Neighborhood Planning Meeting – this Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 6:00pm – 7:30pm

February 27, 2014 in Development, Featured, Forest Park Southeast, Park Central Development, st louis

The following post is from: Park Central Development » Forest Park Southeast

Earlier this year, Park Central Development started work on the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Plan and Form Based District. A lot of behind-the-scenes work has been taking place, but now it is time to get critical feedback from you!

Come join us, this Tuesday, March 4th from 6:00pm-7:30pm at Adam’s Park Community Center, 4317 Vista,  for the first of four public meetings. The meeting is open to everyone, so please make sure you invite your neighbor and help plan for the future of your neighborhood.

FPSE Neighborhood Plan and form based district

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Community Spotlight – featuring Bryan Taylor Robinson of H3 Studio

February 22, 2014 in Central West End, Featured, Forest Park Southeast, Park Central Development, st louis

The following post is from: Park Central Development » Forest Park Southeast

Community SpotlightWelcome to the Community Spotlight.  Each week, Park Central features a member of the community who lives, works in, or is a regular visitor of the central corridor of St. Louis.  This person may be front-and-center or be working behind the scenes, may be a local entrepreneur or a dedicated customer, a long-time homeowner or a new apartment dweller.  We will bring you the folks who generally make life special in our neighborhoods.

This week we catch up with Bryan Taylor Robinson.  Robinson is a Senior Associate and Project Manager for of H3 Studio,  an interdisciplinary design and planning firm offering a highly specialized approach to projects within the public and private sectors dealing with community development and infrastructure, including a range of architectural, landscape, planning and urban design professional services.

BryanTaylorRobinson_2014

Where are you from?  What led you to living and working in St. Louis?  How did you start working at H3 Studio?

I am originally from Central City, a small town in Southern Louisiana (about 45 minutes from New Orleans). I grew up on a sixty acre cattle farm; and graduated in a class of about 35 people. After completing my undergraduate education in architecture and working for a few years for a small design-based practice in Baton Rouge, I felt that I was ready to do further research into urban issues and expand my skills to urban design and planning. Basically at that point, every project that gave me personal satisfaction had contained some level of urban dialogue or discussion. I was quite interested in Washington University in St. Louis, and really liked the way the program looked intensely at the context of the City as a platform for design research.

After arriving at Washington University in St. Louis in June of 2003, I completed courses with John Hoal (co-founder of the City of St. Louis’ First Urban Design Department; the founding principal of H3 Studio; and chair of the urban design program at the Sam Fox School at Washington University); and started working with H3 Studio after I graduated in September of 2004. I have been working in the Central West End for 10 years; and currently live with my fiancé in the Bevo Mill Neighborhood.

What kind of work does H3 Studio do?  What does your job entail?  

H3 Studio is a design & planning firm; but, we actually have a lot of different types of projects in our portfolio. In fact, our office has made a concerted effort to find projects which have a diversity of disciplines involved. This multi-disciplinary approach is one of the main principles of the office. We consider our core services to include sustainability, urbanism, architecture, landscapes, and codes; but, we really just view these as different aspects of creating great neighborhoods and Communities!

My job is really interesting, and is actually quite different from day to day. We have a small office (7-10 people usually) with big ideas; so, it is fairly important that every member of the office “wears a couple of different hats”. The hat I most commonly wear is that of a project manager. It ranges from meeting with clients and research to preparing project imagery and final reports; and everything in between. One aspect that I really enjoy is meeting with the local stakeholders. Each project is different, and the best way to figure out the issues is to meet one-on-one and talk with people. They usually know their Community very well, and I can usually learn more in 30 minutes with them than an entire day of research!

What projects has H3 participated in throughout the central corridor? What projects does H3 plan on working on in the future?

H3 Studio has worked on a number of projects throughout the Central Corridor. I would say that we are very well known for much of our work on Forest Park. When John Hoal was with the City of St. Louis in the early 90’s, he was the leader of the Master Planning process; and H3 Studio has subsequently worked on a variety of the Phase II implementation projects over the last 15 years. We love the park, and have really enjoyed seeing its’ transformation! During that time, John also led several key urban redevelopment efforts relative to Downtown St. Louis, including the St. Louis Downtown Action Plan (Downtown Now!) and the Washington Avenue Loft District Plan & Streetscape Design. So, it was ultimately these types of very impactful urban scale projects that drove my desire to work for H3 Studio and with John.

