Archive for the ‘real estate’ Category

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Highlights from Thursday’s Neighborhood Meeting

This past Thursday Old North St. Louis Restoration Group (ONSLRG) hosted our regular monthly Old North Neighborhood Open Meeting (sometimes referred to as our “Quality of Life” meeting).  A great crowd of Old North residents and neighbors from nearby neighborhoods showed up for updates or reports on the following:

Virtual City Project

Andrew Hurley, Chair of the University of Missouri-St. Louis History Department, reported on the Virtual City project, an ongoing collaboration between UMSL and ONSLRG, which involves creation of an online image of Old North.  The project displays views of the built environment of Old North and enables the viewer to virtually visit several blocks in Old North at various points in time. Individual buildings in the model were reconstructed based on information in fire insurance maps and other documentary evidence.  Andrew discussed how this project is more than a resource for learning about the history of the neighborhood but also can be a tool that will help the community give input on future development in Old North.  To take a look at how this has been used so far to re-create a limited section of the neighborhood - and to review some sample ideas for how the future could look, there are two different ways to access the project:

1. Web version (this does require a browser plug-in,  but users will see instructions for installing it when the site comes onto the screen):

2. Google Earth version (users will need to download Google Earth for this to work):

ONSLRG’s Real Estate Committee will further discuss how the Virtual City project can help us plan for future development - and identify a focus area for further development - at a meeting on Monday, Sept. 23.  If you’d like to be involved or contribute your ideas, contact Matt Fernandez (314-241-5031, ext. 101, or

Financing & Mortgage Options from Stifel Bank
Cheryl Walker, Community Development Assistant Loan Officer from Stifel Bank, presented information about the bank’s mortgage process and loan programs available for current Old North residents and others wanting to buy homes in Old North.
Neighborhood Safety Updates
Officer Quianna Dickerson discussed neighborhood safety issues throughout the 5th District and passed out the stats for the number of crimes reported, by neighborhood, from January through July of this year.  It’s worth noting that the Total Crime Index for Old North in 2013 is 40% lower than the same 7-month period last year.

Family Roots International

Maurice Foxworth, President of Family Roots International shared information about his organization’s planting of cornfields and other crops on vast tracts of empty land in the St. Louis Place neighborhood, just west of Old North.  Many neighbors from St. Louis Place came out to ask questions about the project.

Sustainable Land Lab Project

Phil Valko offered an update on progress with the Land Lab sites, all of which are within a block of the Old North Gallery where the meeting took place.  The Sunflower+ Project on Warren succeeded in planting and growing a full crop of sunflowers; the Mighty Mississippians at the southwest corner of Montgomery & N. 13th Street have much to show for their efforts, as well.  In addition to corn and other plants on the site, other activities, including yoga, have taken place there, and soon we’ll see the construction of a “mound”.  The RRFarm project, across Montgomery from the Mighty Mississippians, had a good start but have since encountered delays due to the city permitting process for the greenhouse structure they’re constructing on the site.  Sharing that same lot, the Bistro Box project has been working on securing funding and additional partners.  Unfortunately, we have no news to report on the final Land Lab lot at 2713 N. 14th Street, which is supposed to be developed as the Chess Pocket Park.

Although not selected for implementation through the Sustainable Land Lab competition, another team led by Catalina Freixas and Pablo Moyano reached out to ONSLRG to pursue their project at another site in Old North.  Their plan for production and installation of permeable pavers and benches, along with pollinating plants, will soon be taking shape at ONSLRG’s community garden space at the northwest corner of Blair and St. Louis Avenue.

To learn more about or to get involved with any of the projects and activities reported on at Thursday’s meeting, please contact the ONSLRG office by phone at 314-241-5031 or by email,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Economic Case for Stabilization Over Demolition

A common question we get here at ONSLRG is why do we try so hard to save a building that is in poor condition like 1316 North Market, and the many others that have been successfully rebuilt in Old North. There is certainly historic and architectural value in the buildings of Old North that are over 100 years old, and they very much contribute to the urban character of Old North. That is not a point to be taken lightly in a neighborhood like Old North St. Louis. Renovating existing buildings is also more environmentally sustainable due to embodied energy, waste reduction, and efficient designs. On top of that, there is also a simple economic argument to be made for stabilizing and preserving a building like 1316 N Market.

Demolition of 1316 North Market is estimated to cost around $30,000. This is because of very close adjacent buildings, and the very deteriorated framing inside the masonry walls. Compare this to an average cost of about $8-12,000 for an average house in Old North and nearby neighborhoods.

