Updated 5:01 p.m. with comment from EPA, and 6:05 with comment from Sean Thomas.
Old North St. Louis has won the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.
The award recognizes communities that use “smart growth” policies and strategies to strengthen their economies and protect human health and the environment. Smart growth policies include providing sustainable transportation choices like walking, bicycling and public transit, promoting the safe redevelopment of potentially contaminated areas in local neighborhoods, and reducing polluted storm water runoff into area rivers and streams.
Of the five projects or communities selected for awards this year, Old North was recognized with the award for Overall Excellence in smart growth. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Old North St. Louis Restoration Group executive director Sean Thomas received the award in Washington, DC, from John Frece, director of EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities.
Frece says Old North was selected in part because of its efforts to salvage and rehabilitate existing buildings.
"When we reuse a building we save energy, we preserve some of the historic character of the community, we make it possible for residents to reach jobs, reach other amenities, without having to take long distance commutes…," Frece said.
Sean Thomas directs the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, which has spearheaded the community’s revitalization efforts.
Thomas says the once declining neighborhood has seen a 28 percent increase in population over the past decade. He says residents have built new homes, rehabbed historic buildings, and brought in new jobs and businesses like the Old North Grocery Co-op.
“It’s a real testament to the perseverance and determination of the residents of the community who have stuck it out through some tough times and have worked together diligently to pursue a rather ambitious agenda,” Thomas said.
ONSL cites the following factors as contributing to Old North’s selection:
- The neighborhood’s 28 percent population increase over the past decade;
- The $35 million, 27-building Crown Square redevelopment of the former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall;
- The growth of 80 new households in the area, along with a number of new locally-owned businesses;
- The new homes at North Market Place and the historically-rehabbed North Market Apartments, which salvaged nine previously crumbling, abandoned buildings;
- The cultivation and maintenance of community gardens throughout the neighborhood;
- The North City Farmers’ Market;
- Last year’s opening of the community-owned Old North Grocery Co-op.
Other award winners ranged from a tiny town in South Dakota to an apartment complex in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Listen to our story on the Old North Grocery Co-op here.