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An Urban ‘Agrihood’ Is Worth Considering In St. Louis

Fox Park Farm is now of many community gardens in St. Louis
Fox Park Farm is now of many community gardens in St. Louis

The recent Sunday Poll was actually two polls, both n0n-scientific. First, the questions and votes:

#1: Which of the following, if any, should residents be allowed to raise in the city? Animals would be subject to minimum space requirements. (Check all that apply)

  1. Chickens 29 [24.17%]
  2. Rabbits 26 [21.67%]
  3. Goats 15 [12.5%]
  4. Sheep 10 [8.33%]
  5. Alpacas 9 [7.5%]
  6. None should be allowed 8 [6.67%]
  7. TIE 6 [5%]
    1. Emus
    2. Ostriches
    3. Dairy Cows
  8. Pigs 4 [3.33%]
  9. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.83%]

#2: Agree or disagree: With so much vacant land in the city, much more land should be used for urban food production

  • Strongly agree 16 [44.44%]
  • Agree 7 [19.44%]
  • Somewhat agree 8 [22.22%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Disagree 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree 3 ]8.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I think it’s fair to say among readers there is general support for some farm animal and increased agriculture. For a few years now I’ve been seeing stories about new suburban subdivisions with a farm in the center instead of a golf course:

From 2013:

There’s a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

It’s called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together. (NPR: Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms)

From 2015:

The phrase “planned community” conjures up a lot of images — maybe a swimming pool, obsessively manicured lawns, white picket fences — but a farm is probably not one of them. 

Pushing back against that stereotypical image of suburban living is a growing number of so-called “agrihoods” springing up nationwide. These developments center around a real, functional farm as their crown jewel. According to CivilEats, there are currently about 200 of them nationwide. 

The latest, called The Cannery, officially opened this past Saturday on a site that was previously home to a tomato cannery facility located about a mile outside downtown Davis, California. The 100-acre project of the New Home Company development company is considered to be the first agrihood to take root on formerly industrial land. All of its 547 energy-efficient homes will be solar-powered and electric car-ready, KCRA, NBC’s Sacramento affiliate, reports. (Huffington Post: ‘Agrihoods’ Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses)

Also from 2015, a CBS News story, video below:

This CBS News story was recently repeated on CBS’ Sunday Morning. So this story and taking a survey on urban food production in the city got me thinking: must the “agrihood” movement be limited to very expensive suburban developments? I could see an agrihood being part of the development of the near north side. In an agrihood, the farm is professionally run. It’s not a community garden run my neighbors. It could be a way to create jobs for area youth. I’d want housing to be a different price points and not displace current residents.

We have more land than we’ll likely ever have residents to fill. For years, in cities coast to coast, people have been farming on vacant urban land.  St. Louis is no exception — see RFT’s 10 Local Urban Farms We Love.

— Steve Patterson

 

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Three Houses on North 22nd Street Still Unfinished

In July 2011 I blogged about three unfinished houses on North 22nd Street, in a development known as Bosley Estates. Last week they remained unfinished and decaying. They’re at 3920, 3916, and the worst is 3912 (see on Google Street View).

Unfinished house at 3912 N. 22nd, July 2011
Unfinished house at 3912 N. 22nd, July 2011
2912 & 3916 N 22nd Street last week
3912 & 3916 N 22nd Street last week

3912 N 22nd St is owned by Jewell 7 L.L.C.:

  • Entity created on 6/27/2012
  • Entity purpose: “Generate profit from the development and sell of residential and commercial property.
  • Registered agent: Kymberly Graham: 2010 Kingsgate Dr 63138
  • Organizers: Frank K. Billups & Darryl M. Bills: 15663 Debridge Way Florissant, MO 63034

3916 & 3920 N 22nd are owned by MINORITY DEVELOPERS AND BUILDERS ASSOCIATION OF ST. LOUIS, L.L.C.

  • Entity created on 1/7/2003
  • Entity purpose: “All purposes allowed under the act.
  • Registered agent: Gary Johnson: 3918 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63113
  • Organizers: Gary Johnson, Ken Hutchinson, and Walter Allen: 3918 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63113
  • Tax bills mailed to: 625 N. Euclid Ste 500, St. Louis, MO 63108 (now luxury apartments)

Building permits for 3920 & 3916 were applied for, and issued, on 4/14/2006. The permit for 3912 N 22nd was applied for on 5/16/2006, issued a month later.

City records show 4 sales for 3912 N. 22nd:

  • 4/5/2006 for $15,144 LRA/back taxes (vacant lot prior to start of new construction)
  • 7/15/2009 for $2,500 foreclosure
  • 10/22/2009 for $2,500 foreclosure
  • 2/27/2013 for $4,000 as part of a multi-location sale

Four new houses on the block were finished and sold. If I had bought one I’d be upset these were allowed to go unfinished for a decade!  Bosley Estates is named after the alderman, Freeman Bosley Sr.

Not sure which will happen first, these unfinished houses completed or a new alderman sworn into office in the 3rd ward?

— Steve Patterson

 

Village of North St. Louis Founded 200 Years Ago Today

October 1909 Sanborn map shows 2 of 3 circles, click image to view full page
October 1909 Sanborn map shows 2 of 3 circles, click image to view full page

Twenty-Five years ago I’d just moved to the Murphy-Blair neighborhood, now known as Old North St. Louis. The tiny 3-room flat was significantly cheaper than the tiny efficiency I had on Lindell in the Central West End.

