Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nottingham Community Center Plan

A group of 16th ward volunteers has grown to over 100 in efforts to bring a new CID (Community Improvement District) to the ward to fund commercial district improvements, neighborhood public safety, and a community center and swim facility.

Households funding the CID, estimated to cost $250 per year, will have access to the community center, and the opportunity to join the swimming pool on an annual basis at an additional cost.

The preferred location for the community center and swim facility is at the SW corner of Donovan and Nottingham, across from Francis Park. Currently the site is home to a city public high school for about 100 special education students. In order for the project to proceed, the school district would need to find an alternative location for the special education high school and agree to a sale of the property.

Proponents have developed a preliminary design for the community center, which features many of the design elements of homes in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood.

Approval of the CID would require 51% of property owners within the CID to sign a petition in support, and then approval by the Board of Aldermen.

Other parts of the city have established CIDs, including Downtown and South Grand.



Anonymous said...

According to the description you've provided, it appears that access to the pool will be limited to Owners of 16th Ward Real Estate willing to pay/able to afford Membership Fees. Seems to me like this is a plan for public financing of a private pool.

Urban Review - St. Louis said...

"Proponents have developed a preliminary design for the community center, which features many of the design elements of homes in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood."

Oh please don't let them pick and chose elements from various houses to tack on to a new building. This form of design is usually awkward and is a mockery of the beautiful homes. What works on a 2,500sf home doens't always translate to a larger building. There is nothing wrong with original design. Besides, the homes in St. Louis represent many styles from modern, to tudor, to spanish revival to art deco. Good design and good materials are better than lame attempts at contextualism.

Anonymous said...

Would the CID be 16th Ward boundaries subject to change every ten years after census and ward redistricting? Or would it be for set street boundaries?

Does this require petition signatures and an election vote? Or just signatures and then approval by Board of Alders?

Who decides the membership fees? If it's not set in stone up front, what's to stop the fee from being a figure that prices out a lot of people?

Someone please explain the funding. What does "Households funding the CID" mean?

If those who sign the petitions, pay the bill and those who don't, don't have to pay, that might be a fair set-up.

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble setting up an account here...so I logged on as "anonymous". But I'm Bill Burnes, one of the committee members working on this project. Thanks to each of you for your comments. We've been actively soliciting feedback and appreciate your thoughts.

A response to the first 3 comments:
1) Yes, access would be limited to real estate owners in the district (though the exact boundaries of the district have not been finalized). But you're incorrect about it being private. This is public. Absolutely no different than any other publicly financed municipal community center. No different than Sunset Hills, Fenton, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, University City, etc. Each of those facilities limits use to the political subdivisions that paid for them. For example, St. Louis City residents are not allowed access to Webster Groves' pool facility. Also, given that the proposed facility sits in a quiet, residential neighborhood, opening it to thousands of non-district residents would be disrespectful to the surrounding homeowners.

2)I presume you haven't seen the design; your response must be based solely on the original blog. While some facets of the architecture are reminiscent of the existing neighborhood, it is far, far away from the hodge podge you fear. Probably best to view a sampling of the beautiful renderings at vincico.com.

3) The district boundaries would not fluctuate based on future ward redistricting. Actually, the establishment of a Community Improvement District (CID)is not tied to ward boundaries in any way. The district can be drawn quite literally in a variety of ways: one side of a street...half a street...portions of various wards, etc. But in no case would the boundaries of the district get smaller later. As I understand it (am not a lawyer), the district could be expanded later if residents think it is a good idea. Currently, we're proposing to draw the district -- more or less -- along the ward boundaries. But we're looking for input on that issue.

CIDs in City of STL are initially proposed via a petition of 51% of property owners per capita and 51% of property owners by acreage. Petition is then presented for approval by Board of Alderman. Any revenue generated through a CID can also be approved by petition (for special assesment) or by election for any proposed property tax or sales tax.

The membership fees and all other decisions related to construction/ operation of the facility as well as proposed street, curb, sidewalk and safety improvements will be controlled by a LOCAL, ELECTED board of directors. In essence -- your neighbors. As directors of this non-profit, public project, their job would be to make it most affordable for all -- and out of the red. The thing that would prohibit them from pricing it too high would be fear that no one would use it...which of course, would defeat the purpose. While impossible to set in stone now, feel assured that there will be a wide variety of use fee plans. One for singles, one for couples, one for families. Since there will be an indoor work-out facility, a use fee similar to above pool example would be established for that, too.