A solid stabilization of 1316 North Market, which includes rebuilding the floor framing and addressing masonry issues, is projected to cost $20-25,000. Stabilization of this type delivers a building that is in a condition that full redevelopment financing with the aid of historic tax credits can be secured. Even with an average demolition cost, stabilization of this building is not much more than demolition. Most buildings don’t need as extensive of a stabilization as 1316 North Market, so the numbers work out easier on most buildings. 1316 North Market after a full renovation will not only maintain the rich historic tradition of Old North St. Louis, it will also generate more tax revenue than a vacant lot or new construction will.

Rendering of possible look of 1316 North Market after renovation

Which of those two options makes the most sense to you? If you agree that stabilization is the way to go, please consider making a tax deductible donation to the Brickstarter crowdfunding campaign for 1316 North Market. We are going to stabilize 1316 N Market, but we need your help to do it. Become a partner today! All contributions go directly to purchasing construction materials for building stabilization that is now underway, and donations are greatly appreciated!

For more information on the Brickstarter for 1316 North Market, visit our page for the project or contact Matt Fernandez in the ONSLRG office, 314-241-5031, ext. 101, or by email:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Scenes from a Day-Long Celebration of a Neighborhood Revitalization in Progress

Thank you to all of our volunteers, sponsors, vendors, and musicians who participated in some capacity at yesterday’s Old North House & Community Tour, and special thanks to the the business-owners, homeowners and tenants who opened their homes or businesses to let hundreds of visitors wander through over the course of the day.

By all measures, the day was a great success.

Mayor Slay met neighborhood residents while attending the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Sustainable Land Lab projects.

The day started with the formal kick-off of the Sustainable Land Lab projects (re-scheduled from the rained out date in April), including a presentation to the 3 runner up projects and the 5 teams that were selected to implement their proposals on 4 lots in the Crown Square area.

Pablo Moyano Fernandez and Old North residents Gloria & Tom Bratkowski represented Hybrid Urban Bioscapes project.

Pablo Moyano Fernandez and Old North residents Gloria & Tom Bratkowski represented Hybrid Urban Bioscapes project.

After the start of the tour, the celebration continued at the corner of N. 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue, where representatives from Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and RHCDA (co-owners / co-developers of the corner lot, which is part of the overall Crown Square redevelopment of the former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall) thanked Rebuilding Together St. Louis for coordinating the improvements to the corner plaza space, including the addition of tables with umbrellas, construction of the fence along the south and west sides of the space, new plantings, and the addition of a stage for public performances.  Also acknowledged were the many volunteers, including many from Scottrade and Equifax, financial support from Equifax and Regional Business Council, and contributed professional services from Sherwoods Forest, Kimberlin Construction, and IBEW-Local 1.

Neighbors from down the street came out to celebrate the first official event at the new & improved Crown Square corner plaza.

Dave Ervin, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together St. Louis, and RTSL’s Outreach Coordinator, Kuleya Bruce, acknowledged our appreciation and thanked all who helped them with the project before introducing local musician, Chris Ware for the first official performance on the stage.

Environmentally friendly shuttle service was provided by St. Louis 3 Wheel Taxi.

Volunteers, including Nolan (below), provided a variety of valuable services, including merchandise sales.

And the tour provided an opportunity to show off the diverse range of housing styles in Old North, from apartments to a loft-style conversion of a former warehouse (below).

And a number of number of historic houses…

The soon-to-come Chess Pocket Parkat 2713 N. 14th Street offered the opportunity to try out some chess moves throughout the day.

Another tour tradition is free ice cream, thanks to the generous donation from Crown Candy Kitchen.

Norah Ryan returned for the critical role of scooper and dispenser of ice cream.

The kickoff activities at the 5 Land Lab projects included:

The Sunflower+ project at 1318 Warren

Children from the neighborhood joined the Sunflower+ project coordinators in planting of sunflowers and other work at the project site.