As far as more recent projects that I have worked on at H3 Studio, we completed the CORTEX Area Transit-Oriented Development Study (for the future MetroLink Station), the Central West End Form-Based District, and the Master Plan for Chouteau Park. We are currently working on the Central Corridor Study (second phase of the CORTEX Transit-Oriented Development Study), a Neighborhood Plan & Form-Based District for Forest Park Southeast, and completing a Neighborhood Plan & Sustainability Recommendations for the Skinker-DeBaliviere Neighborhood.  Again, we love tow work with neighborhoods.

Honestly, we enjoy working on any type of project where the Community is involved; and get the greatest satisfaction from building strong neighborhoods. With that in mind, the last few years of our work has really shifted more to sustainability, transit-oriented development, and form-based codes. We were involved in all three of the regions major sustainability planning efforts including the Parkview Garden’s Neighborhood Sustainability Plan, the City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan, and the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. In reality, these types of projects are fundamental to building Sustainable Communities! So I suspect, that we will continue to move in that direction with our next projects.

What role does H3 Studio have throughout the form-based district planning process?  What is your role?

Well, these processes can be different for each project; but the basic role that we perform is to help technically construct a code which will assist in the implementation of the Community vision. Every code is based on a vision for the future; and to some degree in every process, we have to work with the Community to develop a vision (or work with an existing vision). We propose alternate solutions for height and setbacks, and will then work toward a consensus solution.

We are the code designers in the process and during that time, our role is to essentially act as a translator between the Community and City. We meet with the Community to ensure that we know what they want and what their concerns are; and conversely with the City to ensure that we can construct a code to meet all legal and technical requirements.

 Describe the process of planning and creating a form-based district? Whose voices are heard throughout the process?  Is community participation important to a form-based district? 

Again, each of these processes can be different for each project; but the basic approach is to formulate a vision for the future with the Community, and then construct a code which will aid in the incremental implementation of that vision. We will meet early on with local stakeholders and compile issues and ideas lists for exploration; then develop several options for consideration; and then work toward building consensus. At every step of the way, we make sure to ask the Community what they think about the project and which direction we should go. The process is a bit reiterative and driven by communication loops.

There are many types of voices within the local stakeholder Community. This includes folks such as property owners, residents, business owners, advocacy groups, City officials, political leaders, religious leaders, institutional leaders, and developers. Each type of voice provides a different insight into the project; and helps us to construct a code which is sensitive to all stakeholders. So if it wasn’t already obvious, community participation is absolutely essential to creating a form-based district! It is critical that the code reflect the Community’s vision for the future; thus, meeting with vested members of the Community should always be a major component of these types of processes.

The purpose of a form-based district is to create uniformity in buildings, streetscapes, and to preserve the historical fabric of a neighborhood.  Do you think those things are important to the life and culture of a neighborhood?  Why are they important? 

Based on your question, I would suggest to you that the purpose of a form-based district is to ensure “place-making”; while upholding the qualities and characteristics of a given neighborhood, district, or street. “Place-making” is about shaping a vibrant public realm, and creating places which are unique to the local culture and life of a neighborhood. This doesn’t necessarily mean the creation of uniformity in all buildings; but rather means the establishment of a minimum level of character in building form and quality of construction which will ensure the integrity of the neighborhood, while also allowing for some uniqueness in design and flexibility in uses relative to the fluctuation of market forces.

I believe that “place-making” is incredibly important to building neighborhoods. Neighborhoods can only be as strong as the social and physical ties which bind them together. By working with the unique opportunities of a neighborhood, building social capital within constituency, reinforcing the existing assets (such as historic buildings), and activating public spaces with appropriate uses and activities; we can achieve long-term social, economic, and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.

 How does creating a form-based district differ from previous planning you’ve done, specifically for some local parks? 

We firmly believe that each planning process is constructed specific to the Community; but one important aspect of the form-based districts process is that they are legal documents. Form-Based Districts are under the purview of the City of St. Louis Zoning Division. This means that every element of these codes must be legally defensible; and meticulously reviewed by the Zoning Division. From a planner’s perspective, this means that it is critical to work with the City to ensure that these documents are constructed in manner which meets the requirements.

It is important to understand that the process to establish a form-based district is not a planning activity; but rather a zoning activity, which is another way of saying it’s legally required. Although there are some similarities between a form-based district process and a neighborhood parks planning process (for instance developing alternate design options, engaging the public, or meeting with stakeholders); they are very different in that the final product for a form-based district is a zoning document, established by ordinance through the Board of Aldermen.

 

The Central West End and Forest Park Southeast are the first two neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis to create a form-based district.  What impact do you think these new districts will have on other neighborhoods in the City?  What is the importance of these new districts to the City of St. Louis and to the region as a whole?  

