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Post-industrial cities are characterized by population, economic and infrastructure decline. Yet within these cities, there is a sample of communities that are resilient. Resilience is a measure of sustainability, that represents a community's ability to respond to, withstand and recover from adversity. In St. Louis, Todd Swanstrom (CBN) has identified a number of neighborhoods that are referred to as "rebound communities." Although these neighborhoods have generally lost population, witnessed abandonment and undergone racial transition, they have demonstrated elements of revitalization in recent years. As Swanstrom has noted, rebound communities exhibit common characteristics: an architecturally significant building stock, distinctive landmarks and vital social networks.
One of these rebound communities is Fox Park in South Central St. Louis. It shows many of the attributes of an ideal neighborhood: historic architecture, a 2.69 acres park and strong neighborhood institutions and organizations. Built out in the early 1880s, this once German community, gained historic district designation in 1985 thanks to over 350 fine examples of diverse styles and structures types, including St. Francis de Sales Oratory, the only German Gothic church in St. Louis. However, the central landmark in the neighborhood is Fox Park itself. Formerly a lumberyard, the original 1917 park experienced growth over time, extending the original parcel over two adjacent ones. Spearheaded by the revitalized neighborhood association, the park has undergone substantial renovation following the H3 2014 masterplan. Emblematic of the neighborhood's resurgence, Redfin named Fox Park the hottest neighborhood in St. Louis metropolitan area.
Despite significant population loss in the last thirty years, high crime rates and other social ills, Fox Park has shown significant signs of resiliency. Due to its proximity to downtown and other entertainment districts as well as a magnificent building stock not yet affected by escalated real estate prices, Fox Park has become a favorite among a new population of urbanites, the Millenials. Because this new demographic is often comprised of new college grads with entry level professional salaries, there is an ever increasing number of houses that are being rehabbed and the neighborhood is seeing a rebirth. However, one of the challenges of rebound communities is that if revitalization is too rapid, it can lead to gentrification and displacement.
This studio is structured to build on Fox Park's momentum, while being sensitive to the desire of the neighborhood to remain inclusive. The studio calls students to re-imagine the vacant lot across from Fox Park at the corner of Victor and Ohio St. which is bounded on the south by Rung for Women. In collaboration with DeSales Community Development Corp. and capitalizing on the proximity to Brick City Makes, the studio will envision the revitalization of this lot while rethinking the existing park infrastructure. The proposal will entail providing mixed-income housing and space for social services, while strengthening an under-addressed border of the community. This studio challenges designers to think creatively and to propose innovative ways in which the new building and existing infrastructure can mediate and incorporate the needs of the evolving community.
Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning
© 2019 Aguirre
Aguirre, Sofia, "Bridging the Gap: A Path for a Growing Community" (2019). 2019 Spring Graduate Architecture Studio: Inclusion & Neighborhood Resilience (V2.0) Designing for Equity in Metamorphic Cities (Fox Park). 11.