The Mighty Mississippians at 1300-06 Montgomery

The Bistro Box at 1301-03 Montgomery

RR Farm, also at 1301-03 Montgomery

and Chess Pocket Park at 2713 N. 14th Street

Friday, May 17, 2013

One Last Invite to Join Us TOMORROW (Sat., May 18) for Old North House & Community Tour… AND Announcing Another Crown Square Commercial Tenant

We’re down to the last few hours before the big day, so we’ll issue one last invitation to all friends of Old North, former residents, current residents, fans of urban revitalization, advocates for sustainable development, historic preservationists, arts enthusiasts, and anyone who just happens to like Crown Candy Kitchen: please join us on Saturday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for our annual Old North House & Community Tour. The forecast shows beautiful weather for tomorrow.  Come on out to enjoy a pleasant stroll though the walkable, architecturally rich, historic neighborhood of Old North St. Louis.

The hour by hour forecast from the experts at

It'll be a gorgeous day in Old North on Saturday, according to the hour by hour forecast from the experts at

For those who are new to St. Louis or just aren’t familiar with how neighborhood house tours work, here’s what you can expect from the Old North House & Community Tour:

The Old North House & Community Tour is a self-guided tour, so you’ll be able to use our tour booklet to decide which stops to visit and in what order - or you can visit all of the sites on the tour in the order presented in the booklet.  And, you’ll be able to go at your own pace, whether that means enjoying the nice, summery weather as you walk leisurely between stops or as you catch a free ride from one of the roving, environmentally- friendly bicycle rickshaws from St. Louis 3Wheel Taxi.

For more on what will be featured on the tour, take a look at our posts from Thursday (click HERE) and Tuesday (click HERE).

Registration for the tour - where you can buy tickets, trade in your already-bought tickets for the tour booklet or pick up tickets you purchased online - will be at the new and improved Crown Square corner plaza at the southwest corner of St. Louis Avenue and N. 14th Street, pictured below.

The first official performances on the plaza’s stage will take place immediately following a brief dedication ceremony at 10:30 a.m.   Scheduled to perform are local musician, poet, and spoken-word artist, Chris Ware, and later by Old North’s own favorite steel drum musician, Jamaica Ray.

We also want to share the reminder that the public is invited to celebrate the official start of work at the 5 Sustainable Land Lab projects in Old North, with a ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m. at 1318 Warren (just east of 14th Street at the south end of Crown Square).  Mayor Slay will be on hand to congratulate the winners of the competition, and representatives from all 5 of the projects will be present to show off their sites and discuss their projects.

Although the “day-of” ticket prices of $12 should go into effect after midnight, the advance ticket price of $10 can still be obtained by purchasing online up until about 6 a.m.  So act now!

And, now for some other big news we’re thrilled to share…



Earlier today, Firecracker Press issued the following press release:

The Firecracker Press is excited to announce, in addition to its location at 2838 Cherokee Street, the expansion of a second location at 2612 North 14th Street, in Crown Square. The expansion will take place over the Summer of 2013 with a Grand Opening to be announced later this year.

Founded in St. Louis in 2002, The Firecracker Press has become a cultural institution for printmaking. With a gang of antique printing presses (some dating back to the 1800s), a rich collection of St. Louis printing history, and a talented group of designers and printers, The Firecracker Press has made its mark regionally and nationally. Handmade, letterpress posters for music and art shows, custom business cards, stationery, wedding invitations, and books are just a few of the things that The Firecracker Press crafts. Using printing presses that are found and restored, The Firecracker Press prints from hand-set wood/lead type and uses hand-carved woodblocks to create imagery that’s rooted in history yet freshly modern. Its Southside, Cherokee Street location will remain while The Firecracker Press plans to expand a rotating list of events, classes and demonstrations at the new Crown Square location.

The Firecracker Press location in Old North will be in the former Sobel Department Store building at 2612-24 N. 14th Street.

Their announcement further describes their plans for the space in the heart of Old North, just across Montgomery from Old North St. Louis Restoration Group’s office:

The new space, nearly 8000 sq. ft., will host a large collection of printing presses and tools, a retail storefront with a variety of posters and design-related home-goods, and a 100 person capacity venue for music, readings, and events. The Firecracker Press will continue to offer the same high quality, unique, independently minded services that have made them well-known. The expansion will also bring the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations including Old North Restoration Group and its affiliates, and with Studio STL, which will be sharing a portion of the space for its non-profit, children’s writing programs. The publishing arm of The Firecracker Press dovetails in exciting ways with the mission of Studio STL. An arts center for writers, thinkers, and makers will grow where The Firecracker Press and Studio STL overlap, with more to come.

For more details about The Firecracker Press and their plans for the space at Crown Square, click HERE to read the full news release.

