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Archive for the ‘Johnnie Owens’ Category

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

It’s Time for a Change

A Message from Sean Thomas, Executive Director
Old North St. Louis Restoration Group
Thank you!
I can’t think of any other way to start this message other than to say thank you to so many of you who have been a part of my work at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group over the past 12 years. Those years have been thrilling, nerve-wracking, awe-inspiring, a lot of fun, occasionally frustrating, and so much more - and sometimes all of that in the course of one day. However, this roller coaster ride has to end sometime. That end is now on the horizon, although the exact date of my last day as ONSLRG’s Executive Director is still to be determined. I want to finish up some commitments and be here to celebrate some of the big events on our calendar, such as the Old North House & Community Tour on Sat., May 7, so, I’ll be around for a little while.  Even after I’m off the payroll, I look forward to continuing my support for the work of ONSLRG in whatever way is helpful. At the very least, I can assure you that you’ll see me periodically at Crown Candy, La Mancha, North City Farmers’ Market or Old North’s First Friday Art Walks.
As I begin the process of winding down my duties, cleaning out my desk, and passing along my responsibilities, I want to pause to acknowledge some of the people who helped bring about so many of the incredible things that have taken place in Old North.
I have had the privilege and honor of having the best seat in the house to witness a genuine, community-driven transformation that has been called “one of the country’s best revitalization stories.”
The highlight reel of all that I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of at ONSLRG could go on for hours, so I’ll have to settle for the following:
I.  A baker’s dozen of memorable moments, events, and developments (& the people behind them) from the past dozen years;
II. A brief summary of the reasons to be excited about Old North’s future; and
III. A few suggestions for how YOU can help support the ongoing revitalization of Old North.
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12 (+1 more for good measure) Highlights of Developments, Neighborhood Changes, & Groups of People that I Am Thankful to Have Been a Part of…
1. North Market Place Homes
The list has to start with the North Market Place new homes, for two reasons: (1) that development represented, at the time, the single biggest and most visible sign of new investment in Old North in many years, and consequently served as a catalyst for a lot of the other positive developments that followed; and (2)  because by the time I started with ONSLRG in 2003, the community had already been working on the plan for several years - and residents of the community were adamant that this new development would reflect and respect their values and vision for the community. Many pieces had to come together to make it happen, including finding the right partners with capacity, but it all started with a vision and a plan crafted by the community, facilitated by members of ONSLRG’s Board and staff, including John Burse, Will Winter, and Tom Tschetter.
That project was made possible by more people and organizations than can be listed here, but key players from outside Old North included staff who were at Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance at that time, notably David Dodson, Aaron Burnett, and Lloyd Simms, who spent a good chunk of the next several years working with us on North Market Place and two subsequent projects. All of those deals were complicated, but David, Aaron, and LLoyd were always respectful and collaborative in working with their community-based partners.
2.  North Market Apartments
The next game-changer in Old North was the North Market Apartments, which involved rescuing multiple historic buildings that were well on their way to complete collapse. The transformation of those 9 eyesores into 32 decent, attractive, and affordable rental apartments sent a powerful message to residents and visitors alike that something big was going on in Old North. That development also provided a good case study of how affordable and attractive rental housing not only can be compatible with market-rate, for sale housing, it can also boost the sales of new homes.
Because of the success with attracting investment and people to new houses and rehabbed apartments in the North Market area, and the track record of a good partnership between ONSLRG and RHCDA, combined with the talent and skill of general contractor, E.M. Harris Construction Co., the next big thing to follow was probably the largest and most complicated development deal any of us will ever be a part of…
3.  Redevelopment of the Former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall into Crown Square.
I can’t say enough about that project, but it will forever be a highlight of my career, not just because of the scale of the $35 million, 27-building development but because of the phenomenal team of people who were part of that endeavor, from our development partners, architects, contractors and sub-contractors, and the very patient neighbors and nearby businesses who thought the project would never end.
4.  Rescuing & Securing the Mullanphy Emigrant Home
Some of the same parties who helped make Crown Square possible, especially E.M. Harris and Rosemann Architects, also pitched in to support ONSLRG’s efforts to rescue the Mullanphy Emigrant Home from a demolition order issued by the City of St. Louis after a devastating storm blew out much of the south walls in 2006.
Until some passionate preservationist neighbors encouraged ONSLRG to lead the efforts to save the building, the end was almost certain for the architecturally, culturally, and historically significant Mullanphy Emigrant Home, which had been built in 1867 and anchored the southern end of Old North. The cause was even closer to being declared hopeless almost exactly a year later when another storm blew through the building and knocked out much of the north wall.
The Mullanphy building is still around today because of the generous and determined support from neighbors and hundreds of others from throughout St. Louis who rallied to support the cause with contributions of money, time, and other resources. That list also is too long for this space (but you can click on Mullanphy Emigrant Home in the Categories section in the right column to see the dozens of blog posts, which provide a lot more detail of the project and the people who made it possible).
