Working Meeting #2: 2/11/2017

Last week, we had our second public working meeting around the theme of Housing. At the 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 is key! Our neighborhoods want to align resources and partners to promote a Community Land Trust and resident-led rehabilitation of vacant properties.
  • 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.
  • We need these conversations to BENEFIT EVERYONE! We have consistently heard a need for training and educational programming as tools to improve landlord-tenant relationships and quality of rental housing stock.

We realized many did not have the opportunity to attend the last meeting, so we will be hosting a second gathering for the Housing Working Meeting. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime, 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 the area Aldermen, convened a group of local stakeholders with interests in youth empowerment, and facilitated planning activities with the congregation at Curby Memorial Church. 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 meeting with youth leaders to develop a youth engagement strategy, speaking with the local Amigas Latinas group, and checking in with our fantastic business community.

Thank you for your continued support!

Youth Resource Group Meeting #1: 2/9/2017

On the morning on February 9th, 2017, we convened a cross-sector group of organizations working to support and empower young people in the Gravois-Jefferson planning area. These individuals were identified through community input to be necessary partners in advancing the strategies set out by residents and local leaders.

We began the meeting with a presentation about the plan, our progress, and the community input we’ve received related to youth. We then went around the room and shared different work each organization is tackling, relating it back to the community input we have received. You can view the presentation we delivered here: Youth Group Presentation
We also catalogued how organizational and individual efforts are responding to community input. You can view that feedback here: Youth Resource Group Feedback
We look forward to continuing our work together.

Steering Committee Meeting #4: 02/01/2017

On the evening of February 1st, 2017, the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Steering Committee came together for their fourth meeting. Seven 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 introducing the seven focus areas for the planning process and asking the Committee to review community feedback related to each category (click the links below to see that feedback):

Each person then shared with the group what they saw as priorities in the community feedback. Specifically, three strategies within each category, one of which they think the Steering Committee can help champion. The list of these prioritized strategies can be found here. We look forward to working with this group and the greater community to carry these strategies forward.

We then asked the Committee to participate in a community history exercise, where we mapped the highs and lows of the neighborhood. This exercise was important in helping inform the memory of this community, and ensure our recommendations take into account the successes and challenges of our past. We will be bringing this activity to future events so that more people can add their stories to the community timeline.

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

Steering Committee Meeting #3: 12/19/2016

On the evening of Monday, December 19th, the Gravois-Jefferson Steering Committee convened at La Vallesana Restaurant for an informal meetup and debrief session. We began by welcoming the newest member of the Committee, Nha Nguyen. Members of the Committee discussed a variety of topics, including plan progress, key priorities, and actionable recommendations. You can find the meeting’s agenda here.

Staff from Dutchtown South Community Corporation (DSCC) and Rise Community Development prepared canvassing materials so that Committee members could help get out the word for upcoming meetings. You can download these materials here, or get printed copies by contacting us here. Planning team staff also brought summaries of past community engagement efforts.

Members of the Steering Committee expressed the desire for short-term action steps to be taken to help accomplish the goals being set out my local residents. One of the strategies that stood out was a “Community Welcome Center” concept that would greet new residents to the neighborhood by providing them with knowledge of local resources and organizations. These welcome packets could include information on who to contact in certain situations, as well as the sort of amenities and attractions that exist in the Gravois-Jefferson area.

We appreciated the opportunity to talk informally with the Steering Committee over delicious nachos and salsa. We look forward to continuing these relationships and working together to realize key goals.

Black-Owned Business Luncheon: 12/19/2016

On the afternoon of December 19th, a group of Black Business Owners came together at YeYo Arts Collective to network with other business owners and learn from a panel of business leaders and industry professionals about how to grow and sustain their business. Co-hosted by Out Hrr Events, Dutchtown South Community Corporation and Rise Community Development, the event provided a platform for business owners to discuss their ideas and vision, as well as ways to collaborate — all of which will be incorporated into the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Plan.

Our next steps include surveying a few more Black-Owned Businesses who could not attend and continuing to amplify the great work of our local businesses. If you have ideas forfuture meet ups, promotional events or collaborations, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Conversation with Vietnamese Elders: 12/6/16

On Tuesday, December 6th, Rise and Dutchtown South Community Corporation staff went to a meeting with 70+ Vietnamese elders to share information about our planning work and to hear about their priorities and vision with the help of an interpreter and copies of a survey translated into Vietnamese. Sister Pham and the team at St. Francis Community Services Southside Center deserve special shout-outs for their hospitality and commitment to our neighborhoods. This group of elders gathers bimonthly to spend time together, share stories, and gain access to medical and other services. Founded in 1983, St. Francis Community Services addresses the immediate needs and systemic issues for all, while specializing in Vietnamese & Latino communities in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. SFCS seeks to raise respect for heritage and engagement within & among cultures in a strength-based process of equipping clients with the skills necessary to be resilient.

