Monday, August 20, 2007

14th St. Mall Construction Begins

Construction on the 14th St Mall in Old North St. Louis has officially begun. Financing for the residential portion closed on Friday, and E.M. Harris wasted no time getting started. Two buildings are now being gutted, with more to start very soon. The commercial component will close within the next few weeks, allowing full scale construction to start. Check out pics of the first day of work from my post over at the New Old North Blog.

Land Assmbly Tax Credit

I'm taking one from the PubDef book. I'll be reporting from Jefferson City tomorrow, where a special session hearing will be held on HB 1. The bill contains the controversial Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit, created solely for Paul McKee's "Blairmont." I'll have an update tomorrow. Hopefully some changes will be made to the bill to allow many more developers to qualify, such as removing the size requirement for starters.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sometimes It's The Little Things

In my time at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, I've had the opportunity to do a lot of different things. I have some big projects under my belt by this point. However, when you work at a neighborhood CDC that is also the neighborhood association in an area that has been neglected for half a century, it's not just big projects all the time. One of my projects in the last week has had the most impact of any other, and it is one of the smallest.

Old North gets a lot of outside visitors due almost entirely to Crown Candy. Unfortunately, most of the people coming in from just about everywhere have no idea of the great things happening in the neighborhood, and the city as a whole. They see the blight while driving in on I-70, then they get out of their cars and SUV's and see the abandoned 14th St. Mall right across from Crown. It's not really a pretty picture, but just a couple of blocks north or south one can find blocks of brand new, and spectacularly rehabbed houses and apartments. Of course, the 14th St. mall will be under complete reconstruction very soon. The patrons of Crown don't know to explore a little, so they miss out.

That's where my little project comes in. The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group office is right across 14th St. from Crown Candy. About half the customers for Crown walk directly by the windows. The windows have always featured news stories from the past couple of years, some pictures, and promotion for North Market Place. However, all of this wasn't very organized, and the materials had taken quite a beating from the sun. By this point in time, I had been walking by all of this myself for over 6 months. While talking about the office one day with one of the other interns we decided the windows needed to be redone because they were probably giving people a bad impression about the organization, and by extension the neighborhood. The next day I took everything down to start fresh.

I started with the window that looks directly into the office. New signs promoting the website and blog were printed. Signs and pictures promoting the North Market Place development were made up. I went through all of the pics of the neighborhood that I have taken and printed a bunch of the good ones to display. The preservation campaign for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home also got a spot. To finish the window, I put one of our Coming soon signs up for the 14th St. Mall redevelopment. Stay tuned soon for the launch of the rebranding of the Mall area

Today I redid the windows in the conference room. These windows are actually in a storefront doorway, and had become incredibly dirty inside and out. I had to clean the windows first. I then put up website and blog signs, filled up a strip with old house tour posters, and printed some more pictures of the neighborhood. I also readied the windows to display posters when the 14th St. Mall rebranding launched very soon.

I went through all that just to say that my simple work in rebuilding the windows has led to many new looks. Before the new materials, people didn't often stop to look at what was displayed. After watching people for a week, many of the people walking by now stop, even if just for a moment. The office windows have almost become a microcosm of the neighborhood as a whole. People are rediscovering the city around them, renewing, rebuilding, returning.

This little project of mine, more than any other that I have done, could make a difference in the neighborhood, even if it just means many changed attitudes. Super projects don't make a difference if no one know about them.

Then I made this blog post to promote the neighborhood even more.

And since I mentioned it, here's a rendering of the renovated 14th St. It may have changed a little since May. The website and marketing campaign will launch very soon.