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St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative Newsletter
Welcome to the September issue of our newsletter! 

Read on for more detailed updates on what's happening related to vacancy in St. Louis and continued ways to engage with the Vacancy Collaborative.
Welcoming Two New Members to our Team!

We are thrilled to have two AmeriCorps VISTA positions supporting the Vacancy Collaborative and hosted by Community Builders Network for the next year. Lilly and Ronald both joined us within the last few weeks, and we're so excited to have them on board. They'll be helping with engagement, communications, events, research and more. Make sure to say hello the next time you see them!

Ronald Jones is a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA with the Vacancy Collaborative. Ronald is a recent graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Fellows and received a certificate in Civic Leadership from University of Missouri St. Louis. He is a proud resident of the 4th Ward / Jeffvanderlou and looking to partner and come up with innovative ways to not only help build his community, but St.Louis city as a whole.

Lilly Murphy is an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Vacancy Collaborative on Communications and Events. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology from Fontbonne University. As a lifelong St. Louisan, she is passionate about helping organizations in the area build capacity through increasing communication and building positive working relationships that empower the city to flourish. 

To learn more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program in St. Louis, visit www.servethelou.org.

Thanks to the Community Innovation and Action Center at UMSL Grand Center as well as SLU Law for providing access to shared office space for Ronald and Lilly and to SLU’s Office of Mission and Identity for assistance with parking. 

Pilot Program Updates

Deconstruction Pilot

Since 2017, several national and local partners in St. Louis have been working together to create opportunities for deconstruction, the disassembly of structures so valuable building materials can be returned to the local marketplace, as opposed to land-filled. 

Recently, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved a grant for over $40,000 to St. Louis Community College Workforce Solutions to develop and administer deconstruction training and certification, at no cost to participants. In the coming months, partners will convene to finalize the training program and selection process. 

This exciting development builds on other program milestones to-date including conducting a regional market assessment, awarding the first publicly-funded deconstruction contract, and continuing to develop a 30-building deconstruction pilot program.

In addition to DNR and STLCC, the partnership includes the City of St. Louis, SLDC, Missouri Department of Conservation​, EPA Region 7, EIERA, Delta Institute and Refab STL.

To learn more or get involved, contact ginnl@stlouis-mo.gov.

Neighborhood Lot Maintenance 
In July, the City of St. Louis issued a request for bids for a pilot neighborhood lot maintenance program in neighborhoods with greater than 30% vacant land cover. Rather than a large scale contract, this pilot was intended for smaller businesses and neighborhood groups to maintain vacant lots for the final three months of the growing season. Bidders identified specific properties and committed to grass cutting, reducing vegetation, and trash removal every two weeks. The City received 17 bids and awarded 5 contracts to maintain 300 parcels totaling about 30 acres of land. 

Work began in August and will continue through mid-November. The pilot includes a pre- and post- evaluation of the sites, as well as an analysis of the process. Feedback and changes will be incorporated, and the City hopes to issue another request for bids in 2020 for the entire growing season.

Calculating the True Cost of Vacancy

The St. Louis Regional Data Alliance (RDA), in close collaboration with the City of St. Louis and St. Louis Development Corporation, was recently selected to participate in a competitive Virtual Accelerator to explore the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle critical problems in American cities. This program is sponsored by Microsoft and run by DataKind, a national nonprofit that works to “harness the power of data science in service to humanity.”

Building on the success of the St. Louis Vacancy Portal, the Virtual Accelerator will tackle important but previously difficult questions to answer: How much tax revenue is the City losing because of the impact of vacant properties on the property values of nearby occupied properties? And how much wealth are City residents losing because of the impact of vacant properties, particularly in communities of color? Read more about the announcement here.

Atlanta Conference Reminder

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference (RVP) is the only national conference dedicated to strengthening communities through new strategies to transform vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties into community assets. 

