Stories from The Pacer, neighborhood newsletter since 1997, describe important events, trends, and organizations of Parkview Gardens.
The Parkview Gardens Association
PGA Wins Award
The Parkview Gardens Association has received a 2000 Best Practices Award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The award recognizes groups that have helped revitalize communities, and the PGA is one of very few organizations in the St. Louis Area to receive it. The PGA was lauded for rehabilitating 114 apartments and maintaining them as affordable housing, as well as installing brighter streetlights and supporting community garden and youth activity programs.
On Dec. 16, the West Post Section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch praised PGA boardmembers Mike Giger and Teresa Kragnes and other property owners for their 20-year long successful struggle to bring the neighborhood back from the brink. The article also said that the community gardens had played a key role in neighborhood-building.
PGA Award Winner Named
At a May 15 ceremony, the Parkview Gardens Association Award was presented to Biede-Tsion Fesseha, a senior at University City High School who lives with his family on Enright. Mr. Fesseha’s family emigrated from Ethiopia and have lived in Parkview Gardens ever since. He will use the $5,000 award to study computer science at the University of Missouri. The grant is renewable.
Announced last winter, the PGA Award provides financial assistance for college or technical school to residents of the neighborhood. Awardees must be high school seniors who have demonstrated the ability to succeed in heir studies and have shown a commitment to working for the betterment of school and community. They must also show financial need.
[Note: The PGA Award has been given out every year, except for one occasion when no eligible candidates came forward.]
Focus St. Louis is a group that “celebrates the success stories of individuals and organizations who have made a difference in the region.” In the category of promoting stronger communities, the Parkview Gardens Association is the 2002 honoree. President Mike Giger accepted the award in a ceremony at the Sheldon Concert Hall June 6.
The East Loop Special Business District
East Loop SBD
The PGA urges St. Louis City residents–people who live on Delmar and East gate inside the city limits–to go to the polls on Tues., April 8 and vote for extension of the East Loop Special Business District to DeBaliviere Avenue. The measure establishes a special tax on business to promote a unified entertainment district along Delmar Blvd. “The area is known as the Delmar Loop, regardless of the city-county line,” says PGA president Mike Giger. Extension of the SBD will help businesses cooperate and establish a consistency of themes and standards.”
Stretching the Loop
“These are exciting times in the Loop,” says Joe Edwards of Blueberry Hill and the Pageant, explaining how enterprising business people and city and county governments are cooperating to extend the Loop entertainment district to the east. Improvements long in preparation will transform the stretch of Delmar from Skinker to the Old Wabash Station over the coming months. “It’s really going to happen quickly, from the public’s point of view,” Edwards says.
In order to draw crowds across Skinker and up from the MetroLink Station, the area will be made more pedestrian friendly. The installation of new, wider sidewalks is beginning, according to Elizabeth Johnson of Metro. The north side of Delmar will be done by November, followed by the south. Streetlights and planters will go in. The main part of the work is scheduled for completion in January ’04, and trees will be planted in the spring. “It will be a great place for window shoppers and sidewalk cafes,” comments Edwards.
Businesses are moving into new or renovated buildings along Delmar. The Regional Arts Commission building at 6128 has its grand opening Oct. 11. Big Shark Bike Co. moves into new, larger quarters at 6133 in early October. The holiday season will see other openings: Pin-Up Bowl, a combination bowling alley, restaurant and martini lounge, Chinese Noodle Cafe, a noodle and sushi bar, Mirasol, a Nuevo Latino restaurant; Spot 9 an avant-garde women’s shoe store. Attracting shoppers and tourists from all over, the Loop extension “will improve the quality of life in the area,” Edwards says.
SBD Funding at Work
The East Loop SBD has supplied six new banners for hanging on light poles along Delmar east of Skinker. “Their purpose is to draw attention to this evolving entertainment center,” says Mike Giger, PGA President and E. Loop SBD Boardmember.
[Note: The East Loop SBD has been succeeded by a Community Improvement District.]
