Resource Group Update

Over the past month, we have had the opportunity to meet with over 50 community development and neighborhood service providers to share community input around our eight planning focus areas: Safety and Security; Youth and Education; Employment and Business Development; Housing and Community Development; Health and Community Services; Transit, Streets and Walkability; Arts and Culture; and Environment and Ecology.

These eight meetings were held within the scope of community input using focus area matrices (shown below for each area) and asking questions such as: “how does the work of your organization address community input?”, “where is this organizing already taking place?”, “who else ought to be a part of this conversation?”, and “what is the most effective collaboration model moving forward?” Participants included both practitioners and community leaders. The initial meetings were based off lists of proposed partners from past meetings, in addition to steering committee members and other local residents who expressed interest.

The resource groups help to involve stakeholders in plan development, effectively increasing communication among partners, breaking down silos, building support for strategies, and sparking implementation. They also connect trained practitioners with passionate community members to develop cross-scale relationships and build a platform for sustained change. Below, you can view short summaries for each meeting: a link to the presentation we delivered, the community input matrix we  shared, and the responses of resource group members.

  1. Safety and Security
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  2. Youth and Education
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  3. Employment and Business Development
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  4. Housing and Community Development
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  5. Health and Community Services
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  6. Transit, Streets and Walkability
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  7. Arts and Culture
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback
  8. Environment and Ecology
    1. Presentation
    2. Community Input Matrix with Partner Feedback

We look forward to continuing our work with these groups as we develop the final plan and transition to implementation.

Youth Engagement Update: 05/19/2017

Student work at Lift for Life Academy

As you know, we set out an intention at the beginning of our process to engage young people – especially those under 18 – in the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods planning process. Through multiple youth resource group meetings, visits to local schools and after-school programs, we have talked with over 150 young people about neighborhood planning and the future of our community. From reimagining vacant property to developing maps of their communities, youth have consistently responded with optimism and ingenuity when asked about the future of their neighborhoods.

However, many young people have also expressed major challenges they face on a daily basis. Based on survey results gathered from more than 100 local youth, we see emerging trends:

Greatest Strengths:

  1. Schools
  2. Public Transit
  3. Libraries

Greatest Challenges:

  1. Violence
  2. Access to Jobs
  3. Trash and Littering

Priority Programs for Young People:

  1. Summer Jobs
  2. Summer Sports Programs
  3. Tutoring Programs

Additionally, about half of those who filled out the survey are involved in some sort of after-school activity or program. While almost 75% of young people said they were interested in being involved in improving their communities, only three said they were involved in local neighborhood associations. This highlights the great opportunity to engage young people in improving our neighborhoods.

 

Steering Committee Meeting #6: 05/15/2017

At our sixth steering committee meeting, held on May 5th, we provided a lot of updates on plan progress, from resource group feedback to our third public working meeting. We also had an engaging presentation and activity facilitated by UMSL history professor Andrew Hurley and representatives from the Missouri Department of Conservation and City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency. You can take a look at the meeting summary, notes and next steps below.

We began our meeting with a short overview of the third public working meeting, focused on neighborhood. At that meeting, we asked everyone to think about what our community will look like in the year 2030. Then, with large maps and data, we drew and wrote about our future community. A full summary of this meeting and the feedback we received can be found here.

We then discussed our process of developing and prioritizing plan recommendations for the draft Gravois-Jefferson Plan. We shared the draft plan outline and some takeaways from our meeting with the staff of Forward through Ferguson. In the coming weeks, will be developing the draft plan recommendations, which will be shared with the steering committee and community members in a format that encourages prioritization based upon criteria we will develop together.

We spent the majority of our time participating in an activity related to environmental and ecological topics, facilitated by a group of experts from UMSL, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency. Their team delivered a presentation (click here to view) and led a group mapping session to discuss tree canopy, neighborhood heating, and climate change. They are currently synthesizing our feedback; I will share their report when they are finished.

As mentioned above, our next steps will involved draft plan development and prioritization. We look forward to continuing our work with all of you throughout the coming months. Thank you all for your continued passion and support.

Working Meeting #3: 05/03/2017

On May 3rd, we held our third and final public working meeting around the theme of Neighborhood. Over 50 people came on a rainy evening to Dunn-Marquette Recreation Center to discuss what our nei ghborhoods will look, feel and sound like in 2030. The meeting began with a presentation on plan progress and a series of maps showing relevant data about neighborhood conditions, including demographics, vacant land, public transit and more. You can view that presentation here. Then, we asked the group to imagine they were in the year 2030, drawing their neighborhoods on three scales (large-scale commercial, neighborhood commercial, and residential). You can view those maps here:

On each map, a key guided comments on neighborhood aesthetic and design (BLUE), businesses and services (BROWN), transit and street configuration (RED), parks and green spaces (GREEN), and priority areas (YELLOW). A catalog of feedback at each scale can be found using this spreadsheet.

