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The Vacancy Collaborative Newsletter
It's been a busy couple of months for the Vacancy Collaborative! Since the last newsletter in September, the two overarching committees, VacancyStat and the Vacancy Advisory Committee, have begun priority setting and coordination. We also convened three new working groups (Anti-displacement, Vacancy Prevention, and Reinvestment and Reuse) in addition to the continued efforts of the Vacancy Data working group. We're engaging hundreds of stakeholders across organizations and neighborhoods and starting to lay out a vision for addressing vacancy in St. Louis that builds on existing efforts.

Read on for updates on all of these groups and continued ways to get involved with the Vacancy Collaborative. 
In case you missed it...
On October 16th, the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations and other local partners hosted a vacancy symposium at Harris-Stowe State University. The half-day event featured local academics, practitioners, and a national expert on vacancy, Alan Mallach, FAICP, to discuss his new book, The Divided City, and St. Louis' approach to vacant properties. 

If you missed the event, Samuel Yang, a volunteer with the Vacancy Collaborative covered the event and interviewed Alan Mallach afterwards. You can check out his piece here.
Get involved in two new working groups
We're ready to set up initial meetings for the final two working groups. 
  • Interested in Marketing and Engagement? Fill out this poll for your availability for the first meeting of this working group.
  • Interested in Stabilization, Maintenance, & Demolition? Fill out this poll for your availability for the first meeting of this working group.
At both meetings we will discuss the priorities generated from feedback at the launch and begin to identify next steps and short term goals. It is likely that each group will identify multiple projects and goals to work towards. If you can't make it to any of the meeting options in the polls above, but want to stay involved, email Tara Aubuchon at tara@communitybuildersstl.org
Updates on existing working groups
The other four working groups are up and running and hosting regular meetings. They're starting to set priorities and engage stakeholders to tackle different vacancy issues. We've had a good mix of people at these meetings, including resident leaders, representatives from City agencies, and professionals in the field. Working group meetings are open and we always welcome new members!
Reinvestment and Reuse
Tuesday, Nov 13 from 2:30 - 4:00 pm
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

Overview (draft, to be discussed at next meeting):
  • Act as a liaison to identify and organize funding sources toward strategic vacant commercial and residential investment opportunities throughout the City.
  • Link funding resources throughout the City to ensure equitable and responsible redevelopment, ensuring maximum inclusiveness as our City redevelops.
  • Identify and enhance alternative land uses beyond new construction (e.g. greening, storm water, etc.)
  • Advocate for legislative reforms and recommend policy changes that would simplify the process of investing in vacant buildings and lots in the City.   
Current Activities:
  • Discussed strategies and goals for the group at the first meeting on Oct 2nd.
  • Refine mission and strategies over the next couple meetings.
  • Creating a resource guide of financing sources and identify gaps.
  • Inviting speakers to discuss existing programs for reinvestment and reuse.
  • Identifying policies and programs to support continued reinvestment and reuse.
Vacancy Data
Tuesday, Nov 20 from 4:30 - 6:00 pm
T-REX, 911 Washington Ave Suite 500
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Laura Ginn at 
ginnl@stlouis-mo.gov

Overview:
  • Strives to be the single source of truth for St. Louis vacancy data through data analysis, shared definitions, and research. 
  • Assists the five other working groups and two committees of the Vacancy Collaborative by providing data support and investigating research questions that come out of those groups.
Current activities:
  • Held two full day sessions with approximately a dozen volunteers at each focusing on data cleanup, organization, and automation for the next iteration of the Vacancy Portal.
  • Developing additional content for the website including clearer definitions, an overview of data methods, and links and information for different stakeholders.
  • Organizing a subgroup to investigate, through research, the relationship between vacancy and crime, illegal dumping, safety, and other factors in St. Louis. To be involved in this research subgroup, contact Andrea Burr at Andrea.Burr@slu.edu.
Vacancy Prevention
Thursday, Dec 6 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

