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.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 at 1:28 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.


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


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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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