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A Vacant Urban Lot – Brought to you by SLU High

November 3, 2013

The Kings Oak Neighborhood has a small but beautiful residential section at its northeastern edge (Kingshighway and Oakland).  The vast majority of the homes on these quiet tree-lined streets are occupied and well-maintained.

Kings Oak Neighborhood Residential

Lawn Place North from Berthold

This area has a lot of appeal, seemingly isolated but smack dab in the middle of the action.  Unfortunately it’s shrinking.

Demolition of a Four Family Flat in Kings Oak

Demo on Wise

Despite their prime central corridor location, recent occupancy and sound condition, two four-family flats on Wise had to be demolished.

Demo on otherwise picturesque Wise Avenue

Why did these buildings have to come down?  Because SLU High students needed a convenient “Vacant Urban Lot” for their AP Environmental Sciences class:

Experiment in Progress – Please Do Not Disturb

In their defence, while a number of vacant lots already exist just across Kingshighway, it can be a terrifying street to cross on foot.  And what’s a St. Louis neighborhood without at least one vacant lot?  Thanks SLU High!

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Urban Prairie becomes Urban Farm

August 11, 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote about a large expanse of Urban Prairie in the St. Louis Place neighborhood.  While I’ve driven through a few times since, I haven’t really taken the time to stroll around the neighborhood again until this afternoon, when poor road conditions on North Florissant prompted me to park my car and inspect it for damage.

Water Feature Urban Park

St. Louis Place Park – Plenty of green space was planned into the neighborhood.

Luckily my car was fine, and without anything on the calendar decided to let my feet and camera guide me around the neighborhood to the west.  This led me through St. Louis Place Park to St. Louis Avenue (St. Louisans have always been proud of the city), where a homeowner wondering why I was photographing her property directed me to revisit the prairie only a block or two away.  As I took her advice and started walking south, I was shocked to see large cornfields filling up many of the vacant blocks.

Corn - Urban Farming in North St. Louis

Urban Scarecrow and Farm in St. Louis Place

Over the course of the next hour or so that it took me to explore the 10+ blocks of mostly demolished city, I chatted with numerous people who live or work in the neighborhood and pieced together some of the story.  A local firefighter and resident each credited the crops to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation (which has an urban farm in East St. Louis).  Some saw the city maintaining them.  Others thought that corn looked pretty out of place, that rebuilding a mixed use neighborhood should be the priority and that Paul McKee would probably continue his track record – in the tradition of previous developers – as a serious disappointment at best.  The consensus was that none of the crops are intended for human consumption.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any additional information on the internet (please share if you know more).

Downtown St. Louis Urban Farming

Freshly Planted

Although I agree that new urban buildings would be much much better than cornfields, I think that the conversion to farmland is a positive.  While visiting the town of Valmeyer, Illinois a few weeks ago (devastated by the flood of ’93 and mostly relocated to a nearby hilltop), I saw that many blocks of the former downtown – street grid still in place – are now soybean fields.

Downtown Old Valmeyer, Illinois

A strange sight, but I imagined it  at the intersection of 23rd and N. Market.

North Market and 23rd Street in St. Louis Place

August 2010

Cornfield at 23rd and N. Market

August 2013

Old North St. Louis also has a program to open up vacant lots for projects like this sunflower garden:

Old North St. Louis (ONSL) Sunflower Garden

Sunflowers in Old North

Below are more photos from today of the urban farm in St. Louis Place:

Soybean Farm in North St. Louis

Soybeans near 22nd Street

Urban Farming

Fire Hydrant and Manhole Cover

Survivor in the Urban Prairie

Abandoned Home and Cornfield

Feed Corn on an Urban Farm in North St. Louis

Corn Growing in St. Louis Place

Urban Corn Crops in St. Louis Place

Fire Hydrant on Urban Farm

Cornfield in North St. Louis East of Jefferson

Downtown over a Cornfield

Urban Farming in St. Louis, Missouri

Corn on the Corner

They say this is not edible

Red Corn Silk

Visit my St. Louis Place flickr set for more.