Significant Events and Organizations in Local History
Fair in the Square
Every May, in its early years, which were the last years of the old millennium, the Pacer would publicize Fair in the Square. Its boast was “the area’s oldest street fair.” But it suddenly disappeared. The editor went delving in the archives of the U. City Historical Society for some more information. The fair got going in 1970, or possibly 1972. It was sponsored by local churches and temples, including Trinity Presbyterian and Shaare Emeth. The purpose was to promote religious harmony as well as community spirit. These were dark days for U. City, when the population was moving west. The “square” in which the fair was held was bordered by Delmar, Trinity, Washington and Kingsland. The second fair drew 65,000 people with a “recreation of the balloon race from the 1904 World’s Fair,” said the Citizen-Journal. There were also church tours and concerts and fire engine rides. In 1975, the highlight was the evening launch of the hot air balloon “University City,” illuminated by the searchlight atop City Hall. The Fair rolled on through the 70s and 80s, offering ethnic food, children’s activities, and a juried arts and crafts show. The searchlight continued to make an appearance. Attendance estimates were around 8,000 to 20,000. Then, in 2000, the Cityscape newspaper announced that Fair in the Square was going to take 2001 off, because of “low turnout and uncooperative weather the past few years” as well as organizer fatigue. The event never got going again, and Loop in Motion, the annual fall street fair, took up the slack.
More on the Fair
Last month the Pacer recalled Fair in the Square, the streetfest that ended in 2000. Records in the Historical Society Archive gave varying dates for the first festival. Longtime U. City resident and School Board member Joy Lieberman wrote in to tell us that “I’m quite certain that the first Fair in the Square was held in October, 1970.”
[Loop in Motion has also left the scene. The major annual Delmar street event is now the Ice Carnival held in January.]
If you live in Parkview Gardens, chances are good you do your laundry in one of Hoppy’s machines. Working from an office in South St. Louis, the business installs and maintains washers and driers in apartment buildings throughout the St. Louis area. Hoppy’ also sells and leases appliances, and operates laundromats.
The business was started in 1956 by James Randazzo, Hoppy’a grandfather. Hoppy grew up in the business. When school let out at CBC, he would walk down to the company office, located at the time on Clayton Road, to work alongside hi father, who was then running the business. His first job was collecting change from the machine, then he moved on to maintenance and small-scale management. He took over the business in 1984, and supervises a staff of 16 employees.
“Service is our top priority,” he says. “That’s all this business is, basically. We try to respond to a problem call the day it comes in.” Hoppy’s reputation is its greatest asset. The company grows thanks to word of mouth. “We’ve never had to employ a salesman.”
The business has enjoyed long relationships with major landlords in the Loopy. Hoppy says it’s nice to have been part of the renascence of the area over the last few years. One reason Parkview Gardens is one of his favorite areas is that he seldom has problems with people tampering with machines here.
[Note: Hoppy’s continues to operate many laundry machines in the neighborhood.]
Metcalfe Park is sinking. The area used to be a quarry, which was filled in. Now the shape of the old hole in the ground can be plainly seen as the level of the land has sunk, at some points as much as four feet. The U City Parks Dept. has been forced to close one baseball diamond because of the drop-off in right field. They are trying to keep the other field open as long as possible. Charles Kohlenberger, Director of Parks, warns park users to be careful. “We have no way of controlling the situation or knowing when a crack will open. I suggest keeping kids out of the park without supervision.” Fortunately, the playground is located on high ground and is not in danger.
U City officials and residents have noticed that the subsidence began about the time the Metropolitan Sewer District tunneling project reached the area and are wondering if this is coincidence or cause and effect. An engineering firm is doing exploratory borings now in the park. TheMSD project is the milti-million dollar Upper River des Peres project, a sewer line that will prevent wastewater carried in separate sours, from entering the combined sewer system under the River des Peres. Work began in South St.Louis in 1997, when a 75-ton tunneling machine was lowered into the ground to begin boring a tunnel.
The tunnel reached Parkview Gardens in late summer 1998. Residents have noticed the activity at the access shafts behind Taco Bell and near Pete’s Shur-Sav. They’ve heard and felt the blasting. Many have thought that this seems to have been going on for an awfully long time. They’re right. The original completion date was late 1998. But the MSD decided to extend the tunnel, as the most cost-effective way of eliminating future problems up the line. The sewer line is now to go another mile, under Heman Park and the High school athletic fields, to terminate at a creek on the other side of Hanley Road. The completion date was set for late `99.