Overview:
  • Works to reduce new vacancies in the city by educating and connecting residents to tools and advocating for additional resources.
Current Activities:
  • Met four times to-date to begin open dialogue and goal setting.
  • Set Initial Goals (3, 6, 9 and 12 month):
    • Educate internally on rules, policy, tools, and resources related to prevention
    • Develop resource guide to prevent vacancy
    • Host retaining residents workshops: support from: alderpersons, residents, committee people, nonprofits
    • Identify new funding streams to increase services
    • Develop and implement a media strategy to get the word out about resources
    • Connect w/ 500 residents about resources in twelve months
    • Fund full-time staff person to coordinate resources/services
  • Clear Titles Subgroup 
    • Understand how tax sale and LRA title processes impact vacancy and create a barrier to investment, particularity in low-income neighborhoods
    • Brainstorm potential statutory changes to the tax foreclosure statutes
    • Generate data to support reform by studying the 2015 tax sale in depth to identify whether title issues are pervasive.
Anti-displacement
Thursday, Dec 6 from 6:00 - 7:30 pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 5300 Delmar Blvd
Questions or to be added to the group email list: Matt Ampleman at STLdisplacementwg@gmail.com


Overview (draft): This group aims to
  • Define how and why displacement is happening and whom is being displaced in St. Louis.
  • Take specific actions to prevent displacement.
  • Create community led and driven redevelopment opportunities.
  • Ensure equitable and successful outcomes.
  • Advise other working groups on the potential displacement of residents.
Current Activities: Over the next few meetings, we will
  • Articulate an ideal vision for St. Louis that is mindful of displacement and racial equity.
  • Establish shared definitions of displacement and gentrification.
  • Identify partners and organizations already active in this work.
  • Determine what has worked well in other communities and cities.
  • Set goals and develop a strategy to meet those goals.
Who's involved in the VAC and VacancyStat?
As you may recall, the structure of the Vacancy Collaborative includes two overarching committees: the Vacancy Advisory Committee and VacancyStat. 

Vacancy Advisory Committee (VAC): a community-oriented committee made of up private, non-profit, and community members who represent a variety of viewpoints and expertise. The VAC provides input to VacancyStat and works on private-side responses to vacancy. 

The first two meetings of the VAC were devoted to “getting started.”  Members discussed responsibilities of the VAC and how to engage with the community.  The VAC is now analyzing the vacancy reports and studies to create a formal strategic plan that fully defines the VAC's mission in relation to VacancyStat and to the six working groups. 

The current, inaugural members of the VAC are:
  • Angela Drake, SLACO
  • David Dwight, Forward Through Ferguson
  • Yaphett El Amin, MOKAN
  • Eltoreon Hawkins, SLACO
  • Gibron Jones, HOSCO Foods
  • Bob Lewis, SLU Urban Planning & Development
  • Dana Malkus, SLU Law
  • Sal Martinez, North Newstead Association
  • Timetria Murphy-Watson, Grace Hill Settlement House
  • Rhonda Smythe, Missouri Foundation for Health (temporary member)
  • Sean Spencer, Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC
  • Sundy Whiteside, SLACO
  • Alvin Willis, SLACO
To learn more about the history of this framework and how initial members were selected, click here.

Diving into discussion at the first meeting of the VAC in September. 
 

VacancyStat: a committee made up of City agencies setting priorities for the City’s efforts to combat vacancy.

Department heads and essential personnel from city agencies have met three times since August for VacancyStat. The intent of the first meeting was to set the foundation of the work already underway relating to vacancy in individual departments, as well as outline the Mayor's Plan for Reducing Vacant Lots and Buildings. The following meetings centered on coordinating and leveraging existing assets and personnel to address specific locations of high vacancy with a variety of city services. These efforts are currently underway in the College Hill neighborhood, and VacancyStat anticipates using the lessons learned from this activity to replicate in other areas

VacancyStat includes the following departments:
  • Office of the Mayor
  • St. Louis Development Corporation
  • Land Reutilization Authority
  • Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry
  • Problem Properties Unit – City Counselor’s Office
  • Information Technology
  • Planning & Urban Design Agency
  • Building Division
  • Community Development Agency
  • Citizens’ Service Bureau / Neighborhood Improvement
  • Metropolitan Police Department – City of St. Louis
  • Other City agencies
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 © 2018 , All rights reserved.

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Vacancy Collaborative · 3651 Olive St., Suite 100 · St Louis, MO 63108 · USA

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