A neighborhood project on city land: who decides?
Two mystery mounds of mulch and compost are hanging out in the “Acknowledge Lot” – the pet name for the Cherokee ComeUnity Hub’s hoped-for plaza at the SE intersection of Texas and Cherokee.
I didn’t order it to be delivered.
The Alderman didn’t order it to be delivered.
Still, it hangs out like a thrown gauntlet, asking “Well…what are we waiting for?”
So…. What are we waiting for?
The Hub team completed the neighborhood meeting circuit during March with a clear proposal for an outdoor community commons to be built on a dormant LRA lot (click here to see the powerpoint presentation). The project met with generally enthusiastic response and took spoken concerns into consideration, hearing feedback that we need to “start small” while gaining momentum and assessing risks. We stepped back the proposal from a plan to purchase the land and build a permanent plaza, to a plan to lease the lot and create a year long green-space with temporary improvements and one season full of community programming to “test” the hypothesis and evaluate with all parties concerned at the end of the season.
The Cherokee Street Business Association’s letter of support writes,
“The lot is currently an eyesore and a detriment to the street. It is our belief that this project would add to the eclectic ambiance and urban feel, which is the foundation for the renaissance that Cherokee Street is currently experiencing. We hope that these plans are realized without delay so that positive progress on Cherokee Street can continue.”
Both the Benton Park West and Gravois Park Neighborhood Associations prevented discussion or a casual vote to gauge community support from happening during their meetings. Yet, the leadership of each association wrote strong letters discouraging the Hub project. If you live in these neighborhoods and would like to know how your leaders are representing you, please read their words.
Alderman Ken Ortmann, whose signature is necessary to purchase or lease the LRA lot, refrains from supporting the project — expressing concern that a 501(3)c would not contribute to the district.
Amber Dover ceremoniously offers rich earth from the neighborhood gardens to the site.
During the April 4 Cherokee Street Open House, members of the Hub team engaged the imaginations of children and passerbys in conversations about what the lot could be. Wanting to take a break from the formality and exclusivity of meetings, we brought largescale design drawings, seedbombs, bubble wands, and colored chalk to share the hope for a people’s plaza in playful ways. A street drummer and folk singer serenaded as over 125 signatures of enthusiastic support were gathered in less than 3 hours, welcoming the contribution the Hub will make.
The process begs familiar questions:
Who makes the decisions around here? Whose voices get heard?
Does St. Louis LRA policy meet the needs of the people at large?
Do our leaders represent our best interest?
How can collaborative movement proceed gracefully without the inefficiency of red tape?
How can the city of St. Louis engage willing, creative artistic labor and volunteer energy?
We ask the city to bring what it’s good at and allow us to contribute what we’re good at.
What would it look like for both sides to drop oppositional postures and tactics and move forward, believing that the best solution is one that incorporates each of our skillsets and interests?
I continue to invite Ken Ortmann to welcome the $25,000 investment and creative energy that the Hub team wants to bring, in a season-long good faith experiment to ascertain the viability of a permanent plaza at the site. I know he has experience and wisdom that would deepen the success of the project. During our last phone conversation I informed him the Hub would be requesting a garden lease from the LRA, to begin work in the most modest way possible. Though he did not indicate he would support that request, he did suggest a work day – “to see who actually shows up.”
Due to the stall on the project and energy drain that this political impasse is creating, Incarnate Word Foundation has invited the parties involved to a mediation session next Wednesday evening.
The Cherokee ComeUnity Hub has filed to request an LRA garden lease from the city for the site.
We ask that the city and neighborhood leaders respond by allowing the community to begin creating the Hub, and treat it as a chance to let NO rest & bring their “YES, and…”
Our neighborhood is at a critical time in its pattern of development. If we want to support the diversity we love, we need to make safe, accessible places we can meet, mix, and share resources. Here we have an opportunity to create a site that offers a new strategy in crime prevention by increasing beauty and human connection. It behooves us to step up and meet the risks with thoughtful action. The lot has been dormant too long when we have total power to do what we can to change the scenery.
Let’s engage a new pattern of community interaction.
Let’s see what we can create, together.
If you would like to voice your opinion regarding the future/process of the HUB, we invite you to share your comments below, and/or contact your representative directly :
In Benton Park West: BILL BYRD (314) 602-0392 firstname.lastname@example.org
In Gravois Park: RITA FORD email@example.com
9th Ward Alderman: KEN ORTMANN 314-776-0161
ComeUnity Hub Project Coordinator: LYNDSEY SCOTT 217-898-3777
Cherokee ComeUnity Hub Meetings are potluck-style, pipe-in-all-voices-welcome.
Our next gathering will be TUESDAY APRIL 28th @ 6:30 PM.
Email me to find out where: firstname.lastname@example.org