Archive for December, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ONSLRG Board President Tino Ochoa Selected for Business Journal’s 40 Under 40

Congratulations to Tino Ochoa, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group’s Board President, who was selected by the St. Louis Business Journal for inclusion in their latest class of “40 Under 40″ honorees!  The full St. Louis Business Journal issue with complete bios won’t be out until February, but the names were released yesterday by email and posted on their website.  Click HERE to take a look.

The photo above was when Tino received yet another award upon graduation from law school.  We'll get a new photo of him receiving the 40 Under 40 Award when that happens.

The photo above of Tino (with his wife Zoila) was when Tino received yet another award upon graduation from law school. We'll get a new photo of him receiving the 40 Under 40 Award when that happens.

The prestigious “40 Under 40″ honor goes each year to 40 individuals who are under the age of 40 and have earned recognition for significant contributions to the St. Louis area in various fields.  Tino’s predecessor as ONSLRG Board President, John Burse, was also a 40 Under 40 honoree several years ago.

We’ll post more information about the award when it gets published.  In the meantime, if you see Tino out and around the neighborhood, be sure to wish him congratulations!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

15 Land Lab Proposals Selected to Proceed to Next Round of Competition

As noted here previously, Old North St. Louis is the pilot neighborhood for a new initiative seeking creative ideas for sustainable uses of empty land in the city.  The Sustainable Land Lab competition, sponsored and led by Washington University’s Office of Sustainability and the City of St. Louis, is an open call for proposals from anyone who wishes to participate - and take responsibility for implementing their ideas.  Six lots in Old North have been identified, 4 of which will be selected.  Winning teams will receive $5,000 in funding to implement and maintain their projects as living laboratories, teaching tools, and regional sustainability assets for two years.

After receiving and reviewing 48 submissions, the jury for the competition announced yesterday their selections for proposals to advance to the second round of the competition.  The full list of 48 concepts submitted for consideration represented a broad range of innovative and inspiring ideas, including: habitat for pollinators, carbon sequestering landscape, pop-up business incubators, modular sustainable in-fill, engaging public spaces, platforms for sharing community resources, soil remediation, designs informed by ethnohistorical sustainability practices, on-site energy production, and much more.

Below are concept summaries of the 15 submissions (listed alphabetically) moving to the next round:

Bistro Box

Site Selection: Lot 6, 1303 Montgomery

Concept & Team Summary:

The Bistro Box concept is a small business incubator that transforms surplus cargo containers into a compact restaurant and culinary destination. Young chef entrepreneurs seeking to establish a reputation apply for a 1-year fellowship residence. A consortium of established local chefs advise the young chefs and promote the concept to assure its exposure and success. At completion of the residency, chefs prepare a business plan for post residency location within the neighborhood and a new chef is engaged. The program hires and trains young people from the neighborhood in culinary skills and uses locally sourced product. Lot 6 is the preferred site for the Bistro Box where synergies can be established with the Old North Grocery Store and garden and local employment opportunities can be provided for Haven of Grace residents.

The project team includes landscape architect Jim Fetterman, architect John Burse and chef/restaurateur Ben Poremba.

Carbon Carpet

Site Selection: Lot 4. 1318-24 Warren St

Concept & Team Summary:

Plant a native grass + forb garden using 5″ deep cell plant plugs. Mimic the pattern of a Persian Rug (hard geometry, bilateral symmetry) Provide a ‘living teaching lab’ for purpose of educating about carbon sequestration.

Chess Pocket Park

Site Selection: LOT 1, 2713 North 14th Street

Concept & Team Summary:

COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY supported through Chess Pocket Park – outdoor community chess venue for residents with a permanent location supporting our primary community asset – its people.

CHESS IS SUSTAINABLE. “According to research, test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities,” states 4-time World Champion Susan Polgar in an interview.

CHESS CAN BUILD A SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY. A location for a local chess club to combine chess lessons, community chess mentors, and a system of maintaining the grounds as part of the club ethic teaches sustainable lessons about systems and materials, community values, and strategic thought.