5. Partnerships with University of Missouri- St. Louis & MU Extension
The importance of physical and visible transformations cannot be overstated in the process of changing the trajectory of a neighborhood, but sustainable revitalization requires so many other pieces to fall into place.
As with everything I’ve noted so far, there have been multiple key partners who worked closely with ONSLRG to advance a very ambitious, comprehensive, neighborhood-wide revitalization strategy. On several different occasions, a few individuals at University of Missouri - St. Louis, and their colleagues at University of Missouri Extension, stepped up to play key roles.  Kay Gasen, Andrew Hurley, and John McClusky (and others) were already involved with ONSLRG as part of a 3-year community-university partnership when both Kay and John encouraged me to pursue the position of Executive Director.  So, for that alone, I extend my tremendous appreciation to both of them.
Those university connections produced so many important elements of how the story of Old North is told (from the history book, DVD, and brochure for the history trail) - and resources that helped shape the way ONSLRG has operated (including strategic planning assistance from John McClusky on 3 separate occasions). Andrew has captured the history of Old North in more than one book and has worked with us to develop tools for using that rich history to guide plans for new, in-fill construction.
6. Old North Grocery Co-op
Kay and her colleague, Kara Lubischer, from the Extension side of the university system, brought tremendous insights, research, resources, and connections to ONSLRG’s work to launch the Old North Grocery Co-op in 2010 - and practically worked out of the ONSLRG office for several months.
The whole experience of the community-driven planning process and the massive amount of work put in by residents and friends of Old North served as yet another demonstration of the do-it-yourself approach and community-entrepreneurial spirit of Old North. And, even though not everything will turn out in the ways we want, that shouldn’t hold us back from experimenting and trying new and ambitious approaches to seemingly intractable challenges, especially when no one else is doing anything about it.  The very fact that the Old North Grocery Co-op made it to a successful launch was nothing short of a miracle, with the right people, resources, funding, and a vision coming together at just the right time  – thanks to Missouri Foundation for Health and the Empowerment Zone, property owner Ken Kranzberg, university support from Kay and Kara, and so many residents and friends of the community.
7. North City Farmers’ Market
The co-op wouldn’t have happened at all had it had not been for our experience with the North City Farmers’ Market, which had its very modest start in 2007, with funding from Missouri Foundation for Health and an initial vision created by our friends at New Roots Urban Farm.
The primary focus of the market has been to bring fresh, healthy, and affordable foods to the heart of the neighborhood, but we have always seen the market as more than just a place to buy stuff. For 20 Saturdays in a row over the past 9 years, the market has been a great gathering place where residents and visitors of diverse backgrounds can come together to celebrate community, enjoy live music, children’s activities, exercise and fitness, cooking demonstrations, and much more. All of that requires a dedicated team of volunteers who come out week after week after week. Thank you to all who have given of their time and labor to make the market happen!
8.  Community Gardens
With the distance of a short block from the 13th Street Garden to the North City Farmers’ Market, we really have the “shortest distance from harvest to market” here in Old North.
The 13th Street Garden - and Old North’s 8 other community gardens, have been cultivated and maintained by a dedicated team of garden volunteers, with years of support from Gateway Greening, and free use offered by land owners, Ken Kranzberg (for 13th Street) and the City of St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority (for most of the other gardens).
9.  Strong & Enduring Anchor Businesses
One of the most encouraging developments in recent years has been the arrival of new businesses and nonprofit service providers, but special acknowledgment needs to go to the businesses that have stuck it out during the tough times and are still going strong today, from Marx Hardware to Headhunters Barber Shop, and Crown Candy Kitchen (which provided caloric support for countless meetings with visitors, prospective homebuyers, development partners, funders, and friends over the years, not to mention many years of ice cream for our house tour attendees).
10. A Vibrant & Growing Arts-Supporting Community
Further evidence of the vibrancy and creativity of Old North can be seen in the windows of the neighborhood’s galleries, music at the corner plaza, exhibits and events, such as First Friday Art Walk, and special programs, such as last September’s Shakespeare in the Streets (thanks to Shakespeare Festival St. Louis).  So much of the art in Old North has benefited from support from Regional Arts Commission, including many years of grants to ONSLRG.
11.  Neighbors Working Together To Create a Safe & Supportive Environment
Many visitors remark about the “small town” feel of Old North, largely due to the warmth of the community and the way residents look out for each other.  Among the positive byproducts of that attitude has been a steady reduction in crime over the years (down 42% from 2010-2015). That type of progress doesn’t just happen automatically, especially when surrounding areas or citywide numbers have not experienced the same results. Residents and businesses all over Old North deserve credit for that, but among the leaders deserving acknowledgment are Vela Hermann and members of Old North’s Neighborhood Ownership Model team, including ONSLRG staff and current and past 4th district police representatives, such as Officers Lori Wozniak, Rich Schicker, Jamie Partee, and Capt. Kreismann (and several other captains before her), as well as the many neighbors who show up for community meetings, who call their neighbors when they they have reason for concern, and go out of their way to pick up litter.
