Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fountain Park Partnership

Those interested in historic city neighborhoods have treasures awaiting them in Lewis Place, Fountain Park, and Academy/Sherman Park on the city's north side. The three neighborhoods are a short distance from the Central West End and Forest Park, straddling Kingshighway between Delmar and Dr. Martin Luther King and Union and Newstead. The neighborhoods retain much of their original building stock and have many unique structures.

Among them are the old street car rights of way including the Hodiamont Track and another to the north near Newberry Terrace and Kensington Avenue whose name I am still researching to learn. Some of the neighborhood's historic buildings were designed to hug the curving rights of way for the old street cars. Seeing the relationship between the buildings and the old rail lines conjures images of what St. Louis life was like during the street car days.

While these neighborhoods offer much to appreciate for their architecture, there are also opportunities for people across St. Louis to get involved to help strengthen these communities, and that is what this post is about.

First is National Night Out on August 4th, next Tuesday, beginning at 5:00 PM. From the neighborhood association's press release:

Neighbors of Fountain Park Association Will Celebrate National Night Out 2009 In Fountain Park

National Night Out (NNO) is a unique community event, celebrated in the United States and Canada, that focuses on prevention of crime and drug activity, and is held the first Tuesday of August every year. This year, NNO falls on August 4th.

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is designed to:

Heighten community awareness of crime and drug prevention.
Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs.
Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.
Send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Promote emergency preparedness awareness.

This year Neighbors of Fountain Park Association has partnered with other neighborhood associations and faith based groups to join in a peace walk through the community. The participants will assemble at the Fountain at 5:00 PM and return to the park for refreshment and an evening of fun and socializing.

For more information, contact Clint Potts, Neighbors of Fountain Park Association at (314)443-4081

The second opportunity is a back to school event. There are a lot of school-aged young people living in these neighborhoods.

Back to School Celebration

On Saturday, August 22nd, from 11:00 AM till 3:00 PM, neighbors will meet again in Fountain Park for a Back to School Celebration.

Centennial Christian Church with other community partners are sponsoring a fun day at Fountain Park open to all school-aged city kids to help them get off to a good start to the upcoming school year. There will be raffles for free bicycles, music, and backpacks filled with school supplies.

Last year the effort provided five free bicycles and over 200 backpacks. The tradition is continuing this year and donations of time, funds, and bikes or school supplies are welcomed. Contact person for this event is also Mr. Clint Potts, telephone number (314) 443-4081.

I have attended two of the organizing meetings for these events and can attest that this project is a community-driven effort. The first meeting had roughly ten attendees and last night's meeting had more than that. If you are interested in helping out, please phone Clint Potts at the number above or contact me directly on (314) 605-5811 and I will provide you with further details. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

South Kingshighway Community Development Ideas

With yesterday's news that the Avalon Theater is being offered for sale, the Southampton listserve has been abuzz with ideas about how to redevelop the vacant theater property.

Today, there is discussion on the list of forming a nonprofit organization to further target the revitalization of the Kingshighway corridor. The area being considered runs from the closed Don Brown Dodge dealership at Fyler all the way south to the Burlington Coat factory shopping center at Kingshighway and Christy Boulevards.

Perhaps interest in the fate of the Avalon Theater will be the catalyst to advance a renewed development effort in the area?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Avalon Theater For Sale: Asking Price $1,000,000

News of the long-vacant Avalon Theater on South Kingshighway being offered for sale is appearing in people's electronic in-boxes today. However, at an asking price of $1,000,000, some are wondering if the property will draw much interest, especially during this economic slowdown.

The effort to market the building does provide the opportunity to think about the challenges faced by the owners of vacant buildings, and what should be done to ensure their long term viability and reuse potential.

Too often, preservationists and urbanists learn of a building's fate after a permit for demolition has been issued. By that time, it is often years' past any serious thought went into how to reuse a building.

One reason for the significant amount of demolition in St. Louis has been the decline in population. A city of 350,000 does not need the built housing stock of a city that once housed over 800,000 residents. The vacant land we see today is evidence of this transition.

It is not unusual to see a neighborhood's vacant commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings last longer than the vacant residential ones, if only because they are perceived to have higher values by their owners than smaller residential properties. Still, without a viable use and operating income, they are caught in a cycle of decline.

If a goal of urbanists and preservationists is to see fewer buildings of architectural and historic significance demolished, what steps should we pursue to make that happen?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Sustainable Cities Collective" features St. Louis blogger

The author of the St. Louis Urban Workshop site, Alex Ihnen, is highlighted in a nice "blogger of the week" national community development website feature.