CHESS POCKET PARK SUSTAINABILITY will be devoted to a replicable model of simplicity and community strength. Utilizing community resources, sustainable design and construction features, chess lessons from the community and the Scholastic Center of St Louis, commitment from the community and local artists to develop art on the adjacent building and to participate in garden maintenance, our balanced team can partner with community leaders to develop the concept, focus on sustainable development, construct the park and garner public financial support.


Site Selection: Lot 5, 1300 – 06 Montgomery Street

Concept & Team Summary:

LAND LAB Proposal

Lessons from the Past


Eight hundred years ago the Mississippian culture thrived as one of the most advanced civilizations of its time. The culture was centered at Cahokia, across the Mississippi River from what we know to be St. Louis today. The culture established settlements throughout the region. At the homestead level, the Cahokians relied on strong kinship networks to provide for all basic human needs in what today would be called a model of sustainable living.

Today, much of sustainable design solutions and engineering strategies that address modern human needs tend to take a high-technology route. Our proposal is to demonstrate a pre-Columbian baseline to re-discover practices that supported life for thousands of years. The site will demonstrate practices and technologies that evolved over millennia to explore what we might have forgotten and to seek potential clues for sustainable urban redevelopment.


We propose a modern agricultural and sustainable living model, the premises for our approach rooted in regional history, the Mississippians and their ancestors, as well as modern permaculture practices. Using concepts of permaculture, the site would demonstrate the interdependent relationships that work efficiently and sustainably in nature and that worked for previous civilizations, from the soil to the birds, to humans.


The Land Lab concepts would serve as a model for not just urban homesteaders but for the community: a more sustainable agricultural model predicated on community relationships, biodiversity and natural, sustainable principles.

Team Lead: Christner Dan Jay Principal in Charge Laurel Harrington Director of Landscape Architecture Emily Wray Architect

Team Partner: Missouri Botanical Garden Deborah Chollet Frank

Team Resources: Ethno Botany: Missouri Botanical Garden; Habitat and Structures: Cahokia Mounds Historic Site; Data Mapping: Laurie Harmon, PhD, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse; Sustainability: Mary Ann Lazarus

CORE – Community Oriented Retail Enterprise

Site Selection: Lot 2, 2709 North 14th Street

Concept & Team Summary:

CORE is the Community Oriented Retail Enterprise. An economic opportunity for neighborhood residents to set up a light manufacturing and retail enterprise in a movable, temporary, green building that adds to residents understanding of the entrepreneurial cycle, from design to production and sales while keeping local dollars at home and pulling in revenue from outside the region. when it accomplishes its mission CORE moves on acting as an incubator till fledgling businesses can move into permanent structures.


Site Selection: Lot 4, 1318-1324 Warren Street

Concept & Team Summary:

Activating Capacities

We seek to develop design prototypes for parcel 4 which can be projected into a larger vision for re-modeling energy and water infrastructures at neighborhood and city scales. We seek to design an infrastructure that expands the term “land value” away from limiting monetary references and towards natural resource, environmental quality, social sustainability, livability and aesthetic concerns as well.

In North St. Louis, the urban geography is described by logics reliant on segregated, centralized energy production and distribution. This creates a fragmented landscape of charged and unequal zones dependent on a polluting and limited resource. Yet solar, wind and cellulosic energy are three types of renewable sources inherent to the Midwest and St. Louis region. Not only can these sources be harnessed for energy, but they can be used to remediate, bring community safety and public delight. Our project seeks to activate and build capacities on the site: Energy capacities, land and landscape system capacities, and community capacities.

Solar power (unlike conventional coal-fueled power) is capable of being stored and shared laterally. We ask, how can the development of sites and cities grow from a new, open-sourced (but ecologically complete) configuration of exchange and distribution?


Site Selection: Lot 5, 1300-06 Montgomery Street

Concept & Team Summary:

Shrinking cities can play a positive role in helping to reverse the damage of urban sprawl. Vacant properties can restore urban ecosystems by linking to a productive event chain that increases biodiversity and lowers carbon emissions by producing energy, recycling water, filling food deserts, promoting local business, and improving public health.

