Cherokee ComeUnity Hub: How about here?

Posted by Lyndsey Scott on March 10, 2009 | 19 Comments

Conceptual rendering by local architect Cipriano Medina invokes a simple, lush green space with a spacious pavilion and  active pedestrian traffic

Architect Jessica Deem imagines an inviting place for conversation, lunchtime music, and inviting public art.

Two talented architects step up to the question of “where” by envisioning the Cherokee ComeUnity Hub at the southeast corner of Texas Ave and Cherokee St, on the vacant LRA lot across from the Globe Drug that has been dormant since the Empire Sandwich shop was demolished in spring 2006.

  1. Amber on March 10, 2009 1:42 pm

    Thank you to both Cipriano and Jessica for the great renderings.

  2. Eric Bothe on March 10, 2009 9:30 pm

    I just came home from the Gravois Park Neighborhood Association Meeting where we were treated to an enthusiastic presentation regarding the ComeUnity Hub. What a great idea. Thanks for all who are working to make it a reality.

    We were invited to give our comments; and here’s mine.

    1. Location: I believe, as Alderman Ortmann indicated he might, that the best use of the proposed corner at Texas and Cherokee is for commercial purposes.

    2. Location: Great enthusiastic idea! But what about directing all that time and energy to some of our existing public spaces? Our parks and recreation centers are under funded, under maintained and just generally abused. Benton Park and Gravois Park are right here, practically on Cherokee, and could really use the enthusiasm of this movement.

    3. Location: It’s going to be exponentially more difficult to do what you want to do on a vacant LRA lot in a commercial district than it would be to do the same thing in one of the parks. Save your time and money with acquisition fees, insurance issues and approval from the City and please put those resources into our existing public spaces. There’s an existing beautiful, historic band stand just one block off Cherokee in Gravois Park! Please use it. There could be a series of musical or other events at Gravois Park.

    P.S. You need a civil engineer on the group to bring those architects back to reality.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Eric Bothe
    35XX Louisiana Avenue

  3. Daniel on March 11, 2009 1:07 am

    I for one think that it would be a great addition to the neighborhood. Why build more buildings, when there are existing ones that can be restored. The street could use a little livining up to make it a little more hospitable. Not only would it give the area a nicer look, but I believe it would also draw more positive attention to the surrounding businesses.

  4. Sheri on March 11, 2009 9:37 am

    Looking at the description for placement of the project:

    “Preferable Qualities:
    > Easily accessible and central to Cherokee Street –
    potential to ‘bridge’ East and West of Jefferson
    > Highly visible to pedestrian and car traffic
    > Large enough to accommodate gathering space and greenspace
    > Vacant unpaved lot available for purchase”

    The lot on Texas and Cherokee represents all of those qualities.
    I grew up in a neighborhood that was like this one. We had a hub like this. Check out Kingsbury and Des Pere by Delmar and Skinker. We had a stage where bands would come play, high school students would put on plays, arts and crafts fairs would happen, and kids would play all the time. It was very much a drawing together of the community for something positive and it drew more people into the community.
    More people will support our businesses if they feel this neighborhood is safe and inviting. Cherokee and Jefferson is the main gateway to our community, naturally the most inviting spot should be near a gateway.

  5. Sheri on March 11, 2009 12:40 pm

    I don’t want to be negative about new businesses coming to Cherokee ever but what business would buy that lot to build a building for the business? Walgreens, Starbucks, Autozone, Rally’s? Would a small business be able to build?
    Most corporations wouldn’t buy that small of a lot. The lot would have to be bigger for any kind drive-through. Just a thought, just wondering.
    I have now distracted myself too long from studying!

  6. James on March 12, 2009 3:17 pm

    The lot at the corner of Texas and Cherokee seems ideal for a community hub because the proposal seems to carry both symbolic and practical meaning. Using the lot for commercial means seems to ignore the fact that there are already beautiful, historic storefronts that are not in use that could accommodate new business moving to the area. What we need to provide is a reason for them to–namely, a neighborhood that represents potential.

