The Near North Side is made up of several neighborhoods just north of Downtown St. Louis. Originally home to Irish and German immigrants, after the civil war many African-Americans began re-settling in the area from the south. In the 1950s, the area was declared a slum and became subject to large land clearance and urban-renewal efforts. The community was divided into superblocks with a series of public housing projects, including: Cochran Gardens, Carr Square, Vaughn, and the nationally-notorious Pruitt-Igoe.
McCormack Baron Salazar has been working in the Near North Side for over 50 years. Richard Baron began working in St. Louis’s Near Northside in the late 1960’s as a Legal Aid attorney representing public housing residents in a rent strike. In the 1980’s, McCormack Baron Salazar developed Preservation Square Apartments in partnership with the resident management corporation, followed by a HOPE I-funded rehabilitation project with the Carr Square Tenant Management Corporation. In 1985, McCormack Baron Salazar took over a stalled project to rehabilitate a historic and abandoned brewery complex a few blocks north of Carr Square into the Brewery Apartments [link to Brewery] using historic tax credits financing. And in the 1994, McCormack Baron Salazar began work with the residents of the George L. Vaughn public housing development with a bold new plan for mixed-income public housing. One of the first mixed-finance models in the country (i.e. a development that combined HUD public housing funds with low-income housing tax credit equity and market rate debt), the new community, named Murphy Park, was a pilot project for the HOPE VI program. As part of the effort, the local Jefferson Elementary School was converted into a neighborhood school, a new principal was hired with community input, and a new curriculum was implemented with innovative approaches to teaching. McCormack Baron Salazar raised the $4 million needed to upgrade the schools physical plant and pay for new programming.
In 2005, the Brewery underwent substantial renovations. In 2010, McCormack Baron Salazar affiliate Sunwheel Energy + Sustainability, working with the St. Louis Housing Authority, installed a 126.7 kW solar array that provides 140,000 kWh of energy to Murphy Park annually. And in 2014, McCormack Baron Salazar developed the Flance Early Childhood Education Center, which extends the high-quality educational options in the community into the early-childhood and pre-school years.
In 2014, a team led by Urban Strategies, Inc. in partnership with McCormack Baron Salazar, community residents, City of St. Louis, MBS, and dozens of community stakeholders, received a Choice Neighborhood Planning grant to develop a plan that addressed major community challenges including high crime, blight, low incomes and poor educational challenges with an array of strategies designed to invest in both people and place. In 2016, the team was awarded a $30 million competitive Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation Grant. The Near North Side Choice Neighborhood effort is a holistic plan to complete the transformation of the Near North Side. Targeting Preservation Square and leveraging recent investments in the community, the Choice Plan aims to establish the neighborhood as the new “front door” to the City of St. Louis and is a primary focus of the City’s redevelopment efforts.