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12.  A Wonderful Staff of Dedicated and Caring Individuals
The day-to-day work of running Old North St. Louis Restoration Group has been a team effort from the beginning, and virtually everything ONSLRG has worked on over the years involved full staff participation, regardless of job titles or official responsibilities.  I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing group of individuals, including:
- Jane Smith, office manager through 2013…
-and other former staff members Irvetta Williams, Karen Heet, and Claire Wolff;
- as well as the great team we have today: Community Development Specialist Matt Fernandez, VISTA Health Initiatives Coordinator Jessica Payne, VISTA Sustainable Development Coordinator Brendan Ziebarth, and AARP Senior Service Corps Receptionist Charlotte Harris.  I can’t thank these individuals enough for their constant above and beyond the call of duty efforts. A more detailed description of that will have to come later.
…and it shouldn’t go without noting that our staff benefited greatly from support provided by a very long list of interns and practicum students over the years. I wish I could name them all here, but that, too, will have to wait until later.
13. Caring, Thoughtful, and Committed Board Members
Finally, my greatest thanks go to the people who have entrusted me with this job. The group of people who set the course for the organization, ONSLRG’s Board of Directors, come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, but they share a common sense of purpose in making Old North the “Best Place to Live” that it is today.
Special thanks to the two Board members who were around in 2003 and have offered reliable support and encouraging words ever since, Gloria Bratkowski and Dave Eisenbraun.
Three other Board members who, sadly, are no longer with us  - Johnnie Owens, Rev. Richard Taylor, and Tom Tschetter -  brought different talents and perspectives to the Board but always provided inspiration to keep moving forward, regardless of any hurdle.
Over those years, the Board has enjoyed leadership and direction from 3 different Board Presidents, each bringing his own style and set of priorities. Thank you to John Burse, Tino Ochoa, and Doug Rasmussen for your support of me, personally, and for keeping the organization grounded in the community while regularly pushing to achieve ambitious goals.
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So, what’s next for Old North?
Rest assured that my departure does not reflect any diminished confidence in the future of Old North or the viability of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. In fact, I have more excitement than ever about Old North’s future. Reasons for hope for Old North’s continued revitalization are too many to list here, but the following are just some of the items on that list:
  • Construction will be starting very soon on the 1300 block of Monroe for new, for-sale energy-efficient houses, which will mark the return of new construction within the North Market Place development area after several years off…
By the way, if you’d like to get one of these new homes before they’re all snapped up, contact Matt Fernandez at 314-241-5031, ext. 101 or at Matt@ONSL.org.
  • a lot of new energy, activity & ideas coming from new neighbors & organizations, such as UrbArts…
  • We are currently in the midst of promising conversations about a redevelopment of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home building (more to come on that later)…
  • Our STL North LLC partner, Ken Kranzberg, is working with us on plans for redevelopment of the one-time pasta factory building at 1225 St. Louis Avenue into affordable artist loft apartments…
  • the soon-to-be-released Sustainable Development Plan for Old North, produced through support from EPA, will provide a good outline for positive, sustainable and community-enriching development…
  • …And, most importantly, Old North continues to attract, retain and engage a strong, resilient, determined, passionate, and growing community of residents and stakeholders who are going to keep working hard to make Old North the vibrant, dynamic, friendly, welcoming, safe, and sustainable neighborhood they know it can be.
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The work of ONSLRG will continue - BUT your help is needed!
No matter how much progress has been achieved, Old North still has plenty of work to do, and the community needs a neighborhood-based organization to facilitate the process and continue pulling residents, key stakeholders, and supporters together. What makes a community sustainable isn’t the building stock - it’s the people.  Real estate development is a key piece of any revitalization strategy for a neighborhood that experienced generations of de-population and disinvestment, but genuine community development needs much more than that.  And that’s why Old North St. Louis Restoration Group remains committed to pursuing a comprehensive approach. Unfortunately, many aspects of that comprehensive approach don’t generate any - or enough -  revenue to cover their costs. So, we rely on the generosity and support of any and all who believe this work is worthwhile.
If you believe the community-driven approach of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is worth continuing, I encourage you to help ONSLRG sustain and build upon the great achievements that are evident today.
Please show your support for the mission of revitalizing the physical and social dimensions of Old North in a manner that respects the community’s historic, cultural and urban character by making a contribution right now. Just click on the button below to make a secure, online donation.
Other ways of providing financial support include buying as many tickets as you can for the annual Old North House & Community Tour, scheduled for Saturday, May 7 by clicking HERE, and/or becoming a house tour sponsor (or referring a business you know) by clicking HERE.  Or, you could always buy a new house when they’re ready or one of ONSLRG’s rehab-ready houses. (Click HERE for info on the rehab-ready houses.)  If you have any other ideas, give us a call at 314-241-5031 or send an email to info@ONSL.org.
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Thank you again to all who have been with me on this phenomenal adventure over the past 12 years!
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Old North Bustling with Activity, including Bike To My Lou and Volunteers from SLU’s Showers of Service and Dept. of Corrections

