Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC Hosts Better Block Engagement Meeting
Last Wednesday night, 53 people from the Tower Grove neighborhoods gathered to participate in a community planning exercise. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce a conceptual event known as a Better Block Project. The Better Block Project is a grass roots effort to showcase the potential of a targeted area, then make that vision a reality in a weekend. The long term goal is for those temporary improvements to spur permanent change, creating a more livable, vibrant community.
Resources deployed for the Better Block Project may address commercial vacancy with pop up businesses; improve the landscaping and lighting; install seating and entertainment areas; create bicycle and pedestrian amenities; and allow for data collection.
The team of resident participants absorbed descriptions and images of Better Block Projects that have taken place in St. Louis and across the country. Then they reviewed blocks in the community with need for redevelopment and strengths to build upon.
Four sites from the Tower Grove South, Shaw, and Southwest Garden neighborhoods were presented. Each location featured commercial vacancy. The history of the vacant properties were shared by residents and the merits of each location was explored. The group contemplated the active commercial ventures within close proximity, existing streetscape amenities such as crosswalks, bike lanes, flower and tree plantings, and nearby parks. The residents then voted, noting 1st, 2nd, 3, and 4th choice for a Better Block Project.
The residents’ first choice was on Morganford, a site with four vacancies, between Wyoming and Humphrey. Two of the properties had active businesses within the past five years and are currently listed for sale. The strength of this location is the number of active businesses that stretch along Morganford between Arsenal and Oleatha.
Residents’ second choice was on South Grand Avenue near Shenandoah, where some large landmark properties languish. The Pelican building and former YMCA are truly architectural gems, though both show visible neglect. On the west side of South Grand are two vacant first floor retail sites, as well as active businesses.
Residents’ third choice was Roger Place at Fairview Avenue where a former automotive station sits vacant. The strength of this property is that is has already been renovated and was occupied as a residence within recent memory. The concept for a garden shop and nursery was suggested for this location.
Residents’ fourth and final choice is on Brannon between Arsenal and Fyler, where former manufacturing operations lie dormant, literal shells of their former life. The strength of this site is that one person owns the bulk of the vacant property, so the potential exists for multiple sites to be redeveloped simultaneously. Suggestions for the sites included an equestrian center and dance hall.
Next dates were considered and Saturday, May 10 was chosen to host the Better Block Project. It was determined that the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market would be a good venue to promote the project and draw attendance. Preparations for Mother’s Day, the day after our project, may also lend to attendance.
Once the group had determined the target area, committees were formed for planning, physical preparations, during event ambassadors, and clean up.
Keep posted for updates on how you can help create a more livable, vibrant community. We can all make a difference.
This activity is funded by a HUD Community Development Block Grant via the St. Louis Community Development Administration.