 

  1. Connect residents with service providers and needed businesses
    1. Integrate service providers into the community through physical and programmatic solutions
    2. Attract businesses that serve local residents (grocery stores and banks) and youth (arcade and movie theater)
    3. Facilitate residents’ access to local resources
  2. Improve transit and accessibility
    1. Increase bus service, both frequency and infrastructure
    2. Improve access for seniors and young people
  3. Improve (the use of) space for community benefit
    1. Use vacant lots for commercial and community activities
    2. Rehabilitate alleys and streets to be safer and cleaner
    3. Install more lights and landscaping to support safety and beauty

 

View the maps developed during this meeting below:

 

At the end of the meeting, we had a conversation about “community infrastructure”: the entities, partnerships and programs that serve as the long-term implementer, guardian, or funder of important neighborhood services, programs and projects. Ensuring community anchors and leaders have the capacity and resources necessary to carry out the recommendations set forth in the Gravois-Jefferson Plan is prerequisite to success. This conversation discussed how to make that happen.

In the next few months, we will be synthesizing the mass of community input we’ve received into a draft plan, which will be presented to the community for feedback and revision. From there, we will develop a final plan to be submitted for adoption by the City of St. Louis. Thank you for your continued support and passion.

 

Gravois-Jefferson Plan Update: 04/14/2017

Here’s a quick update on the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods planning process!

Since our public kick off in November, we have engaged more than 550 people, gathering 4,000+ pieces of information. We’ve had four large public meetings, five steering committee meetings, and countless conversations and focus groups. Our website has been visited over 3,500 times, and we’ve distributed thousands of flyers. Over the next few months, we look forward to our final public working meeting on May 3rd, a draft plan meeting in June, and our final plan presentation in July. In addition to these public meetings, we are kicking off our resource group strategy, returning to meet with the Vietnamese Elders and other groups, holding additional steering committee meetings, and advancing our collaborate work to apply a racial equity lens to our efforts. If you have not yet had the opportunity to get involved, you can participate online, take our survey, or add yourself to our contact list!

Students at Roosevelt HS made this to talk about their community.

Over the past few months, we have also been conducting outreach to our young neighbors. Conversations with students at Roosevelt and Carnahan High Schools, the youth council at Thomas Dunn Learning Center, and spring break camp kids at Cherokee Rec Center have produced a robust base of information and engagement among those under 18. From these conversations and surveys, we have learned that many young people love the proximity of friends and family and their homes. Some of the greatest challenges they face include crime and violence, vacant and abandoned properties, and littering.

 

On March 30th, we held another session of our second public working meeting around the theme of Housing. Combined with the previous housing meeting, these meetings engaged more than 100 people in reviewing information and developing strategies and goals to address the needs of our neighborhoods. Key themes included community ownership of development, preservation of diversity, and the importance of communication and coordination among residents and partners. You can see a full recap of this meeting here.

 

Finally, members of our steering committee attended COCA’s STL Map Room exhibit to develop a map of our community. We are excited to bring this massive map to our upcoming public meetings to show off the fantastic work of committee members, and encourage residents to add to it!

 

Working Meeting #2, Part 2: 3/30/2017

On March 30th, we held another session of our second public working meeting around the theme of Housing. Our first iteration of this meeting was held on February 11th; due to lower-than-usual turnout, we felt it was important to have another opportunity for residents to voice their opinion on this important subject. Combined, these meetings engaged more than 100 people. At the March 30th meeting, residents discussed existing market conditions, residential stability, landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, community building, and tools and partners. In small group discussions, participants reviewed information and developed strategies and goals to address the needs of our neighborhoods. You can check out the data and community input by clicking the links above.

This is what he heard:

  • COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP will be our future! Our neighborhoods want to align resources and partners to ensure future development is locally owned and residents organize against speculation and discrimination.
  • Housing policy must PRESERVE OUR DIVERSITY! The Gravois-Jefferson Plan must lay out strategies to preserve socioeconomic and racial diversity, such as affordability requirements for new developments and developing tools to empower homeownership among low-income households.
  • COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION are integral to success! We need to work with residents and partners to increase awareness of policy and opportunity — this includes fair housing, marketing, training opportunities, and more.