The leasing of 2612-24 N. 14th Street follows the recent leasing of 2606-08 N. 14th to Blackmun Footcare, which opened just last month, and the leasing of 2601 N. 14th to Kennedy’s Pet Shop, which is now in the midst of interior build-out.  Both Blackmun Footcare and Kennedy’s Pet Shop will be open for tours on Saturday.

With just a few spaces left, anyone interested in leasing commercial space at Crown Square should contact leasing agent Susan Sauer of Duffe-Nuernberger Realty by phone at 314-571-7654 or by email at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Old North House & Community Tour: 2 Days Away to Sat., May 18

We’re down to counting the hours now until our biggest event of the year - so any help you can offer in spreading the word about the Old North House & Community Tour would be greatly appreciated, and you still have time to let us know if you can volunteer to help out on the day of the tour.

If you still aren’t subscribed to receive our e-Newsletter, then you probably missed our most recent edition.  Click on the image below or click HERE to view the web version.  Once you’re there, be sure to click on the Facebook “Like” image and/or the Twitter “tweet” image to share via these social media tools.

We also have some updates on what else will be going on here on Saturday.

At 9:00 a.m., Mayor Slay and the organizers responsible for the Sustainable Land Lab competition will lead the official kick-off ceremonies marking the start of work at the 5 Land Lab projects in Old North.  This ceremony will start at 1318 Warren (as seen in the photo above, courtesy of Washington University’s Office of Sustainable Development), the site where the Sunflower + project is underway, and will then travel to the other 3 Land Lab lots.  Please join us for this celebration just prior to the start of the Old North House & Community Tour.

At 10 a.m., the House & Community Tour officially begins, with registration table at N. 14th & St. Louis Avenue (see photo below) opening to distribute tour booklets to those who’ve registered in advance or to sell tour tickets (at the day-of price of $12) and the environmentally-friendly, bicycle rickshaw shuttle service will start up for those who don’t want to walk between the stops.

At 10:30 a.m., we’ll celebrate the ceremonial, unveiling / ribbon-cutting of the recently improved Crown Square corner plaza, followed by performances on the new stage by local musician, poet, and spoken-word artist, Chris Ware, and later by Old North’s own favorite steel drum musician, Jamaica Ray.

The tour activities will continue until 4 p.m., featuring 20 stops, 4 of which are located in historically rehabbed buildings at Crown Square, including a residential apartment incorporating a portion of the mezzanine level of the former J.C. Penney building (originally built for the Peters Dry Goods & Clothing Co. in 1881), the recently-opened Blackmun Footcare in that same building, and the soon-to-open Kennedy’s Pet Shop at 2601 N. 14th (in the photo above).

Other stops include:

  • the 4 empty lots where 5 Sustainable Land Lab demonstration projects are being implemented;
  • 2 other businesses offering free treats to tour-goers, La Mancha Coffeehouse, which is offering free cups of coffee, and City Bar & Grill, which is offering free toasted ravioli;
  • 2 historically-rehabbed homes, which have won Landmarks Association “Most Enhanced” Awards in previous years (in addition to the Crown Square project, which also received one of these awards in 2010);
  • a “loft-style” conversion of a warehouse building into a living space and a separate sculpture studio;
  • a couple of historic houses that are still in the midst of major re-construction and rehabilitation after massive damage, from a fire at one and two-different storms at the other, that would have led to demolition in other neighborhoods;
  • the future home in Old North for the Episcopal Service Corps community later this year;
  • the Old North Grocery Co-op and 13th Street Community Garden;
  • the home of Northside Workshop, a community art space that opened last year; and
  • the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office and Gallery, where a new photography exhibit will have its opening on Saturday; this exhibit, titled “Revitalizing,” features photos from 6 neighborhoods (including Old North), where UMSL’s PPRC Photography Project worked with community residents.

As noted in Tuesday’s post, another tradition of this event is the treat of some ice cream from Crown Candy Kitchen (celebrating 100 years of service to Old North).  All tour-goers will receive a coupon for a free ice cream cup, redeemable at the Old North Gallery.

If you haven’t already clicked on the link above, click below to get your tickets while you can still take advantage of the advance ticket price of $10.

And, if for whatever reason, you’re still not convinced that something special is going on in Old North St. Louis, take another look at the YouTube video we prepared before last year’s tour to highlight the dramatic transformations in progress throughout Old North.

We look forward to seeing you again in Old North on Saturday!

