On Thursday, September 26, 2019, the Rise Young Professionals (Rise YPs) released the St. Louis Place & JeffVanderLou Neighborhood Resource Guide, a labor of love 2 years in the making. The Rise YPs are no ordinary young professionals group. Although networking and social interactions are important to any young professionals group, the Rise YPs go far beyond the traditional happy hour culture. This group is excited about the revitalization of St. Louis neighborhoods and use their diverse skill sets to provide resources to help communities grow and to assist Rise with some of the capacity-building work we do with community-based organizations. They volunteer regularly, create unique professional development opportunities, and when do they host social events, they host them in the neighborhoods Rise works in.
The story of the resource guide starts with the Rise YP’s desire to roll their sleeves up, get out into the community, and help to meet some of the needs. On September 23, 2017, as one of their quarterly projects, the group joined volunteers from Gateway Greening and the executive director of North Newstead Association at that time, Sal Martinez, to work on the Fresh Starts Community Garden. The volunteer effort was a success and the Rise YPs asked for a meeting with Sal to discuss how they might be able to assist the organization. Sal told them that the JeffVanderLou/St. Louis Place neighborhoods had no type of updated source of information for potential new developers, residents, or businesses, or any updated history. Here are the needs Sal laid out:
- The 5th Ward Plan and JVL plans are over 10 years old and though some components of both plans have been implemented, neighborhood and market conditions have changed. As a result, a neighborhood marketing plan/document needs to be created that captures the history of both neighborhoods while giving interested/future developers a road map based on data collected from local stakeholder input.
- This document should also contain incentive information that would provide a “menu” of potential assistance for investors/developers.
- We need a document to scream “We are open for respectful business on the Near Northside!”
The concept for the resource guide was born! The Rise YP’s came up with a detailed plan for assembling the guide and all of the information that would go into it. They spent many months on 4 primary areas of the document:
- Community Stakeholders
The history segment was undertaken to highlight the significance, resilience and cultural capital of the JVL and St. Louis Place neighborhoods. A coordinated research effort focused on the following data points: architecture and landmarks, cultural history, activism and engagement, notable individuals, photographic history, and an extensive neighborhood timeline.
The assets segment focused on the collection of data that would be relevant to developers and investors to engage them in neighborhood revitalization. Data points mostly centered on the following three categories:
- Physical assets: real estate, commercial buildings, vacant lots, and green space
- Human capital: population statistics and employment data
- Financial resources: property values, cost of commercial and vacant lot space, and subsidies available to developers
The services segment involved cataloging neighborhood services across a variety of categories. This process required background research to identify a rough collection of services available. Background research was then validated by engaging with community members for input and insights, community members’ definition of services and what they expect from them, community members’ perception of the services available (re: quality, access, etc.), and the relative importance of each service provider and service category to the community.
The stakeholders’ segment was the final phase of the study and entailed the development of stakeholder snapshots, an aggregated calendar of neighborhood activities, and a map of institutional and stakeholder footprints. The snapshots consist of general information about each stakeholder along with their perspective about and vision for the neighborhood. The footprint map displays the influence of each stakeholder within and beyond the neighborhood. Information was collected through site visits, individual meetings with each stakeholder, and, when possible, Rise YP attendance at events/meetings facilitated by the stakeholders.
Now that the resource guide is complete there will be a series of events to further engage North Newstead Association, aldermen, and community stakeholders. The objective of these events will not only be to share the research but to also celebrate the identity of the neighborhoods. You can be certain we will keep you informed about these events as they are announced, stay tuned! Congratulations to the Rise Young Professionals for thier work on this valuable asset for the community!