Our Zoning Code was established in 1947, so changing the way we look at zoning is not an easy task to undertake. I do not believe that the existing code is fundamentally flawed; but, until recently there was not a “place-making” component within the zoning code.  Now since the City has adopted the form-based enabling legislation, there is; and that is an important step. Through the adoption of the Central West End Form-Based District, the City and Park Central Development have essentially established a city-wide model for neighborhoods that want to pursue “place-making” strategies. It’s a little hard for me to say what exact impact they will have on other neighborhoods, but I suspect that as these types of districts are refined and the review process is streamlined; we will see more neighborhoods considering them in the future.

I believe that it is important to acknowledge that Park Central Development was incredibly vigilant and dedicated (for almost five years) to getting the Central West End Form-Based District adopted for the Community. Without their dedication and the leadership partnership established with the Alderman and the City; there would be no new district to speak of today. Hence, these districts also build the bonds between the neighborhood, the leaders, and the City. Is this a good model for neighborhood redevelopment? I would suggest yes. Furthermore, I believe that the City of St. Louis is doing a phenomenal job with these new districts, and that City leadership has really set a strong precedence for the Region with these new districts. We are the center of the Region, and the City has taken a stance that “place-making” is important to building Community and essential to the economic development of the City. I cannot stress how important that is, both literally and figuratively.

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Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Survey – The Listening Project

February 19, 2014 in Featured, Forest Park Southeast, Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association, Park Central Development, st louis

The following post is from: Park Central Development » Forest Park Southeast

Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work students, led by Professor Molly Metzger, recently completed a study  of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.  They worked closely with the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association to gather resident’s perceptions and hopes for their neighborhood.

The result is The Listening Project  – take a look at what they learned here.
fpse snow

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Community Spotlight – featuring John Carroll

February 14, 2014 in Botanical Heights, Featured, Forest Park Southeast, Park Central Development, st louis, Tiffany

The following post is from: Park Central Development » Forest Park Southeast

Community Spotlight II

Welcome to the Community Spotlight.  Each week, Park Central features a member of the community who lives, works in, or is a regular visitor of the central corridor of St. Louis.  This person may be front-and-center or be working behind the scenes, may be a local entrepreneur or a dedicated customer, a long-time homeowner or a new apartment dweller.  We will bring you the folks who generally make life special in our neighborhoods.

This week we catch up with John Carroll, Director of Development for City Garden Montessori.  City Garden Montessori is a Charter School serving grades Kindergarten through Eighth grade. Their student body is comprised of students living in the Botanical Heights, Forest Park Southeast, Shaw neighborhoods.  The catchment area also includes portions of the Southwest Garden and Tiffany neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis.   City Garden Montessori is an award winning learning institution giving City families a viable choice for the education for their children.

Headshot john carroll

Where are you from?  How did you start working at City Garden Montessori?

I’m from Omaha, Nebraska, and I came to St. Louis to attend SLU. I started at City Garden as a part-time aftercare worker. I then added duties as the P.E. teacher, substitute teacher, executive director and board of director’s assistant. I then spent as year as the Development Associate, the first, full-time position we had for fundraising and development. The work was exciting, and our parent volunteers helped us through that first year.

Tell me more about City Garden Montessori.  What is your position and what are your duties?

I am the Director of Development. I oversee and execute our fundraising programming, with the help of our awesome Assistant Director Rasheen Coleman and our amazing Executive Assistant, Debra Fox. We work with a variety of parent and community volunteers to host events and expand our circle of supporters.

Where does your student body come from?  How do families apply for admission?

The majority of our students come from Shaw, Forest Park Southeast, Botanical Heights, Tiffany, and the Southwest Garden neighborhoods. Applications for the lottery for next year (2014-2015) are due this year by Friday, February 14. More information is available here.

At what level are City Garden Montessori students involved in the community?

Our students are very involved in the community, as many of them live in this neighborhood. They have a micro-economy project selling City Garden logo apparel, they visit the Botanical Garden, they volunteer on different projects, and helped us host and staff our first Fall Festival in 2013.

How long have you worked in the Botanical Heights neighborhood?  
What  significant changes  have you seen?

 We have been in our school building on Tower Grove Avenue since July 2012. The area has definitely seen a lot of new housing sold by UIC, a large percentage of which have gone to City Garden families and families applying to the City Garden lottery. It’s great to see so many new businesses and restaurants doing well in the area. It’s also delightful to see that development in the Grove is continuing. I’ve only lived in the neighborhood since May 2013, but I love it!

What do you want to see happen the most in the neighborhood where City Garden is located?

I would love to see City Garden continue to increase its presence in the neighborhood, and grow further into our dream of becoming a true community center for all groups in our catchment area. I would like to continue building on partnerships with local businesses and organizations to form a strong coalition of St. Louisans who support easy access to high-quality public education. I would love to see St. Louis build a strong culture around supporting teachers and schools that meet the academic and cultural requirements on our children.