[One last appeal: if you've got some time available and are willing to help out, we still could use a few more volunteers.  Give us a call at the ONSLRG office at 314-241-5031 or send an email to Claire Wolff:]

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Old North House & Community Tour Countdown: 4 Days Away

With just 4 days to go until the Old North House & Community Tour on Saturday, May 18, now is the time to take advantage of the advance ticket price of $10.  Purchase your tickets online by clicking HERE or give the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office a call at 314-241-5031.

In addition to the architecturally significant, historic buildings on the tour (a sampling of which can be seen in the collage above), this year’s event will show off the five Sustainable Land Lab projects being implemented on 4 empty lots within the Crown Square area.  Preceding the official start of the Old North House & Community Tour (which starts at 10 a,m.), Mayor Francis Slay and leaders behind the Sustainable Land Lab will mark the formal groundbreakings for the Land Lab projects with a ceremony at 9 a.m., starting with the Sunflower + project at 1316-24 Warren.  For more information on the Land Lab project and plans for this weekend, click HERE.  All 5 projects will have representatives at their sites to present their plans and answer questions starting at 10 a.m.

Bistro Box Sustainable Land Lab Project

RR Farm Sustainable Land Lab Project

Mighty Mississippians Sustainable Land Lab Project

Sunflower+ Sustainable Land Lab Project

Chess Pocket Park Sustainable Land Lab Project

Chess Pocket Park Sustainable Land Lab Project

Two of the stops on the tour will feature new businesses at Crown Square: Blackmun Footcare, at 2606 N. 14th Street, and Kennedy’s Pet shop across the street at 2601 N. 14th Street.  Dr. Annessa Blackmun celebrated the grand opening of her business several weeks ago, and Saturday will be the first chance for the community and other visitors to see the space where Seth Turner of Kennedy’s Pet Shop will be offering pet lovers with a variety of services, from dog-walking to pet treats and pet food delivery.

Other businesses that will be stops along the tour include La Mancha Coffeehouse, which will be offering a free cup of coffee to all tour-goers and will be showing off their soon-to-open expanded space at 2800 N. 14th; City Bar & Grill at North Market & Blair, which will be offering free toasted ravioli; and Old North Grocery Co-op at St. Louis Avenue & N. 13th Street.  As the aerial image of Crown Square below shows, the heart of Old North is buzzing with activity these days, especially with the opening of new businesses at Crown Square and the start-up of activities at the Land Lab lots.

The big day will also include the opening of a new exhibition in the Old North Gallery.



The goal of the PPRC Photography Project is to raise the visibility of community groups working to improve the quality of life in St. Louis.  We focus on groups working in four areas: social services, youth/older adult enrichment, historic preservations and community revitalization.  This exhibition includes photographs from five Photography Projects completed by community groups working on revitalization and/or historic preservation.

• Old North St. Louis Restoration Group—our 1st Photography Project!

• Lewis Place Historic Preservation, Inc.

• Granite City Downtown Revitalization

• JVL: A multi-generational group of JeffVanderLou residents

• Downtown Dutchtown Business Association

• Cherokee/Benton Park West Small Business Incubator

Each group polled its members to come up with volunteers to complete Photography Project training. (Training entails 9-13 sessions on digital photography, photo collage and autobiographical writing taught by a professional artist/photographer.)  At the end of training we mount two exhibitions of the photographs taken by community group members (one at UMSL and one in the community near the group’s location).  We also produce a professional quality brochure and opening announcement.  The Project Instructors for the groups in this exhibition were: Lois Ingrum, Ron Laboray, Chinyere Oteh and Lyndsey Scott.  I conducted the Old North St. Louis Project training.

Many thanks to Old North St. Louis Restoration Group for giving us the opportunity to show these works from the Photography Project Collection!  (Check out all 900+ works in the Collection at

–Mel Watkin, Director

The registration area for the tour once again will take place at the corner of N. 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue, which means this will be the first official event to take place at our new and improved plaza area for Crown Square.  While you’re there to pick up your tour booklet and information from our sponsors, take a few moments to enjoy music on the new stage and have a seat at one of the new umbrella-shaded tables.

And don’t forget that this year’s tour will also celebrate Crown Candy Kitchen’s century of service to Old North!

And what better way to commemorate Crown Candy’s 100th anniversary than with a taste of their legendary ice cream?  All tour-goers will receive a coupon for a free cup of ice cream, courtesy of Crown Candy but redeemable at the Old North Gallery on the day of the tour.

So, while we’ve got you thinking of historic architecture, community revitalization, sustainability, art, and ice cream, now is the time to get your tickets for the big day!