From our conversation with the elders and their survey responses, we learned about the strength of the Vietnamese community in St. Louis and the networks of support that are used to empower one another. For example, 3/4 of elders said they know and can rely on their neighbors. More than 75% stated they have a good relationship with their landlord, and nearly 85% want to be a part of improving their neighborhoods. This sense of community is fostered by gatherings like the one we attended, as well as organizations like the Vietnamese Community Association.

According to survey responses, the greatest concern is safety; specifically, theft, drug use and juvenile delinquency were cited as the most pressing issues. This concern has made elders feel uncomfortable walking around the neighborhood. In addition to safety, other concerns included: programs for seniors, health and medical services, home repair support, and continuing education. When asked about the strengths of the community, elders highlighted places of worship, public transportation, recreational facilities and libraries.

We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to meet and discuss our efforts with our Vietnamese neighbors, and look forward to a continued conversation.

Working Meeting #1: 11/29/2016

Seasons Greetings!

On Tuesday, November 29th, a group of more than 70 people came together for the first Public Working Meeting of the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Planning Initiative! Hosted at Thomas Dunn Learning Center, the group of residents, business owners, local developers, elected officials, and other stakeholders used the theme of “People” to brainstorm strategies, goals and partners for a variety of focus areas. We began with a Presentation, then broke into small groups to brainstorm ideas. Additionally, participants reviewed a draft of the Neighborhood Vision Statement, developed by the Steering Committee the week prior.

We learned that meetings are most effective and appreciated when residents have the opportunity to collaborate with their neighbors. Those who attended the meeting liked the opportunity to brainstorm in small groups; in the future, we will ensure these opportunities exist at all meetings.

We have organized the strategies, goals and partners based on the focus area it pertains to:

  • In the Health and Safety focus area, our major takeaways are:
    • The need to reduce crime; community-grown solutions will help
    • Increase access to healthy foods and health services
    • Desire for a safe and engaged community
    • Click HERE to see data related to Health & Safety. Click HERE to see all of the input we received about this topic during the Working Meeting.
  • In the Youth and Families focus area, our major takeaways are:
    • Connecting schools with community to improve youth opportunities
    • Bringing neighbors together to make change (block parties, neighborhood watch, etc)
    • We have strong partners
    • Click HERE to see data related to Youth & Families. Click HERE to see all of the input we received about this topic during the Working Meeting.
  • In the Economic Development and Prosperity focus area, our major takeaways are:
    • Support local, youth, refugee, and minority-owned business & entrepreneurship
    • Program to provide financial literacy job training
    • Policies to mitigate gentrification and build wealth for low-income residents
    • Click HERE to see data related to Economic Development & Prosperity. Click HERE to see all of the input we received about this topic during the Working Meeting.
  • In the additional seven focus area, our major takeaways are:

Draft Vision Statement

“Our vision is for accessible, sustainable, inclusive neighborhoods where families and individuals thrive in a diverse and historically rich, engaged community.”

If you weren’t able to make it, we have developed online versions of our activities that can be accessed here. We will also be doing this outreach on-the-ground in order to ensure we are capturing as many voices as possible, including those who may not have access to the internet. Thank you for your continued support and participation in the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Plan! We look forward to seeing you at our next Working Meeting at the end of January. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Steering Committee Meeting #2: 11/10/2016

On the evening of November 10th, 2016, the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Steering Committee came together for their second meeting. Eight of fourteen 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 kicked off the meeting by reviewing the feedback gathered from residents and local stakeholders throughout the first months of this process. We shared compiled summaries that offer insight into the collective understanding of our neighborhoods. Steering Committee Members then reflected on this information, providing additional comments and clarifications based on their experiences living and organizing in the neighborhoods.

The group then participated in the creation of a Neighborhoods Vision Statement — a declared vision for the neighborhoods that will help guide the process and implementation of the plan. A draft of this statement will be shared and discussed at our first Public Working Meeting!

Transitioning from the Vision Statement, the planning staff introduced a proposal to apply a Racial Equity Framework to the planning process. This would entail considering how every decision and recommendation made addresses in and eliminates existing disparities for racial and ethnic populations.The application of such a framework is a key recommendation of the Ferguson Commission, with whom we plan to collaborate on ensuring our process aligns with their calls to action. More information on this recommendation can be found here. Committee Members agreed this was an important component of our process, and staff should reach out to Forward through Ferguson in order to develop a strategy for implementation.

Finally, the Steering Committee expressed the need for canvassing and outreach activities that target all residents, including those who may not speak English or may not have access to the internet. To address this need, planning staff is producing canvassing materials so that individuals may do outreach on their blocks. We are also working with a Committee Member to translate our materials into Spanish. Haga clic aquí para el español!

