Posted by 2013-2014 SNIA President, Lawrence Johnson
“The only constant is change.” This observation aptly describes the Shaw Neighborhood. Once, Shaw reached from Chouteau Ave. on the north to Magnolia Ave. on the south and from S. Grand Blvd. on the east to “the hill” on the west. After WWII, many of our historic homes were subdivided into boarding houses and apartments. And in 1947, city planning proposed razing parts of Shaw.
The Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA) arose in 1958 in response to this threat. Initially, SNIA oversaw property development in the neighborhood utilizing its St. Margaret of Scotland Housing Corporation. But over time as the interests of the residents and realtors varied, the housing corporation separated and reconstituted itself as the Shaw Neighborhood Housing Corporation (SNHC) taking with it SNIA’s focus on property.
As Shaw continued to change, SNIA refocused its mission on improving the lives of neighborhood residents. Being one of the first south city neighborhoods to welcome citizens from across “the Delmar divide” in the ‘60s, its composition and status has waxed and waned these past 50 years.
We’re again experiencing transformations within/outside the neighborhood. The property values have “rebounded,” resulting in homes that are more often filled with young, professional couples. Many are without children, which contributed to the loss of our neighborhood public school. With the closure of the east/west streets, we’ve gained internal neighborhood privacy and safety, though at the expense of commercial development. And Shaw is increasingly viewed as part of larger communities of neighborhoods. For example, the Kresge Arts Project combined Shaw with Botanical Heights, Tiffany, Southwest Garden, and Forest Park Southeast as the “Garden District Neighborhood.”
More recently, SNHC’s combining with Southwest Garden and Tower Grove South to form the Tower Grove Neighborhood Community Development Corporation, which services all three neighborhoods, has shifted its focus from Shaw. And city wards are being redrawn to encompass larger areas, which will likely reduce the attention and response of our Alderperson to the wants/needs of the neighborhood.
It is in this context that we need to revisit SNIA’s role in Shaw. The Strategic Planning Committee of SNIA has been revived to examine how we might best serve “to improve and maintain the quality of life for Shaw residents.” This examination will entail learning what current residents want; identifying unmet needs; and restructuring SNIA to address the needs (including, if necessary, revising the Bylaws, which are generally unchanged since SNIA’s incorporation in 1975).
SNIA’s Board and members, along with Shaw residents, are invited to participate in the renewal of SNIA’s mission for the 21st century…