VOLUNTEERS ASSIST WITH CLEANING UP, SPRUCING UP, AND BOARD-UP TASKS

Old North neighborhood volunteers received considerable help today from students from St. Louis University and another group of volunteers brought to the neighborhood by the Missouri Department of Corrections’ Office of Probation & Parole.  SLU’s annual Showers of Service program is a day of service sponsored and planned by the SLU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega.  For several years now, this program has sent dozens of students to Old North St. Louis Restoration Group to be deployed throughout the neighborhood for various volunteer projects where they can work side by side with neighborhood residents on community improvement projects.  As shown in the photos below, this year’s range of activities included alley clean-ups, boarding up vacant buildings, clearing empty lots, and a lot of work in the neighborhood’s numerous community gardens.

ONSLRG's Community Development Specialist, Matt Fernandez, a SLU grad with a bachelor's degree in Urban Affairs and a Master's in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development, inspired the students with evidence of life & employment after SLU.

ONSLRG's Community Development Specialist, Matt Fernandez, a SLU grad with a bachelor's degree in Urban Affairs and a Master's in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development, inspired the students with evidence of life & employment after SLU.

The results of the volunteers’ work can be seen all over Old North…

The Johnnie Owens Garden at the Hebert Street Community Garden

The Johnnie Owens Garden at the Hebert Street Community Garden

Aida Rodriguez appreciated the help she received at Wingmann Park

Aida Rodriguez appreciated the help she received at Wingmann Park

The quasi free range residents of the 13th Street Community Garden are enjoying the cleaned up conditions around their home

The quasi-free-range residents of the 13th Street Community Garden are enjoying the cleaned up conditions around their home

Thank you to Alpha Phi Omega at SLU, to the Dept. of Corrections’ Office of Probation & Parole, and to neighborhood residents, including but not limited to James & Luz Maria Cox & family; Keith Marquard, Aida Rodriguez, Ernie Stanley, Chris Goetsch, Vela Hermann, Graham Lane, Ben Sever, Matt Fernandez, Ross Dorsey, Thom Fletcher, and many, many others.