We are indebted to our Steering Committee for their service and commitment. Thank you to all those involved in the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Plan — it takes a village!

Community Insights: Kick-Off and Beyond

Hello! Over the past few weeks, we have been working with residents and local stakeholders to determine community assets, challenges and opportunities; focus areas for intervention and community-led development; and priorities for the Gravois-Jefferson Planning effort. With information gathered at our Kick-Off Event on November 1st and our second Steering Committee meeting on November 10th, in addition to one-on-one and group meetings with individuals living and working in the area, we have compiled summaries that offer insight into the collective understanding of our neighborhoods. For those that have not had the opportunity to voice their thoughts, please consider participating in the activities using our online platform!

A general overview of the information gathered, as well as feedback on the Kick-Off, can be found here: Community Insights Summary

We had more than 90 people attend the Kick-Off, contributing over 750 unique pieces of data. Our major takeaways from the event include:

  • The importance of bringing people of color and youth from these neighborhoods into the planning process
  • The Benton Park West, Gravois Park and Dutchtown Neighborhoods have strong assets from which to build, especially its diversity and density
  • While many focus areas are interrelated, people continuously expressed the need for strategies that address health and safety, youth and families, and inclusive economic development

Residents have also been mapping the strengths, opportunities and challenges in their neighborhoods. That information is shown in an interactive map; feel free to contribute your opinions: Strength, Opportunities, Challenges Map

Another component of this process is compiling data on the planning area. During the Kick Off, we set up a “Data Dig” activity, where participants could study some information on the neighborhoods and provide feedback. We have summarized that activity, and its responses, here: Neighborhood Data

Thank you again to all those who have participated in this process thus far — the response from the community has been fantastic, and we look forward to continuing our work together. See you at the first Public Working Meeting!

Have any questions or feedback? You can always contact us!

Kickoff Event Data Dig Response

We’ve been taking some time to go over all of your responses from various community engagement activities. While we’re still processing and researching a lot of the points brought up in the various activities, there’s a handful of questions and data points from the data dig that we can talk about now. For your reference, here is the data snapshot that was provided for the activity.

A common question revolved around education attainment data, which showed that 27.7% of residents have a less than high school diploma, and 32.3% have a high school diploma. Together, that’s 60% of people who live in the planning area who have attained at most, a high school diploma or GED.

This number comes from the census data for educational attainment for individuals 25 years of age or older. The fact that close to 22% of the population is youth aged 5-17 does not have any bearing on this statistic, and is designed to give an idea of the adult education attainment after you have been given ample time as an adult to attain this.

This statistic, along with all of the statistics in our data dig activity that didn’t have to do with parcels, housing tenure, and vacancy, come from the US census bureau’s numbers for census tracts 1164,1241 and 1242. While this is not an exact overlay of the planning area, the public is unable to draw our own shapes and come up with numbers for a limited area and have to work with what the census gives us: tracts, block groups, municipalities, zip codes, counties, etc.

We also got a lot of questions regarding where school aged children go to school, we’re in the process of trying to see if we can get ahold of any of that, however none of it is readily available. The census does not ask these questions, they’re simply interested in attainment and enrollment: not where. Schools are often very quiet on how these enrollment numbers look outside of actual enrollment, especially for charter schools who look to craft an image based on their style of education, not where their students come from. We do not anticipate that this will be easy to find unless already compiled into a report.

In terms of healthcare and health rates for things like obesity, diabetes, etc. we have to refer to the data that is a few years old and is likely not only the most recent data available, but is very unlikely to have changed. Health studies last a few years at least, and health data is typically only available at the zip code level to remain HIPPA compliant. So if you’ve seen a study that talks about health or disease info for St. Louis that is dated 2014, 2012, and even 2010, we have to assume that this data is still accurate enough within the margin of error that we can

There were also a few questions about the owner occupancy rate. The owner occupancy rate is somewhat lower than the city as a whole; for all occupied housing units, St. Louis as a city is 55% renter, while the planning area is around 67% renter. Considering the price of real estate in St. Louis is relatively low, we have to assume that these are people who are not able to afford homes or have the necessary credit / down payment, and desire to be homeowners as opposed to folks who choose to rent (of course, many renters will fall into this category). Not everyone desires to be a homeowner, and there is no universal formula for what is a “good” mix of renter and owner. In the San Francisco metropolitan area, home ownership is 53%. In New York City, it’s 31%. Nationwide, homeownership is at about 64%, which is low nationwide since the housing boom following WWII. For further reading, the census bureau releases a quarterly report on home ownership and vacancy that you can read here

While we can’t answer everything in a simple blog post, we are working on digging further into your data dig to find out what we can about the other points that were brought up, these are the ones that are some of the most recurring themes that we have answers for.

See you all at the first working meeting on the 29th!