We have chosen to transform the existing greenfield in Lot #5 into a productive landscape and a public space. The intention is to share knowledge and strategies with local residents about how to cultivate and maintain a food producing garden while having a place to gather. Families, groups, and individuals will be encouraged to take responsibility over small garden areas.

In our proposed design, a grid is imposed to the lot, subdividing the site into zones. These areas are not only defined in plan but in section; the change in elevation helps determine its use. We have designed five concrete pavers that incrementally increase in porosity in response to different uses: walking, biking, playing/leisure, planting, etc. Open areas will be planted with various vegetables and plants for the residents’ consumption and sale. We also propose to build a light structure to provide shade for a produce stand and storage.


Site Selection: Lot 5, 1300-06 Montgomery Street

Concept & Team Summary:

Access to information, education and people can be leveraged to increase life opportunities. Areas of vacant land separate people and limit gathering opportunities essential to building community, exchanging knowledge, and networking.

NEXtUS! is a location-specific knowledge and community-building gateway built around five primary components:

• Technology Hearth

• Gathering Place

• Shade and Energy Structure

• Active Learning Area

• Site Amenities

The Technology Hearth is a durable electronic portal to virtual educational and informational content selected for potential interest, meaning and effect in a given area. “What’s NEXt? During non-programmed periods, the Tech Hearth is opened to future NEXtUS! Tech Hearths and web nodes for cultural exploration – “Who’s NEXt?”

The Gathering Place surrounds the Technology Hearth and provides seating, leaning and standing areas for program guests and discussion events.

The Shade and Energy Structure protects the gathering area and provides energy for the Technology Hearth.

The Active Learning Area attracts younger ages, and supports those wishing to partake in TH program events. Recycled tires and berms are organized to produce an active learning and play experience.

Site Amenities enhance the NEXtUS! location and leverage natural systems to manage rainwater, heat island, and create a defined sense of place.

Who’s NEXt? US!

R & B

Site Selection: Lot 1, 2713 N. 14th street

Concept & Team Summary:

We propose a modular, mobile resource center for materials and knowledge for neighborhood residents, property owners, businesses, employees and volunteers. This resource center is based on standard shipping containers (10’, 20’ and 40’ lengths) that are dropped into any accessible location and can be camouflaged to blend in. Using a central location where resources can be shared is much more sustainable model than individual ownership of such items, whether one is talking about tools (for residential construction, gardening, vehicle repair, information technology), infra-structure (bicycles, cars, WiFi, emergency generators), or know-how (instructional literature, lessons-learned, training, exhibits, meetings). This concept supports the triple bottom-line of economic, environmental and societal benefits.


Resources are made available that stimulate investment in “the neighborhood”. Money is not spent on resources that are used infrequently (tillers? Snow blowers?).


Reducing consumption by sharing instead of hoarding has far-reaching environmental benefits reaching all the way back up the supply chain. Promote the dissemination of sustainable practices at the local level.


Humans interacting by sharing knowledge and resources is fundamental to improving the human condition. Our concept proposes to do this within the context of sustainable neighborhood development.

Renewing Roots Urban Farm

Site Selection: Lot 6, 1303 Montgomery Street

Concept & Team Summary:

Renewing Roots Urban Farms is a scalable urban agriculture network that proposes to transform blighted lots into cost efficient models of sustainability.This proposal outlines a project that can be economically viable within the 24 month demonstration period and allows for rapid expansion. Implementation will allow us to meet increasing demand for local produce, provide education and employment, and lay an economic framework for social and environmental responsibility. Recognition by the Land Lab will foster public involvement as we refine emerging methods to find the most efficient process for decentralized farming in North St. Louis City. Our team consists of an engineer, a biologist, a renewable energy educator, a chef and IT Manager and a real estate developer whose synergistic vision will gain momentum and increase collaborative opportunities.


Site Selection: Lot 3, 2613 N. 14th Street

Concept & Team Summary:

Old North St. Louis is a neighborhood rich in potential, but limited in access to resources. To increase accessibility for neighborhood residents, connect Old North to the larger St. Louis area, and build on the growing bike culture in the City, we propose the establishment of shiftUP at 2613 N. 14th St. (Lot 3). shiftUP would be a community space to rent, maintain, and learn about bicycles.

