Sunday, May 17, 2009

Macklind Days

With a few hours of yard work done, and in between our next scheduled plans, we remembered that yesterday was "Macklind Days". We were thinking of going to get something to eat, so why not check out the options at the neighborhood event?

Organized by the Macklind Avenue Business District, Macklind Days brought together neighbors, local businesses, the curious, and by estimates well over 2,000 people to enjoy music, art, food, and friends all within the confines of a 1920s-30s vintage neighborhood commercial district.

Macklind Avenue starts near the Science Center and Forest Park, and runs south through the Hill, Tilles/Lindenwood, Southampton and Princeton Heights neighborhoods. Along the way you pass historic architecture, a neighborhod recycling center, the impressive Buder School (replete with upgraded playground), and in Southampton and Princeton Heights, you experience what is becoming one of the region's fastest rebounding pedestrian-scaled, neighborhood commercial districts. It's no wonder, within a couple of blocks on either side of the Macklind corridor, there are enough residents to make up a small town, with Macklind the local "main street".

Festival organizers could not have been happier with the weather. It felt more like fall than late spring. The air was clear and cool without a hint of humidity. EcoUrban, Manzo's, Onesto, Macklind Deli, along with a number of other southside businesses and organizations were represented. There was a large, professional sound stage with a full day's lineup of performers. Games, people walking dogs, visitors of all ages, were all around, affording many chance meetings for friends new and old.

Pete Manzo, owner of Manzo' Market (makers of arguably the finest salsiccia sausage in St. Louis) told me the event was many months in the planning and a substantial financial commitment on the part of organizers. To keep the project going, they will be looking for corporate sponsors for future years. Given the excellent PR for the neighborhood, I suggested they do it twice a year. With the amount of work for volunteers, Pete wasn't convinced about that idea. Yet, with the fun atmosphere and community building opportunity realized, building on the success of this first event would be a great goal for neighbors, local organizers, and the business association alike.

The Macklind Avenue Business District is a membership association. I will do some more research on the organization and update the post accordingly. If a 501.c.3 nonprofit, charitable contributions to fund future Macklind Days events would be tax deductible. In the meantime, congratulations to all the organizers for a great event!

One final note...the stretch of Macklind between Manzo's and Southampton Presbyterian Church is coming along nicely. Manzo's is a mainstay, along with EcoUrban, Big River Running Company, Macklind Deli, and the wonderfully rehabbed home office of Rainieri Construction (note to Landmarks Association that the Rainieri building at Macklind and Nottingham would make a great "most enhanced" candidate). However, in the middle of the block, south across the alley from Manzo's and across Macklind from EcoUrban and the Mack pub, there's one building left in need of TLC.

The building is solid, but over the years, it has suffered from inappropriate alterations, especially in the form of filling in sections of the original window and door openings with vinyl siding. The building appears to have 4-6 small bays, and, if historically rehabbed, would make a fine addition to the charm and walkable destinations within the Macklind Business District. Presently, the vacant bays all have little "for lease"signs in them.

Without an income, the owner has little incentive to improve the building. Southampton, not yet on the city's list of national register historic districts (but surely eligible) doesn't qualify for historic tax credits. So the pretty building with its terra cotta ornamentation, and strategic location in the heart of the Macklind Avenue Business District, sits looking quiet and tired. A challenge for neighbors is how to nudge the building owner to make progress with the building as part of the long range community efforts in Southampton. Maybe events like Macklind Days are part of that equation!

Oh, and as far as that bite to eat...for about a year now, Manzo's has been serving hot sandwiches. We had one of their signature Italian beef sandwiches: beef sliced very thin, piled high on a hoagie roll, adding aus jus and pepperoncini, then washed down with a sampling of Schlafy. We dined at one of the sidewalk cafe tables in front of Manzo's Market. Excellent!


Will said...

I love love love that this area is seeing some cohesion and shows ambition to become a destination walking neighborhood. However, I was just looking at the MBD website and was a little disappointed to see the following as the second "accomplishment" of which they're proud:

Expanded parking availability along Macklind by working with various agencies to remove or relocate bus stops within the District.Oh well.

Anonymous said...

They should probably update that anyway, as the bus lines that used to run on that stretch of Macklind have been abandoned by Metro.

Anonymous said...

will, what is wrong with expanded on-street parking? we should find a way to expand on street parking all over the city. this is a great neighborhood and i am happy to see it grow