Prior to my arrival, neighbors had already been trying to get the neighborhood’s name officially changed. They thought playing off the history was better than being named after a public housing complex.

That history is the area was founded as a separate village — North St. Louis — on June 29, 1816. St. Louis was founded 50+ years earlier, in February 1764.

June 29, 1816:

A town was incorporated which rivaled its southern neighbor, St. Louis, for many years. The new town, founded by Maj. William Christy, was named simply “North St. Louis.” Its southern boundary line was Madison Street, then a considerable distance from the northern boundary of the city which Christy and his associates referred to as “St. Louis under the hill.”

Christy had come to St. Louis from Pennsylvania with advanced ideas about city planning. With two partners, he proposed a scheme for developing a city which would appeal to the settlers flocking in from the East. Street names reflected the founders’ interest in politics — Madison and Monroe; Benton for the young lawyer who would become one of Missouri’s first senators; and Warren, for a hero at Bunker Hill.  A boatyard was established, and inducements offered steamboats to land at North St. Louis instead of farther downstream. A ferry made regular runs between North St. Louis and Alton.  In 1841, just a quarter century after its founding, the city was absorbed into St. Louis. (Source: St. Louis Day by Day by Frances Hurd Stadler, page 122) 

bHere’s another quote, this from the City of St. Louis:

The first attempt to develop this area was made in 1816, when the Village of North St. Louis was incorporated by William Chambers, William C. Christy and Thomas Wright. It was bounded by the present Monroe, Hadley, Montgomery Streets and the Mississippi River. It continued as a village until 1841 when it was absorbed into the City of St. Louis.

A unique feature of the village layout was the provision for three circular public use areas. These were Clinton Place as a school site, Jackson Place for recreational and assembly purposes and Marion Place for a church and cemetery. A public wharf at the foot of North Market Street was called Exchange Square.

The Village was to provide sites for mills similar to those in the New England hometowns of the village’s first settlers.

The village was about a mile upstream above Roy’s Wind Mill, which marked the northern limit of the town of St. Louis at the foot of Ashley Street, and on the Great Trail which later became North Broadway. Other prominent roads of the north side were Natural Bridge Road, which was laid out in the 1840’s as a northwestward extension of Mound Street, and Florissant Road which was a northward continuation of 16th Street in a western addition to the village. 

Today, North St. Louis generally refers to everything North of Delmar — the Delmar Divide. North St. Louis has more poverty, crime, abandoned buildings, & vacant land than the rest of St. Louis. Will this always be the case, or will it change over time?

Readers who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll were optimistic:

Q: In 25 years, will North St. Louis be better or worse than today?

  • Substantially better 13 [24.07%]
  • Better 13 [24.07%]
  • Slightly better 14 [25.93%]
  • About the same 6 [11.11%]
  • Slightly worse 2 [3.7%]
  • Worse 4 [7.41%]
  • Substantially worse 2 [3.7%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

Nearly three-quarters feel North St. Louis will be better within a quarter century. I wish I could share their optimism, but the last 26 years have used up all the enthusiasm I had for the future of St. Louis. I do have fond memories of my 3+ years living in Murphy-Blair/Old North St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Will North St. Louis Be Better Or Worse 25 Years From Now?

Please vote below
Please vote below

A quarter century ago I moved North of Delmar — from the Central West End. As I reflect back on the last 25 years, I think about what the next 25 might look like.

The National Geospatial Agency (NGA) will have been in it’s new headquarters for years. Will it help or hurt the surrounding area? Will Paul McKee’s plans get built? Will public transit be improved?

I have a lot of questions, but no crystal ball. There’s also a good chance I won’t be alive in 25 years to see the answers to my questions.

There’s no right or wrong answer to today’s poll — it’s a non-scientific measure of readers’ outlook. I’m not setting any criteria by which to compare now to 25 years from now, that’s up to you.

The poll is open until. 8pm.

Starting this week I’ll be cutting back from six posts to five — no more Monday posts, the next post will be Tuesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Was Opening A New Baseball Stadium Downtown in 1966 A Mistake?

Please vote below
Please vote below

Fifty years ago today  the final baseball game was played at Sportsman’s Park, aka Busch I, a site where where baseball had been played since 1867. On May 12, 1966 Busch Memorial Stadium, aka Busch II, opened. St. Louis’ Chinatown, called Hop Alley, was razed to make room for Busch II:

The earliest Chinese settlers congregated in an area stretching East and West between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and North and South between Market and Walnut Streets, which became the Chinatown of St. Louis, more commonly known as Hop Alley. Hop Alley was the name of a small alley running between Walnut and Market Streets where most boarding houses and apartment buildings were occupied by Chinese residents. It is not known how this neighborhood came to be called Hop Alley, but the name was widely used in contemporary newspapers and other accounts to represent the Chinese business district in St. Louis downtown where Chinese hand laundries, merchandise stores, grocery stores, herb shops, restaurants, and clan association headquarters were located. (Journal of Urban History January 2002)

One neighborhood was razed, another lost a major employer. Was it worth it?

This non-scientrific poll is open until 8pm tonight. Thursday I’ll post the results and share my views on the topic.

— Steve Patterson

 

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