As a bike hub, shiftUP would encourage bikers from other parts of St. Louis to visit Old North and interact with the community. Direct benefits to Old North residents include free rentals, increased access to resources, improvements in health, and community education. Bike rentals to visitors would generate income for financial sustainability. shiftUP has the potential to pioneer a community-based bike share model that could be replicated in communities both within the city of St. Louis and nationwide. shiftUP is what St. Louis needs now to grow as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and connected community. shiftUP is designed by a committed team with unique perspectives and skills in community development and design: Laura Halfmann, MSW; naomi warren, JD/MSW; Ross Welch, M. Arch; and Kate Wilson, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Washington University.

Sustainable Nectaring Garden

Site Selection: Lot 5, 1300-06 Montgomery Street

Concept & Team Summary:

We propose to convert the vacant lot addressed as 1300-06 Montgomery Street into a nectaring garden composed of native perennial plants that carry out extended seasonal flowering to provide local bees, butterflies and hummingbirds with the food plants that they require.

The Sunflower+ Project

Site Selection: Lot 4, 1318-24 Warren Street

Concept & Team Summary:

The Sunflower+ Project: StL proposes turning previously developed urban lots into a community asset through the planting of sunflowers. With a goal of eventually spurring redevelopment of these vacant parcels, the project will serve as an appropriate, scalable, and productive transitional solution. An experiment in the realms of phytoremediation, public art, public health, education and sustainability, the project will beautify the neighborhood and enhance the usability of the land in a low impact, low cost, and entrepreneurial manner. Using Lot #4, we propose planting a field of sunflowers with a repurposed rubble wall intervention marking the historic foundation line that would serve as a didactic tool for learning about history and sustainability. In addition to brightening the neighborhood, the sunflowers will serve the practical task of phytoremediation of the soil, while offering the potential for development of food or fuel products that could provide a source of local income. Alternative plantings will also be used to promote the remediation process year round. The Sunflower+ Project: StL is led by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in urban redevelopment, sustainability, horticulture, soils analysis, environmental air quality analysis, masonry, graphic design and communications, civil engineering and organic farming.

Urban Remediators

Site Selection: Site 2, 2709 N. 14th Street

Concept & Team Summary:

We aim to demonstrate that vacant lots can be aesthetically landscaped to provide self-maintaining public gathering spaces that not only heal the soil, but also help improve the health of the community. We would like to test the ability of bioremediation and permaculture techniques to improve the health of the urban soil by implementing an interactive living landscape that doubles as a community gathering space, and that addresses the deficiencies and contaminants present; regular monitoring of soil composition would be used as a tool for dynamically tailoring natural elements.

The project would provide a living “store front”-like demonstration area along the 14th street mall and a more intimate setting (should the residents request it) towards the back of the lot near apartment entrances. Community members would contribute not just to the design process, but also to the personality of the site through decorative elements such as sculptures, murals, or drawings on man-made site components. Our team would be successful in this undertaking because it is strongly interdisciplinary and all members are actively working on and committed to St Louis community engagement projects.

Urban Beautification Warriors

Site Selection: Lot 3, 2613 N. 14th Street

Concept & Team Summary:

PROJECT PROPOSAL: We propose that this space be transformed into a giant walk-through kaleidoscope. The area can be used for many purposes; i.e.: event space, party rental, concerts, plays, wedding venue, etc. Our goal is to use as many re-purposed items as possible. We would like to get most of them from the Old North St. Louis area.

The wood planks we would use would be passed out to neighborhood stakeholders to decorate, paint, and carve, into something unique to add to the benches and stage. This would be a way to give the neighborhood pride in their new attraction and a way to participate in building a community gathering area.

This setting could be replicated in many themes. Bicycles; candy land; city museum-like sculpture pass through; cultural themes; murals that look like you are walking through another city (Venice, New Orleans, Hollywood, NYC)… all aiming at becoming an attraction to event planners as wedding venues and photography backdrops.