As a quick summary of funding, a yearly property assessment through the CID would be established to improve the district via the facility, beautification of district streets and business district as well as safety enhancements. The exact amount of the assessment is unknown; but expected to be in $200-250 range. Ongoing operations would be funded through use fees, rentals, concessions, etc.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions. I'll be back to Rick's blog in the future and welcome more comments.


Anonymous said...

quote "Also, given that the proposed facility sits in a quiet, residential neighborhood, opening it to thousands of non-district residents would be disrespectful to the surrounding homeowners."

translation- poor or black people are not allowed.

Neptune said...

Thanks, Bill, for your contribution here but the examples of pool use restrictions in the county don't further your cause. Pools in University City & Webster Groves are open to Residents. Kirkwood's Aquatic Center is open to Residents of Kirkwood, Glendale, Oakland. Fenton's Riverchase & Sunset Hills' pool have Resident & NonResident rates. None of those cities has a real estate ownership qualification for pool use. The information is available at each city's website here at the county's website.

Last census shows the ward with 4,345 owner-occupied units & 1,952 renter-occupied units. A property ownership qualification would exclude 31% of our neighbors.

Last census shows St. Louis Hills with 2,252 owner-occupied units & 1,689 renter-occupied units. A property ownership qualification would exclude 42.86% of our neighbors.

"Also, given that the proposed facility sits in a quiet, residential neighborhood, opening it to thousands of non-district residents would be disrespectful to the surrounding homeowners."

The ward & quiet, residential neighborhood of St. Louis Hills are home to stunningly beautiful, clean, safe Francis Park. It's a hard working public park open to anyone without qualification as to property ownership or residency within the ward or neighborhood. What is the difference, disrespect-wise, between the thousands of outsiders who currently use Francis Park & the thousands who might use the proposed pool? What are you getting at? Please elaborate.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response and pointing out some lack of clarity in my response. I'll try to provide more info/background in a moment.

While I understand the openly anonymous nature of blogging, after today I'll limit my responses to those who identify themselves. I think this is a great forum and would like to continue providing information. But having blind conversations on this subject is something I'm not comfortable with. If anyone would like to email me directly without anonomity, please feel free to do so at bburnes@sbcglobal.net.

Now back to the questions at hand.

When I said that this facility is "no different than any other publicly financed municipal community center...", I didn't communicate my thought clearly. I was trying to make the point that a Southwest St. Louis CID is both a PUBLIC entity and would have the same ability to make decisions pertaining to the question of "access" as any other municipal community center.

Each of the suburban political subdivisions has the right to decide how their operation is run...who will be admitted and who will not. Webster Groves is exclusive to residents; Shrewsbury is exclusive to residents, though non-residents can be sponsored by residents. It varies by political subdivision. We're very familar with each of their policies. But the point is: their ability to make those decisions is the same as a Southwest CID political subdivision's ability to make decisions. This is not any more "private" than Webster Groves'. Hope I've clarified myself and that it makes sense.

Further, NO decisions have been made at this time as to admission policy. It is very, very premature to determine exact policies. We are in a concept/input-gathering mode and have made this clear in every public meeting we've conducted. But first priority is access for the citizens within the district. If there is capacity at the facility after district needs have been met, the possibility remains that non-district residents could be admitted...perhaps in a sponsorship scenario similar to Shrewsbury's policy. But again, we're way premature in determing policy and are anxious for feedback.

Prefacing the next subject with reminder that I am not an attorney... as I understand it, the MO legislation that enacted CIDs requires a petition of "property owners" to create a CID. That's why most of the discussion -- both within our committee and on this blog -- has focused on property owners. However, we are most aware of the renter question and recently asked our attorneys to provide further information on whether the renters can (or must) sign the petition, landlords can (or must) sign petition or if it is optional for either or both. Also critical is how a yearly special assessment to renters would be handled.

I can tell you that it is our expectation that some combination of renters and/or landlords will be part of the CID with admission to the facilities. We're very aware of the percentage of rental property. We'll determine how that will be accomplished after further legal review.