BIKE TO MY LOU BIKE RIDE PASSES THROUGH OLD NORTH

A large contingent of cyclists passed through Old North this afternoon as part of the Bike to My Lou bike ride.  The free community ride and festival took riders through some of downtown’s adjacent neighborhoods - and we thank the organizers and sponsors for including Old North on the itinerary!

HABITAT HOMES UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Meanwhile, work continues on the 12 Habitat for Humanity homes under construction at N. 13th and Clinton.

A GOOD DAY FOR BUSINESS

Businesses in Old North enjoyed the flow of customers brought in by the various events going on in the neighborhood and the beautiful spring weather.

La Mancha Coffeehouse

La Mancha Coffeehouse

Therapy Boutique

Crown Candy Kitchen

Crown Candy Kitchen

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Old North Home Grown Festival & House Tour Just 1 Week Away!

We’re down to 7 days now.  Since next weekend will be here before you know it, be sure to firm up your plans to attend the Old North Home Grown Festival & House Tour on Saturday, May 14.  This weekend also marks the last weekend to spread the word while you’re out and around taking care of other errands and / or visiting your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment venues, or church.  So, be sure to invite your friends to join us next Saturday.

And now, a few more previews of what can be seen and enjoyed at the Old North Home Grown Festival & House Tour on Saturday, May 14:

As part of the Home Grown Festival, some of the storefronts along this stretch of N. 14th Street at Crown Square will be filled with art exhibits featuring local artists, such as Juan William Chavez, Dail Chambers, and young artists from St. Louis ArtWorks.

As part of the Home Grown Festival, some of the storefronts along this stretch of N. 14th Street at Crown Square will be filled with art exhibits featuring local artists, such as Juan William Chavez, Dail Chambers, and young artists from Ames Visual & Performing Arts Magnet School and Holy Trinity School. La Mancha Coffeehouse will have continue its showing of photos by St. Louis ArtWorks participants.

The registration tent for ticket sales, tour booklets, and other information will be at this plaza area at N. 14th and St. Louis Avenue. The Parks building, in the background, will house a variety of local crafters.

The Old North Grocery Co-op will be one of the new neighborhood businesses on the tour.  Many of last year's visitors who saw the building had good reason to be skeptical that the space would be ready for opening by mid-summer.  But the store DID open last July, and return visitors will be pleased to see the co-op in business.

The Old North Grocery Co-op will be one of the new neighborhood businesses on the tour. Many of last year's visitors who saw the building had good reason to be skeptical that the space would be ready for opening by mid-summer. But the store DID open last July, and return visitors will be pleased to see the co-op in business.

Another new business that will be on the tour is La Mancha Coffeehouse at 2815 N. 14th Street.

Another new business that will be on the tour is La Mancha Coffeehouse at 2815 N. 14th Street.

The Hebert Street Community Garden has been on the tour in the past, but this will be the first time since it was dedicated to Johnnie Owens..

The Hebert Street Community Garden has been on the tour in the past, but this will be the first time since it was dedicated to Johnnie Owens..

A stroll down the 1300 block of North Market will provide glimpses of the mix of old and new, as well as the variety of housing options from apartment buildings to owner-occupied houses. The North Market Apts. community space, in the background, will be open and will feature a display of plans for another round of Habitat for Humanity houses in Old North.

A stroll down the 1300 block of North Market will provide glimpses of the mix of old and new, as well as the variety of housing options from apartment buildings to owner-occupied houses. The North Market Apts. community space, in the background, will be open and will feature a display of plans for another round of Habitat for Humanity houses in Old North.

Since Old North continues to be a work in progress, the tour also features homes that are still in the midst of rehab, such as this home on the 1200 block of North Market.

Since Old North continues to be a work in progress, the tour also features homes that are still in the midst of rehab, such as this home on the 1200 block of North Market.

This house on Monroe, in its final stages of rehab, provides evidence that not everything in Old North has red brick facade.

