Discussion: What Makes A Neighborhood A Community?
As the population of St. Louis began to shift away from the city’s core in the 1970s, many of the city’s older neighborhoods entered a state of decline. But now, thanks in part to a renewed interest in the city’s older neighborhoods, many are experiencing renewal.
A few months back, St. Louis on the Air took a look atthe research behind why some neighborhoods are doing better than others. Today on St. Louis on the Air we focused on the community level to take a more personal look at what makes a neighborhood successful.
According to community development specialist Karl Guenther, an active neighborhood association or community organization is essential to creating a strong neighborhood. He works with researcher Todd Swanstrom at the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Public Policy Research Center. Swanstrom was one of the academics who put together the neighborhood report previously discussed on the show.
“The ability for a community to organize, articulate a future for itself based on resident input and have the staffing capacity or the volunteer capacity to create relationships…is without a doubt foundational to creating neighborhoods,” Guenther said.
Sean Thomas, the Executive Director of the Old North Restoration Group, and Liz Pund, the Executive Director of the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council, run two such organizations. Their respective neighborhoods have seen many challenges but have also seen a lot of positive developments.
In the 10 years that Thomas has run the Old North Restoration Group, the population of Old North has increased by 28 percent. Pund has also seen a slight increase in population in her neighborhood, as well as a significant increase in communication. That communication has allowed the residents to come to a consensus for a master plan they will be debuting this spring.
Communication is something they all agree is vital for a community to really work together and see their vision successfully implemented. They also all agree that another important factor is time.
“Most of the time these are stories that take place over 20, 30, 50 years,” said Thomas.
If you would like to become more involved in your neighborhood, the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis has a neighborhood organizational listing.
St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer with assistance from Amanda Honigfort. It is hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.
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