Then the tunnelers encountered unforeseen delays. Under the intersection of Vernon and Kingsbury the boring machine hit a 60-foot seam of clay, which it was not geared to handle. So workers had to resort to picks and shovels. MSD now hopes to complete the tunnel by late summer. Workers will then fill in around it. This will take until early 2000. The usual practice is to close the access holes within a month or so of completing the project. The access hole behind Taco Bell should be closed sooner, as work has progressed beyond that point.
And what about Metcalfe Park? Terry Briggs of MSD says, “We noticed water coming in during the hand-mining at Vernon and Kingsbury. “Water was being drawn down. We don’t feel the subsidence is directly related to the tunneling.” He theorizes that when the old quarry was filling in, the soil wasn’t compacted. Beyond that he cannot comment, as the problem may be subject to litigation.
Meanwhile in Metcalfe Park, a bog has formed in the hole. A Clemens Ave bidrwatcher reports seeing redwing blackbirds, ducks, Canada geese, and even an egret there. It’s nice to know that somebody besides lawyers is benefiting from the problem.
[Subsidence was eventually corrected. There was drawn-out litigation.]
Wash U Sale
Washington University has made a commitment to purchase approximately 70 apartment buildings in Parkview Gardens. The specifics, including sale dates and long term effects on tenants, are unknown at this point. Missouri law requires that leases and security deposits stay with the building after it is sold, and rent adjustments for existing tenants can be made only after proper notice has been given. Washington University has indicated that they will be encouraging non-student tenants to stay. As apartments become available, they will be renting to primarily graduate students. Individual tenants will be notified at the time their building is sold where to send the rent and whom to call for maintenance.
President Mike Giger of the Parkview Gardens Association believes that the sale will be a benefit to the neighborhood, guaranteeing long-term stability and resources to maintain and improve the buildings. Although buildings bought by the University will be removed from city and school tax rolls, the tenants are likely to make less demand on city services and public schools. In other neighborhoods around the city where it is a major property owner, Washington University has shown itself to be a good neighbor, improving the buildings it owns as well as contributing to commu ity groups and city government and providing such services as transportation and security. The PGA will continue to own the 21 buildings it renovated as affordable housing, thus insuring continued diversity in the neighborhood.
[Note: The numbers have changed, but Washington U continues to be the major landowner of Parkview Gardens. ]
More people are choosing to own their homes in Parkview Gardens. Here’s the news, as of mid-December, on what’s occupied/under construction/planned:
849 Vernon. This Saaman Development Inc. project is under construction. It will be completed in August. A display unit should be ready in February or March. Prices start around $200,000. Four out of a total of 30 units have been sold, says Richard Sorkin of Saaman.
761 Syracuse. This apartment building was converted to condominiums by Barker Co. last spring. All three units have been sold.
754 Leland. This six-unit building was converted to condominiums last summer. John Jackson of ReMax Realtors is handling sales. Two of the two-bedroom units have been sold. The asking price is around $215,000.
837 Westgate. Highland Homes completed this new 3-unit building last summer. All units are occupied. Asking price was around $250,000. Highland has begun construction on an 8-unit building at 6404 Cates. Six units are already sold, says John Cavanaugh of Highland. Completion is expected next summer. The company has acquired lots at 6255 Cates and 6651 Clemens for future development.
Note: The local condo construction boom did not survive the international financial bust of 2008. Parkview Gardens is still overwhelmingly a rental neighborhood.]
Murder in Parkview Gardens
The Parkview Gardens community was shocked by the fatal shooting of University City Police Sgt. Michael King on Leland Avenue Oct. 31. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Nov. 6: “The Parkview Gardens Association, a group of landlords, business owners and residents in the east end of University City, put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of King’s killer.” Federal authorities posted $10,000 more. The Missouri Highway Patrol arrested a suspect, Todd L. Shepard, in Lafayette County Nov. 5. Shepard is being held on weapons charges but has not been charged with the murder. Col. Charles Adams, Chief of the UCPD, told the Pacer Nov. 19 that the reward money is being held as the investigation proceeds and “we see whether anybody qualifies to receive it.”