This house on Monroe, in its final stages of rehab, provides evidence that not everything in Old North has red brick facade.

This house on Sullivan has great interior space as well as a wonderful patio and garden in back.

This house on Sullivan has great interior space as well as a wonderful patio and garden in back.

Although the tour can only feature a limited number of buildings, the architectural and historic character of the streetscape can still be appredcia not officially on the tour can be appreciated on the way to and from the different stops on the tour.

Although the tour can only feature a limited number of buildings, the architectural and historic character of the streetscape can still be appreciated on the way to and from the different stops on the tour.

As noted in previous posts, more information and a link to purchase tickets online can be found at the ONSL.org page for the house tour: Click HERE to visit the House Tour page of the ONSL website.  Volunteers still have time to sign up to help with this year’s tour.  Just call the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office at 314-241-5031 or send an email to info@onsl.org and let us know when you’re available and how to reach you.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Old North Flickr Set Features Highlights from 2010

The collection of Old North photos on Flickr now includes a set dedicated to highlights from the activities and events of 2010.  Check it out by clicking here.

Some of these photos will be included in the slideshow of 2010 highlights that will happen at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group’s Annual Meeting & Pot-Luck Supper, which will start at 6 p.m. on Monday evening.

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Huge Year for Old North in 2010 - Part 1

With a couple hours left to celebrate the accomplishments of 2010… and to make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work into 2011 (as noted in the previous post, with a link to our online contributions page), this is as good a time as any to review some of the events and activities of this unbelievably busy year.

NEW RESIDENTS

One of the keys to becoming a sustainable and thriving community is attracting and retaining residents.  It’ll be a while before we get neighborhood-level details from the 2010 Census, but we do know that Old North welcomed at least 80 new households to the neighborhood this past year, including new tenants at recently completed Crown Square Apartments; homebuyers who moved into the 17 Habitat for Humanity-built homes on Dodier, Sullivan, and Hebert; and other homebuyers who purchased houses throughout the neighborhood, from North Market to St. Louis Avenue to Hebert.

CROWN SQUARE COMPLETION & RE-OPENING OF 14th STREET

While some of the residential apartments at Crown Square were finished and occupied by the end of 2009, the rest of the apartments, the sidewalks, trees, bike racks, street lights, and the new street were completed at various points throughout 2010, giving us reason to celebrate something new almost every other month.

Although the street didn’t officially open until the end of October - after the street lights were installed, we held our ribbon-cutting and grand opening street festival on July 29.  The film crew from Marvo Entertainment recorded the event for a future production that eventually will air on PBS stations across the country.  Until then, a short clip from the occasion can be viewed online at Marvo Entertainment Group’s website.

Landmarks Association of St. Louis and the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave us even more reasons to celebrate Crown Square when they presented awards to ONSLRG and our development partners at the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance for our work on Crown Square.  Landmarks presented us with one of their “Most Enhanced Awards” in May (along with one to Old North residents Nico & Nicole Leone, shown in the middle photo below, for the historic rehab of their home on Wright Street) and the National Trust/HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation was presented to staff from ONSLRG and RHCDA at the National Preservation Conference in October.

OLD NORTH GROCERY CO-OP OPENED FOR BUSINESS

Old North’s growing population brings with it a greater demand for neighborhood goods and services and other amenities, as well as an increased supply of customers for neighborhood businesses.  To accommodate this demand, and in response to the expressed desires of long-time community residents, ONSLRG initiated efforts to establish a grocery store for Old North and surrounding neighborhoods.  After many months of planning and community meetings, and investment of thousands of hours of volunteer effort to get the building at 2718 N. 13th Street in shape to serve as a grocery store - and support from more people and groups than can be listed here (although UM-Extension, Missouri Foundation for Health, Ken Kranzberg, Kaemmerlen Electric, and IBEW electricians deserve special acknowledgment), the Old North Grocery Co-op opened for business on July 17.

Volunteers from groups such as Students Today-Leaders Forever (mostly from John Carroll University who spent part of their spring break with us), St. Louis area Yale University alumni and current students (who came out for this year’s Yale Day of Service), and students from St. Louis University and Washington University worked side by side with dozens of neighborhood residents and friends of Old North who carried out interior demo, new wall construction, painting, shelf assembly, and countless other tasks for much of the first half of 2010.