Also, if you’ve got some time this Saturday, it’s not too late to sign up to volunteer to help with a variety of tasks.  All volunteers receive free passes for the tour and can attend the after-tour party.  Contact Claire Wolff at the ONSLRG office (by email: or by phone: 314-241-5031) to sign up to volunteer.

Thank you again to all of our sponsors who have made this year’s tour possible, especially PNC Bank for being our lead sponsor.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Old North House & Community Tour: Saturday, May 18 (Just 17 Days Away!)

Call your relatives, email your colleagues, send Facebook messages to your friends, and Tweet your followers - and invite all of them to join you in Old North on Saturday, May 18 for the annual Old North House & Community Tour.

Tickets are available for $10 in advance and $12 on the day of the tour.  Advance tickets can be purchased at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office (2700 N. 14th Street) or online by clicking HERE.

In addition to the usual mix of historic homes (in varying stages of redevelopment), gardens, and new businesses in award-winning and architecturally significant buildings, this year’s tour will also feature the 5 Sustainable Land Lab demonstration projects being implemented on 4 lots in the Crown Square area, the recently improved corner plaza at N. 14th St. and St. Louis Ave., and a special spotlight on Crown Candy Kitchen in honor of the legendary Old North restaurant’s 100th anniversary.

The tour is made possible by financial support from our generous sponsors, including this year’s Tour Presenter

…and dozens of other tour sponsors, including Bank of America, BMO Harris, Commerce Bank, and U.S. Bank. Although the program booklet will be going to the printers soon, sponsorship opportunities are still available.  If you know of a business that wants to be affiliated with sustainable, comprehensive urban revitalization, please refer them to the ONSLRG office or download the sponsorship information by clicking HERE.

To help you get in the mood for the tour, we’ve dusted off the brief, rapid-pace video we prepared for last year’s tour, which highlighted some of transformations that have taken place in Old North in recent years. Take a look, and please feel free to “like” it and send the link on to others if you think it conveys the dynamic pace and positive changes that have taken place in Old North over the past few years.

Old North Transformations Tour Promo

Thank you to Old North resident Joe Eisenbraun for allowing us to use his music in this video.

If you’d like to pick up a pile of OId North House & Community Tour tickets to sell (or flyers or postcards to distribute), give us a call at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office at 314-241-5031.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

And the Winners of the Land Lab Competition Are…

From the official press release put out by the City of St. Louis and Washington University:

The City of St. Louis is poised to lead the way in innovative solutions to the national urban issue of vacant land, thanks to a unique partnership between the city and Washington University.

Four of the City’s vacant lots will be the new home for five demonstration projects that test new ways to think of vacant space. From a franchise-model urban farm co-existing next to an intimate bistro built out of re-used shipping containers, to a sunflower lab piloting efficiency of plant-based soil remediation, Old North St. Louis will be the first home to what will truly be a Sustainable Land Lab.

Winners of the inaugural Sustainable Land Lab Competition are:

Bistro Box and Our Farm: The Bistro Box concept is a small business incubator that transforms surplus cargo containers into a compact restaurant and culinary destination. Our Farm is a scalable urban agriculture network that proposes to transform blighted lots into cost efficient models of sustainability. **This is a hybrid of two finalist teams sharing a single lot due to the synergy between the two projects**

Chess Pocket Park: An outdoor community chess venue for residents with a permanent location supporting our primary community asset – people.

Mighty Mississippians: A modern agricultural and sustainable living model, the premises for this approach are rooted in regional history, the Mississippians and their ancestors, as well as modern permaculture practices. Using concepts of permaculture, the site will 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.

Sunflower+ Project: 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.The sunflowers will improve soil quality, remove soil contaminants, and eventually produce a marketable set of products from flowers to seeds to biodiesel.

Each winning project will receive a two-year land lease and $5,000 seed money to start their project.

In the inaugural year of this city-wide competition, the pilot sites will be hosted in Old North St. Louis.

“The Sustainable Land Lab Competition is exploring innovative ideas for a national issue,” says Phil Valko, director of sustainability at the university.

“From urban to suburban to rural communities, vacant land is an American epidemic. This competition is adding to the dialogue and the body of problem solving,” he says. “The aspect that makes it especially unique is that the winners will actually win access to land and money to build their idea. The partnership between the city and Washington University in St. Louis is of great benefit to both. It leverages the university’s role as a thought-leader and research institution to channel creative thinking to a major challenge the city faces.”

