ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative has a new multiyear plan and an updated website to keep St. Louisans informed about its work, boost the power of existing resources and outline overall goals.
The revamped stlvacancy.com website, unveiled Friday, features a new neighborhood map, designed to help residents connect with associations and groups working to improve the places they live. Website users can click on their neighborhood in the map, and on the left side, contact information and website links will appear.
The collaborative, which includes representatives of organizations that deal with housing-related issues, said it plans to train neighborhood groups to use the map.
There’s also now information for philanthropic groups interested in donating to the anti-blight effort, and links for residents to take advantage of resources that already exist. For example, the new website has links with information on new landlord training seminars, which are open to everyone. There also is a bevy of resources for people interested in rehabbing a property.
The collaborative’s 18-month plan, covering 2020 through mid-2021, draws on other research and reports, including Mayor Lyda Krewson’s plan to address vacancy, which was released in July 2018. The group recognizes they may not finish all goals outlined in the plan in the next year and a half. But they intend to get as close as possible.
“We often saw problems in a vacuum,” said Sundy Whiteside, president of the board of St. Louis Association of Community Organizations and co-chair of the Vacancy Advisory Committee. “Residents didn’t know what was happening. Now, they can get updates and be involved.” City departments are also often working in silos, she said, and this new tool encourages them to communicate more and better.
“And we see it as an accountability tool for ourselves,” said Tara Aubuchon, vacancy coordinator for the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis.
Together, all of the meetings, websites, portals and plans bring everyone together and create what Whiteside said the vacancy effort needed: Synergy.
“You have to attack (vacancy) from a lot of angles, all at the same time,” to eliminate it, said Bob Lewis, co-chair of the Vacancy Advisory Committee and assistant professor for urban planning and development at St. Louis University.
The report and website are positive signs for the city’s efforts to turn vacancy around. But two positions, the vacancy strategy senior project manager, formerly filled by Austin Albert, and the city’s chief resilience officer, formerly filled by Patrick Brown, remain vacant. The mayor said last July that interviews were ongoing, at the time, to fill the jobs.
Most importantly, Whiteside said in the release, the plan and the website are more tools to encourage healing in communities hurting from decades of disinvestment. Following a coordinated plan that puts existing residents and their needs first is essential to that.
“Implement the plan, and let the healing begin,” she said.
Editor’s note: The plan covers an 18-month period. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.