Learn more about all the sessions here, and register to attend here. If you're planning on attending the conference in Atlanta, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri is hosting a pre-conference conversation on September 19th from 8:00-9:00 at their office, 4232 Forest Park Ave. 

Buy a t-shirt to support Finest 15!
Finest 15 is fundraising to support their trip to Atlanta as session speakers. Buy a t-shirt or make a donation here (scroll down for the t-shirt form). 

St. Louis in the Spotlight for Vacancy Efforts
Vacancy efforts in St. Louis were recently highlighted in a national media outlet, Next City. The article includes several local efforts and organizations including 4theVille, the Gateway Neighborhood Mortgage, EHOC, LRA, and others, including the Vacancy Collaborative! Check out the coverage here
Lawyers for City Neighborhoods Needed!
Governor Parson signed into law earlier this year a bill that expands the legal tools for addressing nuisance properties, including a provision for recovery of attorneys’ fees by successful plaintiffs in lawsuits against commercial and industrial nuisance properties.  In addition, a division was created at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, staffed with full-time attorneys, to represent neighborhood organizations in problem properties litigation and to assist and support private attorneys in representing individuals and neighborhood organizations in such litigation.
 
The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis is hosting a free CLE for lawyers on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. where these two developments will be discussed by lawyers who have litigated cases under the existing statute and who were involved in drafting and lobbying for the amendments to the statute that go into effect at the end of this month. A reception immediately following the CLE will give lawyers an opportunity to learn more about connecting with neighborhood organizations that are looking for counsel to represent them in using the new statute to combat problem properties. More information and registration here
Pledge Your Support!

The work of the Vacancy Collaborative includes a host of groups and hundreds of individuals engaging in creating a shared vision for addressing vacancy in St. Louis. The power of the Vacancy Collaborative is this diverse and growing coalition of partners, and we want to recognize your involvement! Head to https://www.stlvacancy.com/pledge to join our network so we can recognize your involvement.

The pledge does not require financial support; simply sign on to our shared values and commit to being part of the solution in our collective work. By taking the pledge you’re joining the diverse community that is working to address vacancy, improve our communities, and build a shared vision for the future.

Working Groups
For up-to-date details on all the working groups, you can always visit our events page for more information. 

Vacancy Data
Tuesday, October 22 from 4:30 - 6:00 pm
UMSL at Grand Center, 3651 Olive St, Room 104 (the Learning Studio)
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Andrea Burr at andrea.burr@slu.edu

Marketing & Engagement
October meeting still being scheduled (email for more information)
SLU Law, 100 N. Tucker Blvd, Room 116
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Dana Malkus at dana.malkus@slu.edu

 

Anti-displacement
Thursday, September 26 from 6:00 - 7:30 pm
O'Fallon Park YMCA, 4343 West Florissant Ave
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Matt Ampleman at stldisplacementwg@gmail.com
 

Vacancy Prevention
Thursday, September 19 from 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, 4232 Forest Park Avenue
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Peter Hoffman at pjhoffman@lsem.org

 

Reinvestment and Reuse
Tuesday, October 1 from 10:00 - 11:30 am
UMSL at Grand Center, 3651 Olive St, Room 104 (the Learning Studio)
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Vince Schoemehl at vincestlouis@gmail.com

 

Stabilization, Maintenance, & Demolition
Next meeting still being scheduled (email for more information)
Location TBD.
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Laura Ginn at ginnl@stlouis-mo.gov
Other Community News & Events

Fundraiser for Peace Park 
The residents of the College Hill neighborhood in North St. Louis have a vision for Peace Park – one that will brighten their community and give their neighbors and families a place to relax and connect with each other and with nature. Working with Grace Hill Settlement House and Health Equity Works at Washington University, residents became determined to renovate a vacant block along North Grand, once known as Peace Park. Their community-led effort continues to grow. Watch their story, support their effort and share their vison.