    The hub is an incredible opportunity to display the neighborhood’s commitment to providing a balanced, safe, creative environment so that it can become a landmark urban neighborhood (which I feel it should and will do). Having an architecturally significant space that is visually appealing, and has consistent, diverse programs in a visible location is as positive a step as we can take.

    No other location seems to carry that potential for direct impact on the community.

  7. Amber on March 12, 2009 4:55 pm

    I don’t see how creating an open air plaza for the neighborhood to commune isn’t considered “development”. If this project looked at some of the other LRA lots in the area it wouldn’t be as visible or as utilized as it would be on Cherokee. Not to mention the fact that if you want activities to happen in the Hub, a lot of the LRA lots are less than ideal considering that they would be next to residential buildings.

  8. Lyndsey on March 13, 2009 11:11 am

    Eric — great feedback, wish I couldve stayed longer after the Gravois Park mtg to have this conversation in person.

    Particularly, I love your reminder to be aware of and put energy toward the resources that already exist, namely the bandstand in Gravois Park. I had a great time at the concert in Benton Park last year and loved to be sprawled out and picnicking in the wide green space.

    I see the Hub as a stepping stone to making re-engagement with our parks possible. It’s happened beautifully in Tower Grove with the Farmer’s Market. But here –First we have to shift ‘perceived safety’ — that happens more easily when we know one another, across race & socioeconmic divides. With the present reputation/potential for violence in these parks, conversations aren’t as likely to spark there. It takes more momentum to create a gathering.

    So what if we start small, where people already are?

    What we’re proposing has much to do with people power — creating more contact, visibility, and opportunity for strangers to safely meet.

    Giving the live visual of peace, play, and green to an area which has long been dormant (and likely will continue to be if we wait to build in this economic climate) is an immediate, key strategy for decreasing crime and increasing welcome in our hood.

    It’s something we’re ready to do now.

    The centrality of the LRA across from Globe, smack dab in the middle of Cherokee’s commercial pathway, is precisely what we need to set the picture in motion.

    The “contribution” that this will provide to the district will be worth its weight in gold.

    P.S. Sounds like you’ve got some skills you want to bring to the team! We don’t have any civil engineers on board. Without any design conversations to cue them, the architects were giving us a wide open chance to imagine _something_ beautiful happening. Now…. you come ground us in the land of nuts and bolts. Open invitation. 😉

  9. Eric@CAMP on March 13, 2009 9:04 pm

    This lot is ideal for an open air gathering spot. It’s nearly in the middle of Cherokee in a place that already receives a good amount of pedestrian traffic, and increased traffic would help out all the stores on the street. There’s definitely no reason to build a new building in an area with so many great storefronts still in need of renovation, and the lot is both small enough to be workable, and large enough to be useful as a plaza. There’s something nice about a beautiful spot to just sit and chat for a half hour while you are walking down the street.

    Any place off of Cherokee, even by a block or two, would not receive near the amount of “unplanned use” – the sort of sporadic and spontaneous gatherings that little plazas are perfect for – that such a high-visibility space would.

    If there are other proposals on the table for the use of that space, why not bring them to the table and let people decide what they would rather see there? Otherwise, let’s be thankful that there is such a groundswell of support in the community for both the project itself, and for the use of that lot and get onto making Cherokee the vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income, racially-integrated street that many of us know it can be.

    (That being said, there’s a little too much concrete in that second visioning for me)

  10. catharine Magel on March 16, 2009 8:06 am

    Thank you for the beautiful renderings!!!!
    This is the ticket to getting momentum started. When you aid those to visualize, then all imaginations can begin that maybe were not able to see a clear concept.

  11. Eric Woods on March 17, 2009 9:14 pm

    I wish the Hub had been here today. I would’ve brought my lunch down and enjoyed the beautiful day.

  12. Peat USA on March 19, 2009 11:15 am

    WOW!!!! What a perfect spot for something like this! Cherokee street so badly needs a place for people to relax and hang out. I have Three young boys and when we are down on Cherokee their really is no place for them to run around or have a picnic.

