Kranzberg Arts Foundation Rehabs in Gravois Park

Well, this one blew my mind when I first read about it on NextSTL back in May, 2018. It’s hard to beat this kind of project…preservation, arts elevation, affordable living, a part of the city in dire need of TLC.

This part of town is still densely populated, but abandonment is becoming a serious problem. Vacancy, deferred maintenance and property destruction is on full display.

The tipping point of a decent, dignified future vs. a path toward full decay is upon us.

Gravois Park needs love, hope and dignity. This project is exactly the thing we need. I am so proud of the folks working to make this happen. These people should be the future leaders in our city.

Thank you. What you are doing is important and felt by citizens who care. The project team includes Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Incarnate Word Foundation and the Regional Arts Commission.

From the Kranzberg Arts Foundation:

“The Kranzberg Arts Foundation has a vision for the city of St. Louis.

We believe our artists, communities, and cultural experiences represent the heart and soul of our city—and we are committed to providing the opportunities and resources necessary for the arts to thrive, now and in the future.

Since 2006, we have been passionately committed to providing local, emerging artists and community arts organizations the vital space and tools to perform and showcase their work, thus fulfilling the collective vision not only to be part of a vibrant and growing arts ecosystem, but a premier arts and entertainment destination.

Through the development of performing arts venues, visual arts galleries, free music programs and work spaces for nonprofit arts organizations, we nurture the growth of artists, while working with emerging and leading arts institutions to engage with St. Louis’ greater community in ways that are relevant, inclusive and inspiring.

Our need-based, ground-up approach to giving is at the heart of our mission to make St. Louis a true destination for artists to thrive and a more inspiring and interesting place for us all to live.”

Here’s what the project in bringing:

The Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) has granted The Kranzberg Arts Foundation an option to purchase 24 properties in Gravois Park just north of Chippewa and 1 in Dutchtown as part of a scattered sites plan to develop affordable housing and studio space for artists. The $30,000 option agreement includes 12 existing buildings and 13 vacant lots totaling 91,798 sq ft of land according to LRA. Existing buildings will be renovated while new construction is planned for the vacant lots.
— Jason Deem - NextSTL

25 vacant lots and buildings is clearly a massive endeavor. Here’s the map of properties from the NextSTL article:

Project map from NextSTL

Project map from NextSTL

That map is important. The properties are extremely concentrated. When I was here for photographs, the clustering and density of the project was obvious and impactful. It’s easy to see how, upon completion, this project will transform the neighborhood.

You turn a corner and there’s another one! Turn around and there’s another across the street. It was like an Easter egg hunt.

Also interesting is the fact that while buildings in the area are eligible for federal and state tax credits, the team is not planning on using them (source).

Most buildings in the area are eligible for federal and state tax credits because Gravois Park lies within a federally designated historic district. But the foundation isn’t planning to use the historic tax credits, a decision that will give it more leeway when undertaking renovations. Construction plans will not require an OK from city’s Cultural Resources Office because the area does not lie within a locally designated historic district.
— Nancy Fowler - St. Louis Public Radio

Now, reading about this from behind the computer screen brings a certain level of optimism, for sure. But, you have to check out the area for yourself to dream about the impact this will have.

The properties chosen by the foundation are rough and in dire need of stability and investment. Here are just a few examples.

3729 Iowa Avenue

3729 Iowa Avenue

It’s easy to spot the buildings purchased as part of this project due to the paintings on the plywood used as board ups in the interim. This was an organized effort from Dutchtown South Community Corporation who enlisted the local community and schools to work together to foster creativity and get involvement from the folks who live here now.

DSC_0171.JPG

You have to get your sea legs on what the area is like, what is needed and the improvements that are already taking place to bring hope.

3740 Iowa Avenue

3740 Iowa Avenue

3735 California Avenue

3735 California Avenue

3706 California Avenue

3706 California Avenue

3728 Oregon Avenue

3728 Oregon Avenue

3729 Oregon Avenue

3729 Oregon Avenue

3712 Nebraska Avenue

3712 Nebraska Avenue

3642 Nebraska Avenue

3642 Nebraska Avenue

You can see there is great diversity in the properties selected includes homes ranging from 1-3 stories, Dutch Colonials, sided, brick, charming gangway entrances, etc. The homes will elevated the blocks they are on and save the incredible architecture in the neighborhood.

2817 - 2819 Winnebago Street

2817 - 2819 Winnebago Street

2845 Winnebago Street

2845 Winnebago Street

Another reason to love the location, is it’s proximity to Froebel School, one that has seen some impressive recent investment around the school including speed bumps and crosswalks. It’s the little signs of city investment that can make a huge difference and shine a ray of hope through the low-dignity crap that goes on here.

The hope that this wave of investment can spur others to live better and invest in sweat equity and property upkeep in the neighborhood in the kind of thing that will keep me optimistic for another year in St. Louis.

We need this kind of dedication and hard work all over the city. Gravois Park is a perfect neighborhood to focus this kind of attention and investment on.

Can’t praise this one enough, clearly a 2018 development favorite.