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.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2011 at 9:57 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.


"Part 4 (and Final Installment) of Old North’s Amazing 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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