Monday, April 5, 2010

The Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood

Forest Park Southeast is a south St. Louis neighborhood bound by I-64 to the north, I-44 to the south, Vandeventer to the east and Kinshighway to the west:

The 2000 census counted 3,704 residents (13% decline from 1990s count) of whom 77% were black, 18% white, 1% Asian and 1% Hisp/Latino.  1,831 housing units were counted, 77% occupied, split 34%/66% owner/renter.  The 2010 census data indicated another loss at about 21% with some significant racial shifts:  64% black, 30% white, 2% Asian and 2% Hispanic/Latino.
 From the FPSE website:
Forest Park Southeast is an up-and-coming neighborhood with a mix of single- and multi-family homes on quiet streets along with trendy restaurants and bars in the Grove district along Manchester Avenue. FPSE comprises the four distinct neighborhoods of Adams Grove, Gibson Heights, New Boyle and Ranken East.

The neighborhood is convenient to Washington University Medical Center, Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children's Hospital, the Central West End, the Science Center and, as its name implies, Forest Park. Forest Park Southeast is located near both Interstate 64/Highway 40 and Interstate 44, with a Metrolink stop just a few blocks north of the neighborhood.
The above mention of proximity to BJC is very true, and with the upgrade of I-64, there is a nice pedestrian crossing to access BJC, the CWE and Forest Park.  FPSE is also a quick jog down Tower Grove Avenue to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
It's also good to see I'm not alone in calling this an "up and coming" neighborhood.

A little history from the FPSE website:
Before 1989, the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood had been known by various names over the years. Originally, the area was known as Rock Spring, named for the large spring that was the principal source of the Mill Creek. Rock Spring drew a large crowd from the central city and became a resort where they could get away from the urban grind. The demographics of the area changed drastically, though, with the arrival of the Pacific Railway and the influx of industry that followed (www.stlouis.missouri.org). The construction of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks and Manchester Road to Jefferson City in the 1850s made FPSE accessible.

However, Forest Park Southeast was developed primarily at the turn of the 20th century. The neighborhood was originally marketed as the city's first "subdivision" and was popular because of its convenient proximity to downtown and industry. Much of the housing development occurred prior to 1915 with infill activity occurring throughout the succeeding decades. Commercial development occurred primarily between 1930 and 1950.
Here is a reminder from the Rock Spring moniker for the neighborhood, the shuttered Providence Educational Center nee Rock Springs School):
As you can tell from the map and the description above, the south side of FPSE is defined by the railways.  Among other operations, you'll find the City water division, Henry Plumbing (an excellent source for plumbing parts of all kinds), the Bed Guy, Luth Construction, and other various warehousing, distribution and light industry operations both operational and long since closed:
 The south side of FPSE (using Manchester as the dividing line) has a high concentration of boarded up and abandoned properties:
Notice the black spray painted symbol on this property?  They are all over the place in FPSE.  Restoration Saint Louis is a company of Amy and Amrit Gill, who were responsible for the renovation of the Moolah and Coronado in Midtown among other things.  This is probably a good sign for FPSE:
There are probably more abandoned homes and corner storefronts in FPSE than any other south side neighborhood I've visited so far:

 There are examples of new construction from the 1980's through the early 21st century:
It's pretty clear that the late 20th century inhabitants of FPSE were not the best stewards of the neighborhood. However, I really think things are looking up.

Don't get me wrong, the south side of FPSE is cool, it just needs some TLC and an influx of people who want smaller shotgun homes.
The section of the neighborhood north of Manchester has seen much more investment in the last 10-15 years.  There is major potential here, especially with all the corner commercial opportunities:
^ An attractive cafe with sidewalk seating.
 ^ This is one of my favorites.  Check out the windmill above the 2nd floor window.
 ^ And this is right next door to the cool red building.  The sign reads:  "Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma"
^One rehabbed, one to go.
Many of the streets are closed off with bollards and cul de sac'ed.  I still don't get why this is necessary.
And if those photos don't convince you that FPSE is a great up and coming neighborhood, the recently proposed Chouteau Park space near the former natural gas towers has a huge potential to draw people to FPSE, and it will be visible from I-64 and the Tower Grove Ave. exit:
Adams Elementary is on Tower Grove Avenue and has a modern upgrade to match the original structure built in 1899.