Links to the full proposals and a complete listing of all of the proposals received, organized by the vacant lot they selected, can be found at the Sustainable Land Lab Competition site or by clicking HERE.  Because the full submissions included a great deal more detail and images (including some with links to videos) than space would allow for us to re-post here, please follow the link above to learn more about these creative proposals.  We’d love to get some feedback from Old North residents and other stakeholders - so please share your comments here (by clicking on the LEAVE A COMMENT link at the left side of  the top of this post) or by sending us an email at the ONSLRG office:

Teams representing the fifteen proposals chosen to move on to Round 2 will be required to submit additional information by January 28, 2013 and will be expected to address (in further detail) the following criteria:

  • Creativity of concept, innovative solution;
  • Connectivity to the City’s sustainability plan and regional context;
  • Integration of diverse factors, including, but not limited to water, food, energy, waste, social justice, art, economy and community;
  • Response to unique site characteristics and local community context;
  • Team qualifications;
  • Replicable idea; and
  • Scalability of concept.
Saturday, December 15, 2012

Old North to Receive Additional Support for Arts-Related Community Revitalization

As reported in the St. Louis Beacon on Wednesday, Old North St. Louis is one of four St. Louis neighborhoods that have been selected to receive support (including possible financial investments) for continued arts-related initiatives.  Click HERE to see the article in the Beacon, “Four neighborhoods chosen for Kresge ‘embedded arts’ help“.

The article notes that “the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, in tandem with the Regional Arts Commission and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, will direct research in each neighborhood. The goal is to determine what programs and partnerships could be developed specific to each area to help spur the community revitalization, the development of effective health and human services and a growth in grassroot arts movements.”

Among the factors that led the committee to select Old North were the neighborhood’s “mix of existing arts organizations, high walkability and economic and racial diversity” and the presence of  ”the prolific Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, high amount of historic rehab tax credits, largely residential.”  (We’re not sure if that choice of words describing ONSLRG came from the reporter or the committee that selected Old North, but we thank whoever it was for the compliment.)

Stay tuned for more news on this initiative as it unfolds.  In the meantime, come on out to enjoy the neighborhood’s wonderful arts-rich environment made possible by generous investments of time and effort from many neighborhood residents and financial support from several sources, including Regional Arts Commission, Missouri Arts Council, Equifax Foundation, and Ken & Nancy Kranzberg.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group Gallery continues to be a venue for various exhibits, film screenings, and other arts events.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group Gallery continues to be a venue for various exhibits, film screenings, and other arts events.

Outside arts organizations, such as Metro Theater Company, have found Old North to be a welcoming community for their programs.

Outside arts organizations, such as Metro Theater Company, have found Old North to be a welcoming community for their programs.

Community events, such as our annual Old North House & Community Tour and HomeGrown Street Festival, often include music, dance, and other performing arts.

Community events, such as our annual Old North House & Community Tour and HomeGrown Street Festival, often include music, dance, and other performing arts.

Ames Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School continues to play a role as an important neighborhood anchor in Old North.

Ames Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School continues to play a role as an important neighborhood anchor in Old North.

St. Louis ArtWorks opened a satellite programming site at Crown Square this past summer.

St. Louis ArtWorks opened a satellite programming site at Crown Square this past summer.

La Mancha Coffeehouse often features works by local artists on their walls.

La Mancha Coffeehouse often features works by local artists on their walls.

William Burton and other artists affiliated with the 14th Street Artist Community often can be found at 2701 N. 14th Street.

William Burton and other artists affiliated with the 14th Street Artist Community often can be found at 2701 N. 14th Street.

This year saw the completion of the rehab of 1306 St. Louis Avenue and the opening of Juan William Chavez's Northside Workshop art center.

This year saw the completion of the rehab of 1306 St. Louis Avenue and the opening of Juan William Chavez's Northside Workshop art space.

The intersection murals painted through efforts of Love the Lou are recent examples of public art in Old North.

The intersection murals painted through efforts of Love the Lou are recent examples of public art in Old North.

If you’d like to support existing arts initiatives or programming in Old North or to explore some ideas for new initiatives, give us a call at the ONSLRG office at 314-241-5031 or send an email to us at

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Old North Week in Review: Visit by Mayor Slay, Holiday Market, Welcome to New Neighbors, etc.

