Community Alliance tackling blight in historic St. Joseph neighborhood

Community Alliance is tackling blight in a historic neighborhood with it's Imagine Cathedral Hill 2040 plan.

Posted: Jan 3, 2020 2:57 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A local agency has formulated a plan tackling blight in a St. Joe historic neighborhood with the vision of revitalizing the area over the next few years.

It's part of Community Alliance's and The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce's Imagine St. Joseph 2040 plan. Community Alliance Director Tama Wagner said the project started in 2019 after 1,000 or so residents were brought together to talk about what's working in different neighborhoods and what isn't. 

"One of the recommendations in the 2040 plan is to create a better place, and that calls for neighborhood revitalization," Wagner said. 

She added that St. Joseph was voted 7th for the most unlikely place for historic architecture in the country, but that many of the homes and buildings are vacant.

"We also have a problem with blight, and litter, and homes that haven't been taken care of," Wagner said.

In response to that, Community Alliance did an analysis of the most at-risk neighborhoods, looking at the number of police calls, fire calls, and maintenance calls. Five areas were chosen as a result of that study: Ashland Avenue, Cathedral Hill, Harris-Kemper, Museum Hill and Uptown. 

Out of those five, Wagner said Cathedral Hill came out on top as the most at-risk. During a Land Bank Advisory Committee meeting in December 2019, Wagner said there are currently 19 vacant properties in the Cathedral Hill area. 

Follow that step, the Alliance created the Imagine Cathedral Hill 2040 plan to put focus and effort into that one specific community. 

"The Imagine 2040 plan calls for us to really work on neighborhood revitalizations and removing that blight, and making St. Joseph the kind of place where young families and families want to live," Wagner said. 

However, the neighborhood was also chosen because of some current development already happening in the area. Those include the construction of the new St. Gianna Beretta Molla Early Childhood Education and Development Center at 9th and Robidoux Streets, and the new businesses like Friedrich's Market, Bee and Thistle, and Belle Epoque along Frederick Avenue.

Moving forward, Wagner said the next step is carrying out a placemaking study that will look at what the area will be like with the right infrastructure, amenities and housing redevelopment. 

"Placemaking is actually a new tool in the economic development toolbox if you will," Wagner said. "It looks at places and imagines what this place could be like."

Community Alliance has interviewed two companies who will potentially help carry-out the study. They hope to have it underway by February 2020. Wagner said they also have a business partner, whom she did not disclose, who has agreed to pay for half the study with the Alliance paying the remaining half. 

Part of the placemaking step also includes the formation of a community group that will be comprised of 20-30 people who live in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

"That's what we'll be looking at next. Bringing together that community group to really take a deep dive into the neighborhood and determine what's the best step forward," Wagner said. 

Imagine Cathedral Hill 2040 was also designed as a pilot program that will help the Alliance determined how to move forward with revitalizing other communities like Museum Hill and Ashland Avenue. Wagner said if all goes well, the neighborhood could look a lot different in the next 20 years.

"It means the neighborhood is revived," Wagner said. "That vacant housing is gone, that homes are rehabilitated, that new families and new residents live here and it becomes a vibrant and thriving part of the community."

For anyone living on Cathedral Hill who wants to be a part of the community group, contact Community Alliance at (816) 364-4109.

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