Sep 20: Affordable Housing Trust Fund Application Info Session
Have you considered applying for Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) grants or development loans in the City of St. Louis? $6.6 million is available to help St. Louis area organizations build affordable homes, support tenants in the fight against negligent landlords, assist aging neighbors with home repair, and provide services for our unhoused neighbors. These are just a few types of projects the AHTF supports.This information session will build knowledge, transparency, and capacity for those interested in applying. Attendance is not required to apply and the opportunity is geared specifically toward first time applicants. The session will be on Sept 20th at SLDC, 1520 Market, 2nd floor. Presentations for those submitting grant applications will begin at 9a. Presentations for those submitting applications for housing developments will begin at 10:15a. To learn more, click here

Sep 21 and Oct 26: Operation Clean Sweep
The next two Operation Clean Sweep events will be September 21st in the Greater Ville and October 26th in Walnut Park. This public-private partnership includes local businesses partnering with Better Family Life, the City of St. Louis, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and others to address blight in North St. Louis. To sign up to help and join hundreds of fellow volunteers, visit Better Family Life's website

Sep 28: St. Louis Housing Fair
Planning to buy a home? Stop by the St. Louis Housing Fair to learn if you might be eligible for up to $7,500 toward a down payment and closing costs, receive your free credit report on the spot and learn how to improve your score, and speak with homeownership advisors, lenders, real estate agents, and other industry partners. Having trouble paying your mortgage? Housing advisors and mortgage servicers will be available to talk about loss mitigation. The event will be Saturday, September 28th from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Friendly Temple Church. More information and registration available here.

Apply by Sep 30 for Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance
EPA invites communities and non-profits interested in revitalizing neighborhoods through development of local food systems to apply for Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance. Local Foods, Local Places supports projects that create vibrant main streets and mixed-use neighborhoods, boost economic opportunities for local farmers and main street businesses, and improve access to healthy, local food. Highest consideration will be given to those communities who can identify how assistance will leverage an Opportunity Zone designation to support implementation of the resulting action plan. See the complete application instructions for an overview of the program and the selection criteria. 

October 10-11: St. Louis Racial Equity Summit
As the St. Louis region commemorates the fifth anniversary of the #FergusonUprisings, the outpouring of civic activism following the killing of Michael Brown Jr., key regional organizations are proud to present the St. Louis Racial Equity Summit on October 10-11, a platform for elevating, connecting, and activating the people, practices, and resources necessary to achieve Racial Equity. There will be a welcome reception held on Thursday, October 10th from 5:30PM-7:30PM and then a full day of programming on Friday from 7:30AM-4:30PM. More information and registration here
 

Oct 18 & Nov 8: EPA Real Estate Development Academy for Communities
Join the RE-Development Academy for Communities, a series of FREE webinars where you will learn the process for redeveloping a contaminated site through the eyes of a property developer. Meant for community members, local governments, community nonprofits, other local stakeholders, technical assistance providers, etc. Learn about: Factors that motivate or discourage development of contaminated properties; how & when developers make decisions; special issues to consider (compatibility of site cleanup & reuse, contaminant type & location, institutional or engineering controls, etc.); pre & post redevelopment activities, determining cost & return on investment.

Submit your Events!

Have community news or events related to vacancy that you want to share with the Vacancy Collaborative community? Email tara@communitybuildersstl.org to share your information for this newsletter. 
What is the Vacancy Collaborative?
The Vacancy Collaborative (VC) is a coalition of partners committed to the reduction of vacant property as a top priority in St. Louis. The VC is not a stand-alone entity, but a coalition of community representatives, private and non-profit stakeholders, and City agencies. The VC helps to coordinate existing vacancy efforts under one umbrella and encourages the public and private sectors to work together toward solutions in a comprehensive and coordinated way. Head to www.stlvacancy.com for more information.

Support
Funding to support coordination of the Vacancy Collaborative was provided, in part, by Missouri Foundation for Health, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis.
Copyright © 2019 Vacancy Collaborative, All rights reserved.


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