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St. Louisans Smile

July 28, 2013

For the last few days, St. Louisans have been enjoying a rare break from the usually oppressive summer heat/humidity.  Consequently more people are out on the streets, and almost everyone is smiling.  Below are some smiles I saw this weekend:

Kid with Soda in The Loop

Smiling on Delmar

Woman with White iPhone Headphones and a hat

She’s Smiling too

Delmar Buddies

Three Guys in the Loop

Beautiful Smiling Girl on Delmar

Girl walking to the Metrolink

Corner Bench

Father and Son in Webster Groves

Bug

Kid with his Bike on Newstead

Forest Park Southeast Laugh

Mom Smiling

Nice Guy Posing for the Camera in North St. Louis

Kung Fu in Lewis Place

Lee's Fried Chicken

Having a snack in the Loop

Delmar Loop Sidewalk Cafe Performer

Guitar Player and Audience

Bikes in the Loop

Motorcycle Fans

Bikers at Delmar and Skinker

Motorized Bicycle Fans

Blue Skateboarder on Delmar

Skateboarder

The Loop Coffee Shop Sidewalk Cafe

Enjoying some Coffee on Delmar

West Belle Place

Lewis Place Resident

Delmar Loop

She was in a rush to catch her train

For more portraits, see my “people” flickr set, or my photostream.

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Queers Against…

July 10, 2013

Last weekend, to coincide with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defence of Marriage Act, a large number of posters were wheat pasted up on Manchester Avenue in The Grove.  The common theme was “Queers against…”

Queers Against in St. Louis, MO

No Pride in A$$imilation

I’m not going to offer any commentary here, and have no idea if this is the work of one person or an organization, but I will share a few photos:

And there's STL Metro driving past

Not Gay as in Happy, but Queer as in F*** the STLPD

In front of the LGBT center

No Pride in A$$imilation

Here’s a better shot of “Queers Against (haiku edition)”:

Posted up in the Grove

Queers Against… Monsanto, the HRC, the STLPD, the Military, Marriage and Pride, INC

Posters on an Abandoned Building

Queers Against Society

Pride Rainbow Flags

Queers against

Post No Bills in the Grove (Forest Park Southeast)

Pro-Fabulous Anti-Capitalist

Despite the postering campaign, life in Forest Park Southeast continued on as usual.

Forest Park Southeast (aka the Grove)

Dude and his Dog in front of N&M

Manchester Ave in FPSE

The Grove

Guy on Scooter in the Grove

Scooter Rider on Manchester Avenue

Residential Non-Vandalism in FPSE

Owner Endorsed Free Speech – Booze and Guns

Police in the Grove - St. Louis, MO

STLPD ATV in FPSE

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St. Louisans Enjoying the Independence Day Weekend

July 6, 2013

I spent a lot of time wandering around the city this weekend, and it seemed like everyone was in a good mood.  The weather was relatively nice, there was no drought to discourage fireworks, the spirit was festive.  See some of the people I ran into this weekend in the photographs below:

Tower Grove East, South St. Louis Summer

Pool Party! – Tower Grove East

Tower Grove East South St. Louis Summer Swimming

Break from the Pool – Tower Grove East

Cherokee Street South St. Louis Summer

Phone Convo on the Stoop – Cherokee Street

Tower Grove East, South St. Louis Summer Grand Am

Beautiful evening for a drive – Tower Grove East

Grand Center St. Louis Summer

Outside of Powell Hall – Grand Center

South Indian Poetry Grand Center First Friday

Performing outside of the Sheldon – Grand Center

Sheldon Concert Hall Grand Center First Friday

Watching and Listening – Grand Center

Greater Ville Martin Luther King Blvd North St. Louis Summer

Enjoying the Afternoon – MLK and Marcus

Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd North St. Louis Summer

Taking a break – The Greater Ville

Grand Center St. Louis Summer

Peace – Grand Center

Carr Square North St. Louis Summer Ice Cream

Very Energetic Ice Cream Van Passenger – Carr Square

Benton Park West South St. Louis Cool Kid on Sidewalk

Very Cool Kid – Benton Park West

Fair St. Louis Downtown Riverfront Jefferson Expansion National Park Arch

Pepsi Challenge – Downtown Riverfront

Not everyone had a perfect weekend, but it was about as close as you can get.