 

 

In addition to bringing healthy and affordable foods to Old North, the grocery co-op also brought a lot of outside attention to good things going on in the community.  Among those reporting on the developments in Old North, National Public Radio aired a story about the co-op on NPR stations all over the country.  Click HERE for a link to the NPR page where you can read the transcript or listen to the report by Veronique LaCapra of St. Louis Public Radio.

RE-DEDICATION OF HEBERT STREET GARDEN AS JOHNNIE OWENS GARDEN

We were greatly saddened by the passing of our great friend and longtime ONSLRG board member Johnnie Owens in September, but a few weeks earlier we were able to let Johnnie know how much she meant to all of us when we re-dedicated the Hebert Street Community Garden as a lasting tribute to Johnnie’s many contributions to the community.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2, with images and details about…

-ARTS EVENTS AND OTHER PROGRAMS AT OLD NORTH GALLERY

 

 

-NORTH CITY FARMERS’ MARKET AMONG TOP 20 OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE FARMERS MARKETS

-SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY GARDENS & DESIGNATION OF 13th STREET GARDEN AS GATEWAY GREENING ”HUB GARDEN”

-NEW BUSINESSES ON 14th STREET

-TOURS AND VISITS FROM FAR & WIDE

-NEW BOOK HIGHLIGHTS REVITALIZATION IN OLD NORTH

In the meantime, have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scenes from a Snowy Day in Old North

It was a bit chilly and windy, but the fresh snow created the perfect conditions for a scenic winter stroll through Old North.

Crown Square, looking up N. 14th Street from Warren

Crown Square, looking up N. 14th Street from Warren

The office of Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group at the corner of N. 14th and Warren.

The office of Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group at the corner of N. 14th and Warren.

Looking up N. 14th toward Crown Candy Kitchen at St. Louis Avenue.

Looking up N. 14th toward Crown Candy Kitchen at St. Louis Avenue.

A home on Dodier decorated for the holidays.

A home on Dodier decorated for the holidays.

New owner-occupied homes recently built by Habitat for Humanity on Hebert.

New owner-occupied homes recently built by Habitat for Humanity on Hebert.

Just a few years ago this nicely rehabbed home on N. 19th Street was a collapsing, city-owned shell.

Just a few years ago this nicely rehabbed home on N. 19th Street was a collapsing, city-owned shell.

Hebert Community Garden, now dedicated to Johnnie Owens.

Hebert Community Garden, now dedicated to Johnnie Owens.

The 1400 block of Hebert.

The 1400 block of Hebert.

Looking toward the 2800 block of N. 14th at Wright.

Looking toward the 2800 block of N. 14th at Wright.

14th and Wright.

14th and Wright.

Looking down the 2700 block of N. 14th.

Looking down the 2700 block of N. 14th.

The Old North Grocery Co-op at St. Louis Avenue and N. 13th Street.

The Old North Grocery Co-op at St. Louis Avenue and N. 13th Street.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Memorial Service for Johnnie Owens - Sat., Oct. 2 at 11 a.m.

The memorial service for Johnnie Owens will take place tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 2) at 11 a.m. at Christ Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church on N. Kingsighway.

As noted in previous posts - and echoed in the many comments posted by others - Johnnie was well-loved throughout the community and will be sorely missed by all.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Old North Mourns Passing of Johnnie Owens

A few weeks ago we celebrated the life and contributions of Johnnie Owens, long-time board member of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and beloved community leader, by dedicating the Hebert Community Garden as a tribute to her.  Now, we’re sad to report that Johnnie passed away on Sunday after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

All of us who had the pleasure and privilege to have known Johnnie will miss her positive spirit, common sense perspective, and constant readiness to lend a hand.  We dedicated the Hebert Garden to Johnnie because of the key role she played in bringing life and beauty to what otherwise could have been just another overgrown and abandoned empty lot.  But Johnnie’s love for her community couldn’t be confined to one corner of the neighborhood.  Johnnie was present at -and involved with- almost every community improvement initiative taken on by Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. 