Directly adjacent to the school is another Cardinals Care baseball field, this one dedicated to former center fielder Jim Edmonds:


According to this source:  
Edmonds donated $1 million -- $200,000 each season from 2001-05 to the team's charitable arm, Cardinals Care. Cardinals Care unveiled Jim Edmonds Field in June 2001 in Forest Park Southeast.
Don't like the public schools?  How about a French and Spanish language immersion charter school?  The first of it's kind in the area can be found at  4011 Papin Street:
Some nice old churches dot the neighborhood:
But the real claim to fame for FPSE is its mainstreet commercial district, Manchester with several businesses services, night clubs and restaurants deemed the Grove.  When I first moved to STL in 1994, This stretch of Manchester between Kingshighway and Vandeventer was pretty desolate; it's amazing how much progress has been made in the last 10 years:

 
^ This storefront is sweet.


 
^I like the senior assisted living buildings, just not the empty corner at Manchester and Kingshighway. 
 
There are many places of interest along Manchester, here are just a few:
Sweetie Pie's at the Mangrove (the place that got me addicted to sweet potato fries)
And many others
Five has since closed shop in the Grove and moved to the Hill.

Most of the buildings along Manchester have been redone.  However there are still a handful that await their turn:


Some sights along Vandeventer:

The former Billy Goat Tavern
^This stretch of store front is attractive, can't understand why things haven't taken off here.

A former fire station is available for sale/lease:


I really like the Chouteau building, too bad it's fallen victim to some urban poaching:


The Thomas Coffee headquarters on Boyle is an impressive employer, who seems committed to the city.  They've been roasting coffee under this roof since 1905.


Thomas isn't the only coffee roaster in FPSE:


FPSE has seen an amazing amount of investment over that last 10 or so years.  I think the positivity will continue both north and south of Manchester to make FPSE yet another great south side neighborhood that will draw all kinds of people to live, work and play.

Cheers to Forest Park Southeast!

8 comments:

Ben said...

Ooh, I love the firehouse for rent. Droool.

This neighborhood has one of my favorite streets - Raceway (or something close), a tiny little stretch at the intersection of Vandeventer and Tower Grove. I believe it's the only remnant of an old horse/buggy race course.

Also, you had expressed an interest in helping us out at Wingmann Park in ONSL whenever we got around to it. We are planning a general work day in the park Saturday, May 1, at 10. Hope to see you there!

Runs In Circles said...

Racecourse. And I have not been able to find much info on just what race course it's named for.

Mark Groth said...

My curiosity is piqued: could this be a lead?

http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/dogtown/articles/caesar-race.html

Ben, I'm going to do my best to be at Wingmann on May 1st. Let me know if anything changes with the date.-Thanks

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Forest Park Southeast. The Bollards were to stop all the cars from screaming up and down the streets for drive by's/ running over kids playing in the streets. When the corridors for the "get-away" cars were barricaded the neighborhood started to become safer.

Charlie Culella said...

Where is the building labeled "Station-G" located?

Here's the pic you posted:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_6nko9tHYf1g/S7qcgHUobaI/AAAAAAAADMg/U1CXpX5j6eA/s1600/fpse+062.JPG

Mark Groth said...

^Charlie, that is the former Laclede Gas pump station on the site of the former gasometer. That property is not being developed as a suburban-style apartment comlpex called the Aventura. The building still stands (thankfully), read more about the site here: http://nextstl.com/central-corridor/aventura-at-forest-park

Toni said...

I grew up in this area and am back. My mom has lived here, in the same duplex for 77 years. I recently moved back-to the other side of the duplex. I love living in the city but feel the city isn't tying nearly hard enough to improve the residential side. In one block -from Sarah to Talmage along Manchester there are at least 7 venues and 1 parking lot. What that means is that I can't leave in the evening or there'll be no parking available when I get home. And that certainly counts out friends trying to visit. The city has a sign up about residential parking but NO ONE pays any attention to it. We have a long way to go to be a neighborhood again. This is a prime area to live - nestled between Hwys 64 and 44. Any suggestions?

Tom Williams said...

I grew up in this area & remember when Manchester was lined with stores. Three generations of my family (both sides) went to Adams, from my grandmother to my brothers & me. My parents bought our flat on Chouteau in 1946/47 and my mother was still living there when she died in 2005. I had to let it go when someone broke in & stole the mantles! Really happy to see it picking up. I moved back to StL last winter & bought a house in Shaw. Great to be home.