We’ve been too busy lately to post more regular updates on the blog, so this “week in review” will have to serve as an after-the-fact report on some of our recent highlights.

Mayor Slay Pays a Visit to Old North

On Thursday Mayor Francis Slay and his entourage of development officials (including St. Louis Development Corporation Executive Director Rodney Crim, Deputy Executive Director Otis Williams, and Director of Real Estate Laura Costello) stopped by the Old North Neighborhood Open Meeting to report on recent and upcoming developments of interest to residents of Old North.  Updates included status reports on the Mississippi River Bridge (scheduled for completion in Feb. 2014) and the Tucker Boulevard reconstruction (which should be open to traffic by summer 2013); neighborhood safety initiatives (such as efforts related to the Neighborhood Ownership Model); and the City’s Sustainability Plan.

Another Highly Successful Old North Holiday Market

On Saturday ONSLRG hosted our second annual Old North Holiday Market at the former Parks Drug Store building, with dozens of craft vendors, face-painting, holiday music (courtesy of Fresh Anointing Church and a group from Washington University), and a visit from Santa Claus.

Thanks to ONSRG’s community engagement specialist, Claire Wolff, our practicum students, Leslie Duling, Lindsey Forsythe, and Emily Sheffield-Wilson (& Molly Johnson, last year’s practicum student who was largely responsible for the great market last year and who came back to help with set-up this year), all of the other volunteers (including several ONSLRG board members, such as Graham and Ben, in the photo above), and all of our wonderful vendors for a great day!

Old North Featured as “Island of Revitalization” at State of Neighborhoods Forum

On Wednesday, Old North St. Louis was one of three neighborhoods represented on a panel of respondents at a forum addressing the “State of Neighborhoods” in St. Louis.  The forum, sponsored by the Community Partnership Project at UMSL, working in cooperation with University of Missouri Extension and co-sponsorship of the Des Lee Collaborative Vision, Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, and the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations (SLACO), started with a presentation by UMSL Professor Todd Swanstrom, which compared St. Louis with several other cities on various trends that affect neighborhood conditions, outlined several factors that contribute to neighborhood revitalization, and identified Old North as one of about a dozen “islands of revitalization” in the St. Louis area.  ONSLRG executive director Sean Thomas was one of three neighborhood development organization representatives on the panel responding to Professor Swanstrom’s presentation.  For a more detailed report on the forum, click HERE for the article in the St. Louis Beacon.

Welcome to Harris Family, New Homeowners on North Market

Among the factors earning Old North a spot on the list of neighborhoods recognized for their revitalization was the 28% population gain over the past decade.  Despite the slowdown in the real estate market, that trend has continued over the past couple years.  One of the more recent examples is the Harris Family who moved into Old North just before Thanksgiving and now occupy a home on North Market, a parcel of land that had not had any residents in several decades.  Welcome to Old North! And thanks for helping us to continue growing the neighborhood’s population!

Rehab Lenders at Neighborhood Open Meeting

Meanwhile, we continue to seek ways to support existing homeowners and identify resources to help others come into the neighborhood as rehabbers.  At last week’s Old North Neighborhood Open Meeting, representatives from several lending institutions came out to share information about their loan products appropriate for covering purchase and/or rehab of historic homes in Old North.  For information about these resources or to get contact information for these individuals from Bank of America, First National Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells-Fargo, contact Matt Fernandez, ONSLRG’s community development specialist at 314-241-5031, ext. 101 or

Deadline Approaching for Sustainable Land Lab Competition

This past week also brought a number of visits to the neighborhood by individuals and teams looking at the six vacant lots in the Crown Square area that are part of the Sustainable Land Lab Competition.  The competition, co-sponsored by Washington University’s Office of Sustainable Development and the City of St. Louis, will culminate with the selection of teams who have the most compelling plans for sustainable re-use of four of the lots.  The deadline for the first round of submissions is Dec. 10.  The competition brief can be downloaded by clicking HERE.


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.

  • RSS

    Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed (what's this?)