“As always, the Parkview Gardens Association comes to the assistance of the police department,” Adams said. “They have been one of our greatest supporters.”
[Note: Shepard was convicted of the murder and imprisoned.]
Plan Park Revamp
The City of University City, the Parkview Gardens Association, and Washington University have joined together to produce the Parkview Gardens Park Plan. There are three parks in the neighborhood, Metcalfe, Ackert and Eastgate. According to Nancy MacCartney, University City’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry, “the facilities in these parks are aging and the demographics of the neighborhood have changed. This park planning effort will help develop parks that will serve the residents of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood, now and in the future.”
The partners have hired H3 Studios to facilitate a park planning process. The process will seek input from many individuals and groups, through stakeholder interviews, and local Advisory Committee and through a series of public workshops.
Cheryl Adelstein, Washington University’s Director of Community Relations and Local Government Affairs, said, “Washington University is pleased to be involved in this important effort. Many of our students, faculty and staff live in Parkview Gardens. The University wants to continue improvement to the quality of life in this eclectic neighborhood.”
The community and especially residents of the Parkview Gardens Neighborhood are invited to two public workshops to express concerns and desires and provide input. The first is scheduled for 7 pm Tuesday, June 23 at Centennial Commons in Heman Park.
[Note: After many meetings, the planning process petered out. Funding could not be found and disagreements developed over the future of the neighborhood.]
Delmar Harvard Closes
The upcoming academic year will be the last for Delmar Harvard School, the School District of University City has decided. The school at 711 Kingsland Avenue will close in mid-2011, and so will Nathaniel Hawthorne School, as elementary schools are reduced from six to four. Attendance area lines are being redrawn; it will probably be announced in December where Parkview Gardens children will go to school in fall 2011. The closing was long anticipated, as enrollment at the school has been declining, in part because of demographic changes in Parkview Gardens. Nicalee Stephens is the administrator in charge for the final year.
[Note: Children from this area now attend Flynn Park School. Delmar Harvard, a historic building complex, stands empty]
Farewell to UCRS
The University City Residential Service has lost its U City funding and will close its doors at the end of the year. The city’s Planning Department will take over the apartment referral service currently performed by UCRS. Any funds remaining in the UCRS account after settlement of bills will be given to the Parkview Gardens scholarship fund.
Richard Sorkin, president of the board, wrote in the final edition of the UCRS newsletter that donations had been declining. “In part, we think the UCRS is a victim of its own success,” he said. Founded in 1967 to combat image problems and real estate sales practices that were harmful to U. City, the UCRS has helped new residents of U. City find apartments or houses. It has run education programs to aid renters in becoming homeowners. The annual spring U. City House Tour was run by the UCRS, which also operated other community-building and U-City promoting programs.
“The UCRS was an asset to the city at a tough time in its history, and a valued partner during the rehabilitation of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood,” said Mike Giger, President of the Parkview Gardens Association. “We wish the staff well and thank Rich Sorkin and the other boardmembers and volunteers for their contribution.” Lisamarie Tayborn-Ervin, interim executive director, said, “We’ve appreciated the opportunity to help the PGA with apartment listings and other support services.” One of those services was mailing out the Pacer to association members, and the editor thanks the UCRS for its efficiency in doing so
Byron Goes No Smoking
The Byron Company, a major property owner in Parkview Gardens and elsewhere, recently announced a new smoke-free policy. Tenants must sign an agreement not to smoke in their apartments, or anywhere else in or around the building. Byron listed several reasons for the ban, the leading one being that smoking causes fires. This neighborhood’s biggest property owner, Quadrangle Properties (Washington University), manages both smoking and no-smoking buildings. The Parkview Gardens Association currently permits smoking in all its buildings, but that might change. PGA President Mike Giger said that cleaning an apartment after a smoker leaves puts a landlord to a lot of trouble and expense.