A $7.1 million housing development in Hyde Park is the latest project to fill up vacant lots and rehab century-old structures in the historic north St. Louis neighborhood.
In two months, construction should start on 29 rental homes, most with three bedrooms, just south of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church.
It’s the eighth housing development in the neighborhood for ND Consulting Group, which has built almost 250 housing units there over the last 15 years.
In partnership with organizations such as Bethlehem Lutheran Church’s Better Living Communities, ND has helped shrink the number of vacant lots in the area by building dozens of new homes. It has tackled big historic rehab projects, turning the Irving School on 25th Street into apartments and rehabbing 20 buildings as part of its Eliot School Apartments project.
“The neighborhood is beginning to turn in a very positive way,” said Michele Duffe, a partner in ND Consulting Group.
The former head of the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority, a city-run land bank that owns thousands of properties no one wants, is quick to point out it takes more than bricks and mortar to change the trajectory of a neighborhood.
Duffe points to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association of North St. Louis, which is new and growing. And the third-annual Hyde Park Halloween Spooktacular is scheduled for Tuesday, giving children the opportunity to trick-or-treat in their neighborhoods and offering parents the opportunity to meet their neighbors.
“It wasn’t about candy,” Duffe said. “It was about community and connecting residents back together.”
Soon, some of the first housing Duffe and her partners built in Hyde Park will be available for purchase. A 15-year compliance period that runs with the incentives used to finance the low-income homes is about to start wearing off.
“Because of that we realized that we needed to work with the residents to make sure they were ready and able to do the purchase,” she said.
LinkSTL, a neighborhood nonprofit that works with area residents, has partnered with Prosperity Connection to offer financial literacy classes and engage residents in building credit scores and saving.
“When people are under stress, handing them a brochure and telling them these people can really help you does pretty much nothing,” Duffe said.
The latest housing development, known as Blair Homes, should have its first units complete and ready for move-in by the spring. By the end of next year, all the homes should be finished.
ND Consulting received an award last year of Missouri Low-Income Housing Tax Credits which, together with federal low-income housing tax credits, should provide about $6 million in financing. The city of St. Louis granted preliminary approval for 15 years of property tax abatement on the homes last week.
Soon, Duffe said, another company may join ND in its Hyde Park development efforts. She said she’s in talks with UIC, the developer that has been very active in rebuilding Forest Park Southeast and the former McRee Town neighborhood now known as Botanical Heights.
With many stately, late 19th-century brick structures in need of rescuing, more help in the neighborhood is welcome, Duffe said. And she doesn’t believe that attracting more developers to the area is as far-fetched as it might have a couple of decades ago. After all, the new 3,100-employee western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will be built just to the west of the neighborhood.
“With the NGA being a mile away, I don’t think it’s a crazy pipe dream to think that,” she said.