Part Two of our series further unpacks the mission and vision of the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association, focusing squarely on tangible neighborhood improvement.
Put simply: we’re here to help. If you see a need in the neighborhood, our job is to help the neighborhood meet it. Organizationally, we’re structured such that the quiet, tireless effort of many block captains it at the heart of how SNIA functions. For example, you’ve got a problem property on your block. You can make the phone calls to the police and our Neighborhood Stabilization Officer yourself. And, you should. But, this is where the old saying of the squeaky wheel comes into play. Alerting your block captain gives the entire block the opportunity to get involved.
I’ve witnessed this on my block. Between a few of us neighbors, NSO Michelle Boston David, and Alderman Steve Conway, we successfully cleaned up a property that had nuisance issues for over 40 years…in a matter of months. Some efforts take longer, if the property owner decides not to comply. In our case, the building was sold, months after the city took the previous owner to court.
Other SNIA-led efforts are on a more global scale. The Shaw Dog Park, for example, is a self-sustaining entity that serves a dual purpose. Primarily, it’s a neighborhood amenity. But, because it’s such a high-demand amenity in the central corridor, it’s become a marketing tool.
Additionally, we pay for street cleaning services that are over and above what the city provides. You’ve probably seen the kids walking around in orange vests. They’re from Covenant House – an international non-profit organization that works with at-risk teens in the St. Louis area. They learn essential character-building assets like responsibility and leadership. Their very presence has, at times, thwarted unsavory activity – and our streets are so much cleaner. At a historical annual cost of $10,000, we believe it’s been a small price to pay for so many benefits.
Shaw has a few empty lots along 39th Street and DeTonty Avenue. Until they’re properly developed, SNIA pays for their maintenance and upkeep (somebody has to mow the grass). While the 4000 block of Shenandoah is primarily responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Juanita Park, this year, we’ve proposed additional maintenance via our landscaper (for property maintenance) and Covenant House (which will give some special focus to the park, during their cleanup efforts).
Currently, we’re working with Alderman Conway to increase pedestrian connectivity to Tower Grove Park, where feasible, with the planned addition of crosswalks along several intersections of Magnolia that line up with park entrances. Unbelievably, there isn’t a single crosswalk along the entire stretch of Magnolia that borders the park. Not one. Tower Grove Park is the city’s second largest and second most visited park. Zebra stripes are a simple, non-intrusive and inexpensive way to alert drivers that, yes, lots of people walk to the park.
Tomorrow, I’m meeting with the Alderman, along with representatives from Tower Grove Christian School and Tower Grove Park. We hope to create a comprehensive plan that effectively deals with both pedestrian and vehicular traffic on our side of the park, in a way that’s reasonable, safe and cost-effective.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve devoted time and attention to Sherman Elementary School. We’re fortunate to have so many good schools within close proximity to the neighborhood. A glance down the sidebar of this blog is evidence of that fact. With Sherman’s status in limbo, many have questioned our involvement. That answer led me to draft a separate post, coming soon. More details of that involvement are here, in an article I wrote with Sherman School Committee Chair Lawrence Johnson.
Finally, safety is a huge part of our mission. To that end, a few of us are meeting this evening with Mike Petetit, Chair of the Lafayette Square’s Safety Committee. They’ve developed a comprehensive approach that moved them from the 27th to the 9th safest neighborhood in 2 years. You can hear more about it at the next General Meeting, 7PM Monday April 4th at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, 39th and Flad.
If that sounds like a lot, you should know we’re just getting started. SNIA is made up of neighborhood leaders who are fiercely passionate about this place, even if we don’t all agree on how to make it better. Neighborhood improvement takes ideas, time, energy, money and people. Right now, we need all the above. If you want to help in any way, join us at the next General Meeting, mentioned above. Or e-mail shawneighborhood at sbcglobal dot net.