift Gallery & Boutique.

Local radio stations St. Louis Public Radio and KMOX, aired stories about the award, and a couple of Post-Dispatch columnists (Deb Peterson and Tim Bryant) reported about it on their blogs (although the Post didn’t cover it in their print edition), as did the St. Louis American (which highlighted a congratulatory message from Congressman Lacy Clay).  Meanwhile, the St. Louis Beacon will include the news about the award in a more comprehensive article on the neighborhood, coming soon.

As visitors to ONSLRG’s Facebook page know, the most upbeat statement about Old North getting the Smart Growth Award, however, came from a source well outside the St. Louis area.  Kaid Benfield is one of the nation’s leading advocates for smart growth and someone whose job is to think about these issues related to sustainable development.  As director of the Sustainable Development & Smart Growth Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., Kaid reports on policies, programs, and developments across the country, as well as in other parts of the world.  After attending the awards ceremony in Washington on Thursday, Kaid wrote an article on “The Best Smart Growth Projects in America,” and referred to Old North as “one of the country’s very best revitalizing neighborhoods.”

The article by Kaid Behfield featured a photo of ONSLRG Board President Tino Ochoa and former 5th Ward Alderwoman April Ford Griffin at the 2010 Old North House Tour.

The article by Kaid Behfield featured a photo of ONSLRG Board President Tino Ochoa and former 5th Ward Alderwoman April Ford Griffin at the 2010 Old North House Tour.

Noting that his enthusiasm has grown since first learning about Old North a few years ago (from former ONSLRG board president John Burse), Kaid added the following assessment:

“Although Old North was all-too-recently considered by many to be a place to avoid, there is nowhere in the region that this writer would now rather be.”


“We are lucky to have other great revitalization stories in America, but I don’t know a better one.”

For the full story, click HERE.

Thanks again to all who made this award possible, including a long list of outside partners and supporters, the board and staff of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, and most of all, the determined, resilient, and generous residents of Old North who have contributed their time, energy, ideas, and passion over many years.

The Smart Growth Achievement Award recognizes the accomplishments to date and the process that got us here, but by no means does it mean that the job is done.  If you’d like to help us continue the revitalization of Old North, click HERE to make a tax-deductible contribution or click HERE to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Old North St. Louis Selected for National Award for Excellence in Smart Growth Achievement

This morning in Washington, D.C., the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities announced that the revitalization of Old North St. Louis is the winner of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.  The National Award for Smart Growth Achievement recognizes communities that have successfully used the principles of smart growth to preserve and enhance their quality of life while helping to protect public health and the environment.  Of the five projects or communities selected for awards this year, Old North was recognized with the Award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth.  St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Old North St. Louis Restoration Group executive director Sean Thomas were on-hand to receive the award from John Frece, Director of EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities.

The Award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth is the highest award under this program and “recognizes an outstanding comprehensive approach to growth, including built projects, supportive plans and policies, and effective community participation,” according to the selection committee.  The committee further notes that “This award is for the best overall approach to implementing smart growth on a variety of fronts—not just for a single plan or project, but at the neighborhood, corridor, city, county, or regional level.”  Last year’s Overall Excellence award recognized collaborative efforts among New York City’s Departments of Transportation, Health, Design & Construction, and Planning toward improving that city’s livability.

Among the factors that contributed to Old North’s selection was the neighborhood’s 28% population increase over the past decade.  A winning project not only shows that a comprehensive approach is in place, but that it has significant impacts.  Because the overall achievement award is not for one specific project but for the collaborative and strategic efforts over several years, credit for this achievement goes out to a wide range of groups and individuals who worked together on multiple projects.  On behalf of the Board and staff of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, we especially thank the residents of Old North who, over many years, have scraped together limited resources and put in countless hours of service to the community.

Specific initiatives that have contributed to the neighborhood-wide revitalization include the $35 million, 27-building Crown Square redevelopment of the former 14th Street Pedestrian Mal, and with it, 80 new households in an area that had largely abandoned and a growing number of new locally-owned businesses; the new homes at North Market Place and the historically-rehabbed North Market Apartments, which salvaged 9 previously crumbling, abandoned buildings; the cultivation and maintenance of community gardens throughout the neighborhood; the North City Farmers’ Market; and last year’s opening of the community-owned Old North Grocery Co-op.

Partners who have worked with ONSLRG to help make these great things happen include multiple agencies of City of St. Louis (such as the Community Development Administration, St. Louis Development Corporation, Land Reutilization Authority, Planning & Urban Design Agency, Cultural Resources Office), Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance, University of Missouri-St. Louis and MU-Extension; Missouri Foundation for Health, Ken & Nancy Kranzberg, Gateway Greening, Operation Brightside… and so many more than can be listed here.

Although this award recognizes past achievements, the real benefit is that it will help shed more light on an area that has even greater potential for more growth.  In fact, the work to continue the revitalization is already in progress.


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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