At the beginning of this year I read a quote from Mayor Slay in the St. Louis Business Journal about Benton Park West and Old North St. Louis becoming the next Soulards. I took this to mean in terms of value not necessarily in terms of flavor. So I investigated to compare the current values of similar properties (3 beds/1+ baths) in each neighborhood. In addition I drove around each and took photos. The photos were the difficult part as those are more subjective. One very active Old North St. Louis resident pointed out that I took one of the worst photos possible of Old North St. Louis and she invited me to tour the neighborhood from an insiders perspective.
Barbara is a veritable fountain of knowledge when it comes to her neighborhood. She bought a GIANT house last year and has been tirelessly working on it since. View her project here.
She took me first to the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group a non-profit development group established by the neighbors. There we met Sean Thomas, the Executive Director, and Irvetta Williams, the Real Estate Development Coordinator. One of many of the incredibly progressive initiatives the organization has taken on is its partnership with LRA for the vacant buildings in its neighborhood limits. For most LRA properties, prospective purchasers need to submit proposals directly to LRA and work their own through that system. In Old North St. Louis, however, if a purchaser is interested in a vacant building, their proposal starts with Irvetta and the organization helping to streamline the process and more quickly reducing the amount of vacant buildings more quickly. Currently there are only 33 remaining LRA properties available to the general public. Others still stand vacant but have been optioned to the Restoration Group who will take on the development themselves in an effort to build density faster and to make homes available for people who want to move into the neighborhood but who aren’t necessarily able to complete the work required to make these buildings habitable.
After our brief visit here, Barbara directed me to North Market Place which is being done in cooperation RHCDA. ONSLRG is the developer and has hired Vatterott to build the new construction. The project is currently in phase one.
After North Market we toured the neighborhood from the southern end near Howard to the northern end by Branch. Babara open my eyes to the revitalization and commitment of the neighbors. House after house she named the owners and rattled of the scope of their projects. I could not possibly do it justice here. But Barbara said she gives tours about once a week.