Crown Square Development, LLC

St. Louis, Missouri

Award Type: National Trust/HUD Award

Settled mostly by German immigrants in the 19th century, Old North Saint Louis has a rich past, but for a while, its future looked bleak.  By the 1970s, disinvestment had left the area scarred with vacant lots, and abandoned buildings dotted nearly every block.  Vandalism and crime were rampant, and some people thought the only way to save the neighborhood was to tear it down and start over. But the determined and resilient community dug in its heels and refused to believe it was too far gone.

In the last decade, something remarkable has happened.  Working in partnership, two nonprofit organizations, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and the Regional Housing & Community Development Alliance, have engaged community residents in an ambitious effort to rehabilitate the neighborhood’s historic buildings, provide affordable housing and encourage economic revitalization.

Despite widespread skepticism about its chances for success, the Crown Square Development project is going strong.  Using funding from a variety of sources, including federal and state tax credits, the project includes the rehabilitation of 27 historic buildings, which created 80 mixed-income residential units and 33,000 square feet of commercial space.  Public improvements – landscaping, lighting and street re-openings -- have also enlivened the neighborhood.  Today, residents feel a new sense of ownership of their community’s future. New houses – the first in decades – are springing up.

“In Old North Saint Louis, there is a new spirit of achievement and optimism,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “The rehabilitation of this vibrant, diverse neighborhood is creating jobs, spurring additional revitalization and demonstrating there is no building that is more green or more sustainable than a historic building given new life.”