She was out there with a trash bag picking up litter on neighborhood clean-up days; she was there at the sign-in table at countless neighborhood meetings or house tours, greeting neighbors and visitors alike with a friendly welcome; she was there at Executive Committee meetings at 7:30 in the morning and out at Quality of Life meetings that went well into the evening hours later that same day; she represented Old North at meetings outside the neighborhood and she helped to bring neighbors together right down her street; and she was there just about any time we asked for help.

Old North is a stronger, more vibrant community today because of Johnnie Owens.   We were incredibly blessed to have had Johnnie as part of the Old North community.

Johnnie with John Bratkowski and Mayor Francis Slay in October 2008.

Johnnie with John Bratkowski and Mayor Francis Slay in October 2008.

Johnnie at one of our construction worker appreciation coffee breaks in March of 2008.

Johnnie at one of our construction worker appreciation coffee breaks in March of 2008.

In 2004 Johnnie (in the yellow hat), serving as a greeter at the annual Old North House Tour.

In 2004 Johnnie (in the yellow hat), serving as a greeter at the annual Old North House Tour.

National Night Out, August 2006.

National Night Out, August 2006.

In 2005, Johnnie was part of the delegation that traveled to Jefferson City receive an award from Missouri Preservation and proclamations from Old North's State Senator and State Representative.

In 2005, Johnnie was part of the delegation that traveled to Jefferson City to receive an award from Missouri Preservation and proclamations from Old North

Although Johnnie often was called upon to be out front as a representative of the community, she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty and much of her work involved the glamourless, thankless, and often unseen jobs.

Although Johnnie often was called upon to be out-front as a representative of the community, she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty with the thankless, glamourless, and often unseen work of cultivating a garden and building a better neighborhood.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Celebrating the Contributions of Johnnie Owens

Most weekends in Old North St. Louis are filled with community-building events and activities.  This weekend was no different, with Friday night’s Cinema St. Louis screening of HomeGrown in the Old North Gallery, Saturday morning’s North City Farmers’ Market, and the community meeting Saturday afternoon to discuss future activities for the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group.  Until recently, we could have counted on Johnnie Owens to have shown up at each of those events.  However, due to a difficult battle with cancer, Johnnie hasn’t been able to get out very much lately.  On Saturday morning, though, Johnnie did get out to the Hebert Community Garden, across the street from her home, for the unveiling of a new sign dedicating the garden to Johnnie, as a tribute to one of Old North’s most beloved residents and one of the neighborhood’s most reliable and reasonable leaders.

Alderwoman April Ford Griffin presented Johnnie (seated on the right, with her back to the camera) with a resolution for the Board of Aldermen.

With ONSLRG Board President Tino Ochoa looking on, Alderwoman April Ford Griffin presented Johnnie (seated on the right, with her back to the camera) with a resolution from the Board of Aldermen.

The sign is unveiled.

The sign is unveiled.

The 1900 block of Hebert is also known now as Johnnie E. Owens Street.

Another surpirse for Johnnie: the 1500 block of Hebert will also be known now as Johnnie E. Owens Street.

Johnnie's family celebrated the occasion with her.

Johnnie's family gathered around her to celebrate the occasion.

Neighbors and friends came out to show Johnnie how much she has meant to them.

Neighbors and friends came out to show Johnnie how much she has meant to them.

Among the neighbors who were responsible for the occasion were Carmella Kranz and Se'an Whiteside.

Among the neighbors who were responsible for the occasion were Carmella Kranz and Se'an Whiteside.

Old North's own metal artist Janet Sanders was responsible for creating the custom frame for the sign and welding it all together with the antique post donated by the Bratkowski family.

Old North's own metal artist Janet Sanders was responsible for creating the unique frame for the sign and welding it all onto the antique post donated by the Bratkowski family.

As testament to Johnnie's capacity to bring the community together, residents lingered to enjoy the garden and each other's company long after the ceremony.

As testament to Johnnie's capacity to bring the community together, residents lingered to enjoy the garden and each other's company long after the ceremony.

 

Thank you Johnnie for all you’ve done for Old North St. Louis, as a dedicated board member & officer of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group; as a tireless worker in and advocate for the Hebert Garden; as an outgoing and welcoming neighbor; and as a generous, thoughtful, and caring friend.

UPDATE: To see more photos from the dedication  visit the Old North St. Louis flickr site or just click HERE.

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.

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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