South of Gravois, between Jefferson and Grand

Those boundaries describe a huge geography in the City of St. Louis. Included in the area down to Meramec is the largest national register historic district in the state of Missouri, the "Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb Historic District", containing over 5,000 historic buildings.

Beyond historic rehab, neighbors are working together on other community projects to build up the area. Here's a link to one important effort: Seeds of Change

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

St. Louis Arts and Crafts Society Open House

(Click on the image for a full size view of the invitation)

When: July 26, from 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Where: 700 Bellerive, St. Louis, Missouri, 63111. (located in beautiful Carondelet, off of South Grand, near Carondelet Park).

For more information, please call Patrice Petrich on 314-412-1382

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Block party season

Summer and fall are the peak times for block parties. If you've never organized a block party, here are some helpful hints to get started.

You'll need barricades to close the streets, but don't plan to rent out a "porta-potty". With all the neighbors participating, they have bathrooms in their homes.

The earlier you start planning, the better your block party will be. Allow at least 60 days.

Work with your alderman to secure a block party permit. The permits are applied for at the city Street Department off of Hampton Avenue on the north side of I-44. Invite your alderman to attend.

Form a committee to help with closing the street and cleanup. A good block party takes alot of work. The more people helping out, the lighter the workload. Plus, this years volunteers make for a better committee and block party next year.

Take advantage of the event to get to know your neighbors better (obviously), but go further and start a neighbor/block directory. Ideally, a block captain would be involved. If your block doesn’t have one, consider volunteering.

Organize the block directory so it’s voluntary, encouraging participation by providing everyone who participates with a copy. Sort it by name, address, email, and phone number. Then use the email addresses to update neighbors when things come up. Update the directory every year.

The fire department usually will send a crew and a truck for an hour or so. (Having food on hand keeps them around longer). The police canine unit is usually available as well. The dogs are beautiful and great with kids.

The best part of having a block party is closing the street to traffic and “owning” the block for kids to play, without fear of traffic, etc.

Send notices to neighbors at least 30 days in advance, listing activities, soliciting volunteers, etc, and asking them to park their cars off the street for the day. Remind them again a couple days before the actual date.

If you have questions or comments about organizing good block parties, post them in the comments section.

Monday, July 13, 2009

If you can green a highway embankment, why not the banks of the River Des Peres?

Drivers heading north and south on Interestate 55 through Soulard and Benton Park see grass covered embankments. Every spring the embankments bloom with thousands of bright yellow daffodils. Volunteers plant the flowers. City crews (or are they from MoDOT?) mow the embankments.

The steepness of the slopes on the I-55 embankments look close to the same as those lining the River Des Peres. Unfortunately, the banks of River Des Peres don't look anywhere near as nice as the embankments along I-55 from Arsenal to Gravois.

The ones along the River Des Peres are covered mostly by broken up shards of rock, not trees, green grass, and flowers. Is there anything from a landscape design or soils and erosion control standpoint that would prevent the banks of the River Des Peres from achieving a similar green appearance?

City of Webster Groves, Historical Society Sponsor Excellence Awards

In a celebration of one of our region's most beautiful areas, the City of Webster Groves and the Webster Groves Historical Society are sponsoring their 5th annual "Awards of Excellence".

Awards will recognize outstanding work in the areas of architecture, historic preservation, craftsmanship, and landscape design.

Applications are due September 4. For more information, call Jennifer Conrad on 314-963-5319 or visit the website.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rock Show Tonight!

Adding to the atmosphere in downtown St. Louis, tonight is the July Rockfest at the Fubar club, 3108 Locust.

Doors open at 5:00 PM, there is an $8 cover charge, and STL Rising has a rooting interest in one of the bands - that's the young Matt B. on the right side of the photo, performing alongside his co-lead guitarist Ron, in their band "Headfirst" (click to enlarge the image).

Check them out tonight starting after 5:00 PM and help support our local music scene!

Greening the River Des Peres?

The River Des Peres is an unattractive drainage ditch forming the southern edge and entrance to our city.

It's upland areas are being improved with nice bike trails, bridges, and landscaping. But the banks down the side are bare dirt with no visual interest.

Long stretches of time pass when the river is nearly empty. During periods of heavy rain, it fills up and looks like a real river. Most of the year, however, it's somewhere in between with a fairly low waterline.

What is the possibilty of planting vegetation along these banks to make the area greener and more pleasing to the eye?

MLB descends on downtown STL

This morning there was a man pulling a suitcase down Olive, wearing an "MLB" logo emblazoned golf shirt. Yesterday, tiny front loaders were removing the hunks of broken sidewalk away from the edges of Ballpark Village.

