Any street named Market has a thousand stories about its prominent role in its community’s past as commercial artery and as neighborhood focal point. The very name evokes vitality, success, and history.
That’s likely one reason the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance chose North Market Place as the name for their ambitious plan to rehabilitate historic homes and construct new ones both affordable and market rate on several streets in the near northside. When it is finished, North Market Place will be a tidy, visually interesting, and affordable neighborhood of new and rehabbed historic homes, with new sidewalks and curbs, lighting, and landscaping.
The changes in the North Market neighborhood are already apparent. Fourteen new owner-occupied homes eight affordable, six market-rate have recently been completed and sold by North Market Development LLC, a joint venture between the ONSLRG and RHCDA. Sidewalk and streetscape improvements are underway along the entire length of North Market between West Florissant and I-70. These new neighbors are joining the long-time residents and the more recent urban pioneers to help create the sort of critical mass that will encourage new development and better retail services. And, the Missouri Housing Development Commission has recently recommended a tax-exempt bond allocation for the 14th Street Mall development (one of only four 2007 developments so recommended and my highest priority for a City allocation) that will allow the long-dormant 14th Street Mall across from Crown Candy to be reopened. The historic buildings bordering the mall will be revitalized as live-work spaces and affordable and market-rate apartments.
We my office, the City’s development agencies, the Danforth Foundation, the State of Missouri, the community and neighborhood groups, civic-minded banks have spent a lot of time and resources on Old North St. Louis, but the same thing is happening in other parts of the City as well. Gravois Park is a south St. Louis neighborhood that is beginning to come into its own as are neighborhoods like the eastern portion of the Loop, McKinley Heights, Carondelet, and Forest Park Southeast. Once the market has taken hold in neighborhoods like these, it becomes possible for other developers to follow the pioneers without as much subsidy and public incentive.
We aren’t there in Old North yet, and larger areas of north St. Louis are much further behind. But, progress is apparent and contagious.