  13. Kathryn on March 19, 2009 7:14 pm

    Thanks to both Cip Medina & Jessica Deem for
    giving us something visual to stir our
    imaginations & evoke further considerations.
    As there is already a substantial amount of regular pedestrian traffic here, I can’t think
    of a better location for the proposed Cherokee plaza.

    I vote yes.

  14. Trina on March 21, 2009 10:00 am

    I am a pretty pragmatic person, and in general a lot more conservative than the artists involved in this project, but have been continually impressed by their energy. And by their understanding of the practical application of the Hub.

    At the Gravois Park meeting in November, Rita Ford mentioned the planning meeting for this project. That day long meeting generated several ideas on how to spend the $25,000 generously granted by Incarnate Word Foundation. One of the ideas was to expand use of Gravois Park and Benton Park, and sponsor activities in both parks – basically, what the first Eric above mentions. That was my first choice. It was NOT selected as one of the final three projects that were then voted on over the following months. Why not? Probably because the leadership for the Hub, the gardening project, and the low cost WiFi was organized, had energy to implement the projects, and made fantastic pitches to the gathered assembly. Of the three final choices, the Hub has the best chance, in my opinion, to spread out and include improved utilization of our neighborhood parks.

    So Eric, come on board. Let’s make Cherokee Street itself a more welcoming place, and we’ll have no trouble (or less!) getting fabulous fun activities in the parks.

  15. Mark on March 23, 2009 4:01 pm

    I prefer the HUB be located at the lot at Texas and Cherokee over Benton Park because I want to see us expand public space not reconfigure existing park space. I dont feel we have enough public space for community interaction, particularly on Cherokee. One of the concerns in Forest Park is that all the institutions inside the park are often needing to expand, taking away green space in the park. I dont want to lose open space in Benton Park. Further, the intention of the community plaza has been to contribute to and create positive interactions in the business district–activities that draw people to the plaza intentionally as well as bring in people walking down the street. I think we need this on Cherokee where nothing like this exists.

  16. Sheri on March 23, 2009 6:07 pm

    Something needs to be done with the lot, no matter what. It is full of broken glass, it doesn’t look good, someone is going to get hurt walking around there and the city would be responsible. It attracts negative attention right now-as in right now, go drive by it. So what are the other proposals for this space? What is the city going to do with the lot if this opportunity passes? Is there a buyer waiting in the wings? What would be the timetable on this proposal versus the other plans for the lot? It seems like it would be an act of complete irresponsiblity for our community to not accept this offer or any offer of assistance at this time.
    This may have all been brought up in meetings that I have not been able to attend. Sorry if I’m asking questions that have been answered.

  17. Pepi on March 25, 2009 1:49 pm

    I am a native St. Louisian but have been fortunate to live in other areas of the country in the last 30 years. I had seen Cherokee ComeUnity Hub plans yesterday. Here are some of my thoughts:
    *The location of the lot in question is in the center of the action.
    *In reference to those who feel that the lot should be used for another commercial building, have you seen the vacant storefronts that are yet to be utilized?
    *There is a group of enthusiastic, dedicated citizens that are working to bring Cherokee Street back to the “hub” of the neighborhood that it was in the past.

    I think that Mr. Webster says it best – hub/ noun 1: the central part of a wheel, propeller or fan. 2: a center of activity.

  18. Brea McAnally on March 25, 2009 4:55 pm

    I have attended several of the hub planning meetings and it amazes me to see the team of people involved! There are writers, photographers, designers, architects, art directors, urban developers…who else could do the job of turning the lot into a beautiful space that will draw traffic and bring the neighborhood together better than this group of people?

  19. Gina on April 7, 2009 11:45 am

    The renderings are well-done and show the possibility that exists even with a vacant lot. I think that the ComeUnity Lot is a fabulous idea and I hope that this will become a reality – any idea what the timeline is on voting, construction, and so forth?

    The ComeUnity Lot would be great for the events had along Cherokee increasingly so – from Cinco de Mayo to Day of the Dead to Cherokee Open House events.

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