The temporary Cordish signage surrounding the Ballpark Village site has been removed and an enormous temporary building has been installed. It's probably the hospitality area for media reps, team people, etc. Giant Allstar game posters adorn downtown buildings including the moribund St. Louis Centre Skybridge. There are banners everywhere and Allstar game themed arches for photo ops. It's a very festive atmosphere.

Even Papa Fabarres is getting into the act. Yesterday, they were moving furniture onto the sidewalk, so I asked them if they were closing down. Quite the contrary. The longtime downtown restaurant is opening an outdoor cafe area on the Olive side of the Railway Exchange Building (600 block of Olive) to sell lunches and cold beverages to Allstar visitors.

For the next few days, St. Louis is the center of the baseball world. Getting an Allstar game only happens once every fifty years or so, so St. Louis is working to put on a great event, and leverage this effort into marketing the community for future visits, corporate investment, etc. Mayor Slay is predicting that the overall St. Louis Allstar game experience will top last year's effort in New York City. Altogether, it's a $60-70 million dollar economic boost for our region.

What are your impressions? Will you come downtown to be part of the atmosphere? Anyone fortunate enough to be going to the actual game?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New link added to blog roll

For in depth articles with an arts focus, please visit 2 Buildings 1 Blog, now linked on the right side of the page. The site is a project of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Follow the site for future discussions about the role of community and the arts in neighborhood revitalization.

Impressive West County Stats

STL Rising doesn't write alot about the St. Louis suburbs, but something arrived in my in-box today that is pretty impressive.

A postcard advertising a shopping center for sale along Manchester Road included demographic information. People love comparing St. Louis to other regions, and these numbers make St. Louis look pretty good.

The stats below refer to population and income information for a radius centered on Manchester Road between Clarkson and 141. (According to the flier, the source of the following is the US Census.)

1 mile radius

Population - 9,114
Households - 3,374
Average household income - $76,871

3 mile radius

Population - 76,242
Households - 26,870
Average household income - $101,462

5 mile radius

Population - 150,397
Households - 55,013
Average household income - $109,612

With the low cost of living in the St. Louis metro, a lot of people are living a good lifestyle.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A book sale worth exploring

A Book Sale worth exploring at the Missouri History Museum Shop.

July 11, 2009 11am - 5pm

You’ll discover 43 titles about St Louis history, 1904 World’s Fair, ghosts, sports, architecture and more. Originally $14.95 to $35.00, they will be offered at $5.00 for hard bound copies and $3.00 for soft bound copies.


A Century of Sports
Ghost Town: While St. Louis Sleeps
The St Louis Hawks
Parkview: A St. Louis Urban Oasis


City of Gabriels: The Jazz History of St. Louis
St Louis Baseball Fan Sudoku & Word Search
St. Louis Watercolor: The Architecture of a City
Bringing Science to Life
1001 Things to Do In & Around St. Charles
Tales from the Coral Courts
Days & Nights of the Central West End
Hermann Haunts
So, Where Did You Go To High School?
Under Three Flags: Exploring Early St. Louis History
Johnny Rabbits Amazing St. Louis Trivia Game
The Queen of Lace: The Story of the Continental Life Building
Still Shining: Lost Treasures from the 1904 World’s Fair

Booklovers are sure to uncover a great summer read!

Arrive early for the best selection.

See you there!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Building on Citygarden's success

So far, Citygarden has been a huge success. I make a point to go by the garden as much as possible. Today around noon it was more packed than ever.

Today's Post Dispatch had a photo of two smiling children playing in one of the fountains. It was a cute photo, and the kids were obviously having a good time, but I wondered if playing in the fountains is permitted? Are there limits?

The same question came up the other day in Forest Park. There were families of kids playing in the new fountain at the bottom of Government Hill (across from the Boat House Lake). Is that permitted too?

What happens if homeless people start bathing in the fountains of Citygarden? That would no doubt be a problem. Maybe there's an age limit for people going into the fountains, say around age twelve? If anyone knows the story on this, please reply in the comments section. Thanks.

Back to the good stuff. Seeing the throngs of people flock to the wonderful environment of Citygarden makes me think, there has got to be a way to have similar success in remaking the connection between downtown, the riverfront, and the Arch grounds.

Imagine if we could create the buzz of excitement for our downtown/Arch/riverfront connections area that has happened at Citygarden. The recipe at Citygarden includes public art, water features, and an inviting public space ready to explore.

Is such an outcome possible for our riverfront/downtown/Arch connection area?