The competition timing aligns well with the release of the first City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan.

“Advancing tangible and measureable sustainability has been an important goal of this project,” says Catherine Werner, sustainability director for the City of St. Louis. “Part of the challenge was for the teams to specifically address how their projects will help achieve the city’s sustainability goals. It’s very exciting to now have the opportunity to watch as creative sustainability ideas become reality.”

“I am thrilled that we have been able to partner with Washington University on this project,” says St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “There was an overwhelming amount of interest and support from the community and the result was a high level of energy and an impressive array of final project ideas. It was difficult to select just a few winning projects. I look forward to celebrating and learning from the winning projects and using ideas from all the projects involved to address vacant land use in the city.”

The winning teams will present their ideas during a public forum at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Bridge, 1004 Locust St. in St. Louis.

Forty-eight teams applied in the first of a three-round competition. The final round consisted of eight ideas representing 10 of the original teams.

All of the submissions can be found online at

The competition brief, which outlines the goals and context for this initiative, can be found online at

The Sustainable Land Lab is a partnership between Washington University and the City of St. Louis, with support from Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, Equifax and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance.

It is the ongoing legacy of Washington University’s three-day Sustainable Cities Conference, held Nov. 1-3, 2012. The Sustainable Land Lab is designed to be a living laboratory of two-year demonstration projects, which will showcase innovative ideas and integrated strategies for transforming one of the region’s greatest challenges — vacant land — into an asset that can advance sustainability.

Please join us this evening in celebrating the completion of the selection process.

The official groundbreaking and start of work on these projects will take place on Saturday, April 27 at 10 a.m. The locations are marked on the map below.

Images of the projects (below) were part of the groups’ final concept boards submitted for Round 3.

Selected for Lot 1 at 2711 N. 14th Street:  Chess Pocket Park

Selected for Lot 4 at 1318-24 Warren:  Sunflower + Project

Selected for Lot 5 at 1300-06 Montgomery:  Mighty Mississippians

Selected for Lot 6 at 1303 Motgomery: Bistro Box and Our Farm

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Scenes from Land Lab Exhibit and Open Mic for Arts in Old North

Thank you to all of the residents and friends of Old North who came out to the Old North Gallery on Thursday evening to view the Sustainable Land Lab exhibit and afterwards to speak up for the arts in Old North.  As noted in our post from earlier on Thursday, the evening offered a convergence of art, sustainability, and community in the form of two, back-to-back events: a reception for the viewing of concept boards in the Sustainable Land Lab Competition, and an “open mic” session designed to allow residents and other community stakeholders an opportunity to express their thoughts on the presence of arts in Old North and their ideas for how additional support for the arts can help further the neighborhood’s revitalization.

Sustainable Land Lab Competition Exhibit Reception

St. Louis Beacon - Kresge Arts St. Louis Open Mic Event

Attendees were greeted with the upbeat steel drum music of Jamaica Ray.

A standing-room-only crowd was on hand to share their perspectives and listen to each others' thoughts on the role of arts in Old North.

A standing-room-only crowd was on hand to share their perspectives and listen to each others' thoughts on the role of arts in Old North.

William Burton Jr. of the 14th Street Artist Community discussed the capacity of the arts to bring different groups of people together.

William Burton Jr. of the 14th Street Artist Community discussed the capacity of the arts to bring different groups of people together.

Dave Eisenbraun shared his experience of raising three sons in Old North and how pleased he is that his son & daughter-in-law are raising his granddaughter in the neighborhood.

Dave Eisenbraun shared his experience of raising three sons in Old North and how pleased he is that his son & daughter-in-law are raising his granddaughter in the neighborhood.

ONSLRG's community engagement specialist, Claire Wolff, described how arts have been a key part of many of the group's initiatives, including music and children's activities at the North City Farmers' Market.

ONSLRG's community engagement specialist, Claire Wolff, described how arts have been a key part of many of the group's initiatives, including music and children's activities at the North City Farmers' Market.

Former ONSLRG intern M.K. Stallings talked about the power of poetry and how much the neighborhood has changed for the better over the past 10 years.

Former ONSLRG intern M.K. Stallings talked about the power of poetry and how much the neighborhood has changed for the better over the past 10 years.

Terry Harris, with his daughter Mhari at his side, shared why he and his family recently moved into Old North and what he appreciates about the arts programming for children that Old North already offers.

