Historic Preservation Northside Regeneration Old North

Northside Regeneration’s Field Office

by Michael R. Allen

The Northside Regeneration field office.

In the United States, historic preservation almost always is a function of property ownership. The agency of an owner to make choices can lead to some puzzling losses and some unlikely saves. Readers know that the historic preservation agenda of Northside Regeneration has been of great interest to this writer for years. Thus I was pleasantly surprised that the company chose to rehabilitate a pretty unremarkable — but solid and attractive — former truck transfer depot at Howard and in Old North as its field office.

NS = Northside.

The office is within the “Area A” of the larger redevelopment plan — an area that has a separate redevelopment ordinance still in effect unlike the vacated master ordinance. This area currently is mounded with a variegated array of crushed materials flowing to and from new river bridge. Here Northside Regeneration proposes a materials recycling center, and just behind the new field office is the landing of the old Illinois Terminal interurban trestle that Great Rivers Greenway will repurpose as a trail.

Will the little transfer depot — one of many built north of downtown in the 1930s in place of rows of tenement houses — survive the changes coming in this area? That is not certain, but for now Northside Regeneration has an unlikely first completed rehabilitation project.

Historic Preservation Housing North St. Louis Old North

National Trust Honors Old North

by Michael R. Allen

In 1977, high of Model Cities euphoria, the City of St. Louis celebrated the new two-block 14th Street Mall in Old North St. Louis. Within two decades, the mall was bust and the twenty-odd buildings facing it were includes on Landmarks Association’s Most Endangered list. In 1998, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group hosted a charrette to imagine the future of the old pedestrian mall. Some people thought the group was crazy to envision the two blocks returned to urban vitality, but they were proven wrong — over a decade later.

This Friday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will present its National Trust/Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation to Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance for the reborn 14th Street area, called Crown Square Development . The project is one of 23 award winners to be honored by the National Trust next week during its 2010 National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas.

Ah, the difference that 33 years has made is immeasurable. (The $35 million cost of physically reversing the mall’s impact on the built environment is a misleading figure that does not compensate hours of community brainstorming, vigilance and sweat equity.) The path of two blocks of a fragile near north neighborhood shows the pitfalls of urban planning trends and the power of collective action to turn around supposedly hopeless causes.

The west side of 14th Street between Montgomery and Benton Streets, December 2004 (top) and July 2010 (bottom).

The view down 14th Street south from St. Louis Avenue in December 2004 (top) and July 2010 (bottom).

The view south down 14th Street from Montgomery Street in December 2004 (top) and July 2010 (bottom).

Some would say that bricks and mortar (and tax credits) alone don’t transform communities. In fact, I say that. The achievement with Crown Square to date is a miraculous preservation effort that safeguards historic buildings, reopens key streets, enhances the safety and appearance of Old North’s commercial center and provides new rental housing and commercial storefronts. Introducing 78 new housing units in a neighborhood can force a huge change, but toward a previous housing density that many current residents never knew. The social changes wrought by these physical transformations will be ongoing, and the outcome uncertain — but the pains mean that the neighborhood is growing once again.  For a neighborhood that had some 13,200 people sixty years ago and around 1,500 in 2000, growth is good.

For now, we can celebrate the effort of many long-time neighborhood residents who have never given up hope that two blocks of 14th Street would again be the center of neighborhood life.  This journey to restore the neighborhood commercial district began 33 years ago with a much different plan.  As impressive as the undoing of that plan is to see, even more impressive are the people who did not let the intervening years of abandonment deter their dreams and deeds.

Hyde Park North St. Louis Old North

Renewal Continues in Old North and Hyde Park

by Michael R. Allen

Today was a lovely day on the near north side of our fair city. At 14th Street in Old North, the two-block former pedestrian mall now has a paved street, full sidewalks and street signs.  With the addition of street lights, all will be set for the final opening of 14th Street in the heart of the neighborhood.

Up in Hyde Park, as I attended a meeting I heard the clamor of tools around 19th and Mallinckrodt streets. The sounds were unmistakable, and plainly beautiful to hear. They came from two buildings on each side of 19th street in block south of the park. Eliot School LP is rehabilitating these 19th century brick buildings for housing. The long-vacant single family home shown here will hold multiple families.