Understand that CIDs have been around for only about 4 years. Not many of them have been done statewide. And one like the one we propose is very different than ones before it. It will take us a bit of time/legal work to propose the best solution. Renters are our neighbors! We are very aware of the issue and will propose a legal solution. But thank you for your very relevant question.

Finally, regarding my statement "...thousands of non-district residents would be disrespectful to the surrounding homeowners", here's the issue: When our committee began work on this 1.5 years ago, we pledged (among other pledges) that this should not be a nuisance to neighbors. When homeowners purchased homes near the proposed location, they did so with NO understanding that a community center might be built across the street from them. It wasn't part of the "deal". Therefore, any proposal we brought forward ought to respect that.

Homeowners in the suburbs buy their homes knowing where the community center is located. Some may prefer to live across from a facility like this; some will not. In newer suburban areas, community centers like this are integrated during development. Again, homeowners can decide to live near it or not. But in the City of St Louis, a facility like this doesn't exist, forcing us to play "catch up" in integrating it in the community.

You're quite right about hard-working Francis Park. It is the jewel of SW St. Louis. But it is approximately 16 times the size of the approx. 3.8 acres at Nottingham. There is adequate street parking surrounding Francis Park for the public as we all know and it does not interfere with surrounding homes. It is bounded by 4-lane streets. The park/homes were developed responsibly at the time. Furthermore, there is a buffer in most "active" areas of Francis Park from homes. For example, the playground is more than 100 yards from the street. Some sports fields are either 100 yards away and/or below street level.

But Nottingham School, on a relatively small lot, is very close to neighbors on Itaska, Ivanhoe, Murdoch and Nottingham with no buffer. Plus St. Louis Hills and particularly its residential streets were designed before the age of 2-(or more) car families. In various input meetings over the last 2 months, neighbors have expressed concern about potential traffic increases, safety issues, noise issues and lack of parking...all due to proposed recreational assets and reception/meeting rooms. Before our proposal was announced, many nearby residents had become increasingly concerned with speeding and traffic issues along Notthingham and Donovan. Our proposal only increases those concerns.

Truly, in all of our input sessions with the general public, these concerns of nearby residents have been the most passionately presented of ANY issues related to the project to date. And true to our early pledge to be respectful of nearby residents, we believe that opening use of the facility to thousands of additional non-district residents would betray the pledge through overcrowding.

There is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained between the needs of the community and the needs of nearby residents. We intend to be most respectful of that balance.

Again, thanks for the input and questions. I look forward to continuing with Rick's blog via non-anonymous questions. Hey...if I can stand up and answer questions, you can stand up and ask em! :)


Anonymous said...

Mr. Burnes' comment below raises an interesting point:

"When homeowners purchased homes near the proposed location, they did so with NO understanding that a community center might be built across the street from them. It wasn't part of the 'deal'. Therefore, any proposal we brought forward ought to respect that."

If other project developers in the St. Louis Hills area had employed this ethic, there would be no ugly new Walgreens at Chippewa and Hampton, which destroyed historic apartment buildings and a peaceful area with noise, increased traffic and glaring night lighting.

Citywide, this ethic would prohibit the Loughborough Commons project, the SLU Biolab on Grand, the expansion of Shreve Engine Rebuilders in Hyde Park and numerous other bad projects.

I like it.

PonyMommy said...

Uh, aren't these the same people who bought homes next to a community center called Nottingham School?

Swapping the old Dobbs Tire for the new Walgreens was a Tilles Park project, not STL Hills. Walgreens may not be everyone's dream come true, I don't spend money there, but it certainly is more attractive than what we had with Dobbs.

BTW, the CID has to provide the same access to all residents of the district, homeowners and renters like. The only issue out there is access by those outside the district.

Anonymous said...

Nottingham School is not quite a community center. A school for 100 and a few dozen teachers is just slightly different than a center for many thousands. What planet did you come in from?

PonyMommy said...

Without knowing the purpose of Nottingham Community Access & Job Training High School, the enrollment figure is deceiving. It offers special education and job training for the developmentally disabled.

Nottingham is also a Community Education Center with classes and activities for adults and youth. Francis Park comes in handy for the summer Nature Camp. Each Center has a stakeholder council which meets each month.

Like most of the City's public schools, I think you can book Nottingham for a meeting/event.

I'm from Terra/Tellus, third planet from our sun.