No Trespassing Beware of Dogs South St. Louis Benton Park West

Hiding Out – Benton Park West

Happy Independence Day (Weekend)!

Fair St. Louis Downtown Fireworks Fourth of July

Downtown Fireworks

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North Sarah Update

June 16, 2013

The North Sarah Redevelopment Project‘s second phase has really started to take shape.

Vandeventer, Grand Center, New Construction

North Sarah Phase II on Vandeventer looking north from Bell.

Three 2-3 story mixed use buildings facing Vandeventer Avenue just across the street from Grand Center’s western edge are the most visible signs of progress.  Although I am unaware of the plans here, similar buildings from phase I have live/work spaces facing Sarah.

From a 10/26/2012 Post-Dispatch article:

The front room doubles as a living room and waiting room, and a big sliding door covers half the interior wall. Roll it one way and an office appears off the waiting room, ready for business. Roll it the other, and the office disappears and a kitchen appears off the living room. A bedroom and laundry room are in back.

Driving/walking down Sarah you can see that most of these spaces are now occupied by small businesses (these shots taken on a Sunday evening):

Live/Work, Redevelopment, North St. Louis, Small Business

Diversity Gallery on North Sarah

Health care on North Sarah

Williams and Associates – Addressing Minority Health Disparities

Health care on North Sarah

Call of Duty Home Health Care Services

Many of the storefronts have more subdued signage that is hard to see while driving past, but the fact that almost all are advertising small businesses is very encouraging.  Across the street construction is underway on another portion of Phase II.  Hopefully commercial space of some sort is included in this new building as well.

New construction in the Vandeventer neighborhood

North Sarah Phase II – Mixed use building going up on the west side of Sarah

Now that the live/work spaces have occupants, maybe we’ll hear news about the planned grocery store soon.

Nothing inside, but the sliding door look promising.

Grocery Store on North Sarah

This is an exciting development, and I truly hope that it encourages infill development between Sarah and Vandeventer that allows at least some of the surviving historic homes to stay.

For more photos of this development, see my flickr set: North Sarah Redevelopment

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Near North Riverfront

June 2, 2013

The New Mississippi River Bridge is coming along quickly, and will soon raise the visibility of the Near North Riverfront neighborhood, and its main drag North Broadway.

Mound Street Bridge, Mississippi River, Cass Avenue Bridge

New Mississippi River Bridge from Broadway and Mound

This section of Broadway has a fairly intact built environment and is home to many businesses.  Admittedly it’s in pretty bad shape, but the potential here is humongous.

Near North Riverfront North Broadway Revitalization

Warehouses on North Broadway

Although the thoroughfare is major and many of its buildings are large, the street still has a human scale.  One of my favorite parts of coming here on the weekends is the large number of people out on their motorcycles (presumably many of them are in the area for Shady Jacks).

Motorcycle Tricks Wheelie

North Broadway is already a pretty cool place

Because this area is about to see a lot more traffic, developers will be tempted to build truck stops and drive-thrus with giant billboards and signs to advertise them.  Competitions for who can build the biggest and newest gas stations (or chain drug stores, etc.) have destroyed enough of our great intersections and commercial strips.

Highway Advertising, Urban Blight

Downtown St. Louis Interstate 70 Billboard

I hope the city is working to ensure that development around the new bridge will help knit together the neighborhoods north of downtown, rather than create more barriers in the form of auto-centric development.  670 Million dollars is a big investment that St. Louis needs to take advantage of.