Another vacant four-family will remain in service as a multi-family building, maintaining the residential density that enlivened Hyde Park in the past. Nearby, Salisbury Avenue is getting new sidewalks and street lights. The Salisbury project is in full swing as well, causing traffic to back up around the entrance to the McKinley Bridge. Let no one mistake the sidewalk work for anything other than a catalyst for future growth. Salisbury offers potential for infill construction and rejuvenated mixed-use buildings. Apartments in solely residential buildings are a great part of neighborhood life, but not the only one. The buildings being rehabbed now will someday join a wave of mixed-use buildings old and new on one of the north side’s most humanely-scaled commercial streets.  Both 14th Street and Salisbury are central to neighborhood economy, and while much has been renewed around them their historic function — facilitating exchange through commerce –  is fragile.

Fox Park Lafayette Square North St. Louis Old North Preservation Board South St. Louis

Preservation Board Approves Fox Park Expansion, Denies Old North Demolition

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday the St. Louis Preservation Board met with members Richard Callow, Melanie Fathman, Mike Killeen, David Richardson, Anthony Robinson, David Visintaner and Alderwoman Phyllis Young present. The most likely contentious matter on the agenda was consideration of the expansion of the boundaries of the Fox Park Local Historic District accordint to the boundaries below.

Fox Park Neighborhood Association President Ian Simmons explained the purpose of the expansion simply: to put the entire neighborhood on equal footing for design review and development potential. Four other people spoke in favor, including DeSales Housing Corporation Executive Director Tom Pickel. Mark Whitman spoke against the expansion with great conviction, stating that he found the expansion to violate the United States Constitution and to represent gentrification of the southern part of the neighborhood.

The Preservation Board voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Aldermen approve the boundary increase. The next step is introduction of the boundary increase as an ordinance at the Board of Aldermen by Alderwoman Young and Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett. The ordinance will get a committee hearing before the full board considers it.

The Preservation Board also unanimously approved on a preliminary basis the above design for new construction at the southeast corner of Lafayette and Mississippi avenues in Lafayette Square (1922-24 Park Avenue). Designed by architect Paul Fendler, the new two-story building would combine retail on the first floor and residential space above. The board approved a different plan for the site two years ago.

Another interesting case was the return of a front door replacement at 2841 Shenandoah Avenue in Fox Park. After last month’s stalemate on the matter, Andrea Gagen on the Cultural Resources Office staff located a supplier who could provide an acceptable paint-grade wooden door for less than the cost of a door that the owner wanted to install that did not meet the Fox Park Local Historic District standards. The owner asserted that the supplier contacted by Gagen could not make the door he wanted for the cost she stated, and that installation using his contractor would cost $500 regardless (an amount that is incredible for such worl). The Board then voted 4-1 to uphold staff denial of the first application.

The Preservation Board also unanimously upheld the appeal by Louis Ford of denial of a demolition permit for 3219-21 N. 20th Street, pictured above. Located in Old North and the Murphy Blair Historic District, the house has been vacant for years. Ford purchased the house to keep it secured from criminal activity. Ford stated that he would save the house if he could find money for work, but he had no interest in endlessly keeping it boarded and stable. Perhaps the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group would be able to accept the house as a donation.

North St. Louis Old North

Old North Yard Could Win KSHE Contest With Your Help

Good news from Old North could become great news from Old North, with your help. Last week Graham and Viveca Lane’s Old North side yard was just a contestant in the KSHE Great Green Yard Giveaway. This week, thanks to our support, they are among the five finalists!

Please help them win by voting for them on the KSHE contest site. (You will have to register, but that takes just a few seconds.) You can vote once per day.

North St. Louis Old North

Help Transform an Old North Yard in Ten Seconds

by Michael R. Allen

This lot at 13th & North Market is the site of the house of the twenty-fourth mayor of St. Louis, Henry Overstoltz (term, 1876-1881). Since Graham and Viveca Lane started rehabbing the building next door, it has become the couple’s future side yard. Geothermal excavation made the long-time vacant lot even less yard-like, but Graham and Viveca have a shot at turning the situation around right quick.

This yard is a contestant in KSHE’s Great Green Yard contest. The station is picking the top five this week, so our Old North rehabbing friends need you support. Take ten seconds to vote for their project here.

Adaptive Reuse North St. Louis Old North

14th Street Mall in 1991

by Michael R. Allen

On Thursday, July 29th, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance will cut the ribbon on Crown Square, the new name for the former 14th Street Mall. The public is invited to the celebratory event, which runs as a street party until 8:00 p.m. Indeed, there will be an actual paved street on the two blocks of 14th and Montgomery streets for the first time since 1976.