I would love to see a movement form around ending the effects of racism in education, specifically around closing the achievement gap here in St. Louis.  To quote from an article I admire:

“Consider…that this country has spent hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of dollars in the last two decades on attempts to decrease the achievement gap without any major change on the national level. It is clearly time to risk new approaches— ones based on addressing the root causes of the achievement gap.
Building and sustaining healing communities to end racism is challenging. The issues related to racism and other forms of bias are complex and often emotional. People often deny that racism interferes with relationships or affects institutional policies (“I don’t see color.” “I treat everyone the same.”) They may be fearful of talking honestly about racial issues, or feel hopeless or cynical about the possibility of change. It is easier to have one-day workshops celebrating diversity, to develop new curricula, buy “test prep” programs, write reports, and pressure teachers, than to talk about personal experiences with racism. But without the ongoing and persistent attention of a healing community to the elimination of racism, it will not go away.”

by Julian Weissglass. The article can be found here.

What is your favorite experience or story from the neighborhood?

I love being walking/biking distance to so many of my favorite institutions, the Grove, the Central West End, South Grand, and having both Forest Park and Tower Grove Park so close is incredible. I love the diversity of the neighborhood, and the fact that City Garden pulls a very diverse student and parent body together. I’ve met so many fun and interesting people through my work finding new investors in City Garden’s vision of a diverse, successful, neighborhood Montessori school. Anyone who would like to get involved, please get in touch with me via email at john.carroll@citygardenschool.org

 

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Community Spotlight – Verna Franklin

February 7, 2014 in 17th Ward, Forest Park Southeast, Park Central Development, st louis

The following post is from: Park Central Development » Forest Park Southeast

Community Spotlight II

Welcome to the Community Spotlight.  Each week, Park Central features a member of the community who lives, works in, or is a regular visitor of the central corridor of St. Louis.  This person may be front-and-center or be working behind the scenes, may be a local entrepreneur or a dedicated customer, a long-time homeowner or a new apartment dweller.  We will bring you the folks who generally make life special in our neighborhoods.

Verna Franklin is the manager of McCormack House, an 89 unit assisted living facility in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.  For the past nine years, she has been a part of the McCormack House community.  We spent some time talking to her about her experience there and learning about her enthusiasm for her job.

 

mccormack5

Residents at McCormack House enjoy an activity organized by Verna Franklin.

Question: How did you begin working at the McCormack House?

Answer: I’ve been working with McCormack Baron Ragan for 13 years.  I started out as a temporary worker in 2001.  After my 90 days they asked if I would still be interested in becoming an employee and I said yes and I’ve been here since.  I started out at Westminster Place.  I kept working my way up, first as a receptionist, then leasing agent, and then as an occupancy specialist.  From there I was asked if I would like to be a manager at McCormack House.  I’ve been the manager at McCormack House for 9 years.

Question: What do you do as manager of McCormack House?

Answer:  I’m responsible for managing and maintaining the building.  My duties include looking after resident’s safety and enjoyment. I try to find different activities for them to get involved in.  I also help them with reaching out to their doctors and relatives and I help them schedule transportation and getting to and from places.  I also handle the business side of the property including processing invoices and work orders and maintaining the building.  I do a little of everything.

Question: What kinds of programs and services does McCormack House offer for their residents?

Answer: We have a lot of organizations and agencies that work with us to bring in programming and services.  Saint Louis University High students come every Thursday to do ballroom dancing.  There is a group called OASIS that does peer to peer discussion with the seniors.  We have different home health agencies that come to check the resident’s blood pressure and help them with prescriptions.  We have a benefits specialist from St. Louis Area Agency on Aging who meets with the residents on a monthly basis.  We have an agency that takes them to the bank or shopping.  We do movie nights every other Friday.   And we have a beautician that comes every other Tuesday and Wednesday.

Question: What is your favorite part of your job?

Answer: I’m just satisfied that I am able to provide a service to help seniors. I enjoy helping them.  I just treat them the way I would like to be treated, so I try to give them the best service possible.

Question: Tell me about the change you’ve seen in the neighborhood in the past 9 years.

Answer: It has been a great change.  The Grove itself has more businesses and restaurants than ever and the neighborhood has more housing.  They have revamped the overpasses and they are now really nice. The additional police officers are great to see and with having Barnes Hospital only 3 blocks away we feel that we are in the perfect location.

Thanks to Verna for giving us the opportunity to know her better.  We look forward to having her as a part of the community for years to come.

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