 

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, you can also participate online in all the activities from the meetings by clicking here.

In addition to our most recent working meeting, we have met with local youth at Carnahan HS, Roosevelt HS, and the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, convened a group of local stakeholders with interests in youth empowerment, and facilitated planning activities with the Amigas Latinas group. We are always happy to come and talk with you or your group – just let us know! In the coming weeks, we look forward to carrying out our “Resource Group” strategy, checking in with the Vietnamese elders, and planning our third public working meeting.

Thank you for your continued support!

Cherokee Recreation Spring Break Camp: 03/24/2017

On the morning of Friday, March 24th, we went to Cherokee Recreation Center to meet with kids participating in Cherokee Rec’s Spring Break Camp. We met with 20 kids ages 4-7 and talked to them about our planning efforts, their neighborhoods, and the kinds of things they want to see. Using interactive maps with pens and markers, kids mapped their homes, where they spend time in their neighborhood, what they want to see and the challenges they face. Here are photos of the two maps the kids drew:

  

“Community Loves: a lot to do, a lot of people you can trust, a lot of friends, library, people with talents, paints on houses.”

“Community Challenges: violence, bullying, lies, windows broken on houses, people are bad.”

“Love is all you need.”

Carnahan High School Youth Engagement: 03/16/2017

On Thursday, March 16th, staff from Rise and DSCC facilitated a table and interactive mapping station during the parent-teacher conferences at Carnahan High School of the Future, located at 4041 S Broadway. Dr. Racette, the principal, has been active in our youth resource group, and graciously invited us to meet some of her teachers, parents and students.

We had the opportunity to distribute flyers to more than 50 parents, and engaged a dozen youth in conversations about their neighborhoods. We also gathered nine responses to our youth survey, asking students what they see as the strengths and challenges in the neighborhood, what kind of services or programming they need, and what question they would ask of other young people in their community.

When asked which activities they would most support for local youth, the majority of students said:

  1. Summer youth jobs
  2. Summer sports programs
  3. Tutoring programs

When asked about what would make their neighborhood a stronger, more supportive environment, they consistently said that we need to end the violence and clean up our streets.

Finally, every student said that they want to be a part of improving their neighborhoods.

 

Meeting with Amigas Latinas: 03/09/2017

On Thursday, March 9th, Rise and Dutchtown South Community Corporation staff went to the weekly meeting of Amigas Latinas to share information about our planning work and to hear about their priorities and vision with copies of a survey translated into Spanish and assistance from a translator. Sra. Rataj and the team at St. Francis Community Services Southside Center deserve special shout-outs for their hospitality and commitment to our neighborhoods.  Founded in 1983, St. Francis Community Services addresses the immediate needs and systemic issues for all, while specializing in Vietnamese and Latino communities in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. SFCS seeks to raise respect for heritage and engagement within and among cultures in a strength-based process of equipping clients with the skills necessary to be resilient.

From our conversation with the women and their survey responses, we learned that a key strength is connection with neighbors, location and diversity. Additionally, the vast majority of the women felt children in their family receive high quality educations. We also learned that ALL of those who responded to the survey would be interested in starting their own business, but do not have the resources necessary. A key strategy would be support for local minority-owned businesses and apprenticeship programs for local youth.

According to survey responses, many of the Amigas do not feel safe walking around the neighborhood. Proposed solutions include more foot police, neighborhood walking groups, and cleaning up vacant and abandoned properties.

We also discussed how all have the desire to engage in their communities and neighborhood groups, but struggle with the language barrier – flyers and meetings are in English. We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to meet and discuss our efforts with the Amigas Latinas, and look forward to a continued conversation.

Steering Committee Meeting #5: 03/08/2017

On the evening of March 8th, 2017, the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Steering Committee came together for their fifth meeting. Six of fifteen members were in attendance, as well as staff from Dutchtown South Community Corporation (DSCC) and Rise Community Development (Rise). You can find the meeting’s agenda here.

We began the meeting by delivering an overview of the second public working meeting, focusing on housing. You can view that summary and additional information on the second iteration of that meeting here.

Each steering committee member then revisited the strategies and priorities we discussed at our last meeting and vetted the proposed “Resource Group” strategy, an effort to involve stakeholders in plan development, effectively increasing communication among partners, breaking down silos, building support for strategies, and sparking implementation. They also connect trained practitioners with passionate and engaged community members to develop cross-scale relationships and build a platform for sustained change.

We concluded by distributing canvassing materials, reviewing the agenda for the upcoming working meeting #2 part 2, and completing feedback forms.