Not much time passed after the 14th Street Mall grand opening on March 21, 1977 before the street closure started having negative impacts on the businesses of the dense commercial district. Storefronts devolved to lesser uses and ultimately entire buildings went vacant. Within ten years, the 14th Street Mall was a failure, and by the early 1990s was a symbol of the decay of the near north side. No longer.

A look back at photographs taken in 1991 by Cindi Longwisch, then Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, shows dire conditions. That we are celebrating rebirth of the collection of historic buildings 19 years later is nothing short of miraculous. A few of the buildings on 14th Street in the two blocks did not survive the mall years, but most did.

The building at2709 N. 14th Street, shown above, was one that did not survive. However, the buildings to either side have been fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.

The Eugene Building at the southwest corner of 14th and Monthgomery has an ornate entrance and extensive colorful catalog terra cotta ornament. The building is now fully rehabilitated as part of Crown Square.

The building across the street from the Eugene Building, at the northwest corner of the intersection, as been extensively rehabilitated by owner Peter Sparks. Work is not yet complete, but the transformation is beautiful.

Demolition of the building at 2715 N. 14th Street was underway with Cindi Longwisch took this shot. The heavily altered one-story building at left, 2713 N. 14th Street, was demolished as part of the Crown Square project.

Events North St. Louis Old North

Inaugural Exhibit in the Old North Restoration Group Gallery

Featuring the photography of Sean Thomas, Thom Fletcher, Stefene Russell and Michael R. Allen
and the graphic art of neighborhood residents and children, from the Urban Studio

6:00-7:30 PM Thursday, July 15, 2010

The exhibit explores the people and built environment of Old North St. Louis, focusing on the physical transformation as well as the long-time character and traditions of the neighborhood.  Children and adult art looks at what makes Old North the neighborhood it is through drawings, mixed media and photography.

Housing North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Community-Driven Development on Northside Continues Despite McKee Ruling

From EcoUrban Homes

CONTACT: Jay Swoboda, 314-231-0400 x4

ST. Louis – Despite the recent ruling against Paul McKee’s plans for a $390 million TIF, strong neighborhood-based development continues to sprout up in many areas covered by McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration Zone. Building on increasing enthusiasm for urban, walkable neighborhoods with a close proximity to downtown, unusually strong development continues to unfold in North St. Louis.

Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, EcoUrban, and Habitat for Humanity St. Louis (currently the largest developer of single-family homes in the region), have all committed to completing projects of significant scope on the Near North Side.

EcoUrban is working with Alderwoman April Ford Griffin, the Regional Housing and Development Corporation (RHCDA), and Community Renewal and Development Inc. to develop eight new single family homes at 25th and Dodier. The homes will be built to the USGBC’s LEED for Homes specifications and feature thoughtful urban design and efficient, green construction. Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, no stranger to LEED certification, is currently completing 17 new homes in Old North St. Louis. These homes feature a modern design and are tracking LEED for Homes Platinum certification. Additionally, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the transformational Crown Square Project, a 27-building project spanning eight blocks in the heart of North St. Louis’ commercial district, is slated to be held on July 29th. By any measure, North St. Louis is undergoing tremendous redevelopment.

“We are proud of our commitment in North St. Louis, remarked Kimberly McKinney, CEO of Habitat for Humanity St. Louis. “Since 2008, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis has invested $8.1 million towards new home development on the North Side with $5.5 million committed for 2010.”

“It’s amazing how much positive feedback we’re receiving from the community up here,” said Sal Martinez, Executive Director of Community Renewal and Development Inc. “With a common-sense approach, and a great green projects, it’s easy to draw the attention of leaders and residents committed to making St. Louis a better place for families.”


Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis is consistently ranked in the top 30 of the leading 100 Habitat affiliates in the country, and is currently the leading housing developer in the St. Louis Metro Area. The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is a community-based nonprofit organization established to revitalize the physical and social dimensions of the community in a manner that respects its historic, cultural, and urban character. EcoUrban is a developer of efficient, affordable green real estate developments – helping to create sustainable solutions for St. Louis.

Hyde Park North St. Louis Old North

Villain Plots to Melt All of the Brick in St. Louis

by Michael R. Allen

The annual frenzy of the 48 Hour Film Project is over, and I am catching up on submissions. One of interest to readers is the Thomas Crone-directed Tales of Templar, in which a villain plots to melt all of the brick in St. Louis. Tales of Templar includes scenes filmed at the fire-damaged Fourth Baptist Church in Old North St. Louis and the Nord St. Louis Turnverein in Hyde Park. If only Templar had been around to stop the blazes that struck those buildings!