Terry Harris, with his daughter Mhari at his side, shared why he and his family recently moved into the neighborhood and what he appreciates about the arts programming for children that Old North already offers.

We had many more who took their turn at the microphone and offered their testimonials about Old North, but due to space limitations, we can’t acknowledge or show you all of them.  However, please check out the St. Louis Beacon’s report on the event, which includes a brief summary and a video of selections from the meeting.  Click HERE for their report, “Old North residents celebrate rebirth, discuss what can be.”

If you couldn’t make it to the event but still want your voice to be heard, you can express your thoughts, ideas, hopes or other observations online, through Wednesday, March 27, by clicking HERE.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mark Your Calendar for Multiple Ways to Visit, Celebrate, and Support Old North!

The next few weeks will be chock full of events that will provide opportunities to visit, learn more about, celebrate, support, Old North St. Louis (and positive neighborhood development in general).  Come on out to join us at one or move of the following:

Monday, January 21 - 5:30 p.m. - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Gathering

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commitment to service and community, ONSLRG will be hosting a gathering of churches serving Old North and providing a forum for an exchange of information about the great variety of programs coordinated by these churches, from food pantries to health screenings.  For more information, contact Claire Wolff, ONSLRG’s Community Engagement Specialist:

Thursday, January 24th - 5:30 p.m. - inveSTL Event at ONSLRG Gallery

inveSTL is a charitable fund at the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation dedicated to supporting the development of great neighborhoods in the St. Louis region.   As part of their efforts to raise awareness about how individuals in the St. Louis area can join them in investing in St. Louis neighborhoods and highlight areas where such investment might help, inveSTL holds monthly “Know Your Neighborhoods” gatherings in different parts of town.  This month, inveSTL is bringing their event to Old North.  Please come on out on Thursday, Jan. 24 to learn more about this great initiative and show your support for Old North at the same time.  Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at

Saturday, January 26 - 9 a.m. - Cleanup Day in 13th Street Community Garden-

The 13th Street Garden Group and other volunteers will be getting a head-start on prepping the garden for the spring planting season.  Tasks will include prepping the sweet potato bed, cleaning the greenhouse, and various other ground work.   If you’re interested in joining them, contact the ONSLRG office at 314-241-5031 or via email at

Thursday, January 31 - 6:30 p.m. - Old North Neighborhood Open Meeting

In addition to the usual opportunity to get a variety of neighborhood updates and a chance to talk with officers from the 4th & 5th police districts, the January 31 Neighborhood Open Meeting will feature representatives from MoDOT who will report on the progress of construction work on I-70 and the Mississippi River Bridge.  Please join us and spread the word to your neighbors.

Friday, February 1 - Opening of Exhibit of Sustainable Land Lab Competition Design Proposals

The 15 teams selected for round two of the Sustainable Land Lab competition will be submitting concept boards and tentative implementation plans, which will be displayed at the ONSLRG Gallery for public viewing and comment.  Check back for exact details about the exhibit’s opening and viewing opportunities.  For more info about the competition, check out our December 18 post on the 15 teams vying for the chance to implement their creative ideas for sustainable re-uses of 4 empty lots in Old North.

The St. Louis Beacon covered the competition with two articles over the past week.  Click HERE for the first article, “The troubled past and possible futures of 1303 Montgomery St.” and HERE for the second article, “Vacant lots: when temporary change becomes transformational.”

Sunday, February 10 - 9 a.m. - Run for the Chocolate 5K

The St. Louis area’s sweetest 5k run and 1 mile walk returns for a second year with its route coming straight to the heart of Old North on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.  All registrants will receive a super deluxe “Will Run for Chocolate” event shirt, along with pre-, post-, and mid-race chocolates.  T-shirts will be color-coded, so that you’ll be able to see whether your fellow runners are “on-the-market” (i.e., single) or “off-the-market” in case you’re still looking for a Valentine’s Day date.

Register online at  The event also could use some good neighborhood volunteers to help along the route, including passing out water and chocolates.  If that is more appealing than running in the race, contact the ONSLRG office at 314-241-5031 or, and we’ll put you in touch with the event organizers.

Monday, February 18 - 6 p.m. - ONSLRG Annual Meeting & Pot-Luck Supper

It’s a full month away, but it’s not too early to start planning your favorite dish.  Watch for more details, which will be posted here soon. In the meantime, please lock the date on your calendar and start telling your neighbors and any other friends of Old North to plan to join us on Monday, February 18!


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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