Loretta Hall Townhomes

Discuss renovations and new construction in North City -- defined by the area north of Delmar Avenue.
A current empty lot in Carr Square (20th and Carr) is slated for some new low-income subsidized townhomes coming Spring, 2014. Has anyone seen any drawings or plans?

Here's some info from the STL Biz Journal http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/print-edition/2013/01/11/14-st-louis-projects-get-missouri.html:

The Missouri Housing Development Commission announced its recommendations Jan. 4 and is scheduled to vote on those recommendations Jan. 11.
In addition to the Arcade and Mark Twain Hotel, local projects that received recommendations for funding from the MHDC include: $368,836 for New Blair School Developer LLC’s rehab of 38 units at Blair School apartments at 2323 N. 14th St.; $636,486 for Capstone Development Group’s new 39-unit Loretta Hall townhomes;


Capstone Development Group is a suburban company in Clayton, MO (even though they list their city as St. Louis). I can't seem to find any info on this.
Not much information out there. Just a photo of the sign:
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This same developer was behind Sullivan Place Senior Apartments, which leaves me wondering about the project's relationship to the street. Google Maps for Sullivan: http://goo.gl/maps/auBTL
Holy cow, Sullivan Place looks horrible. This is not good.
The location for the townhomes is the northwest corner of Carr and 16th St. At that location on Google Maps, 16th is labeled Carver St. as well as Joy Love Lane ... seriously. But the street sign thankfully says 16th and Carr. I believe the Carr Square Tenant Association is the owner, while Capstone is the developer.
Ugh - area already has plenty of these developments, would have liked to see something other than section 8... almost anything would be better than more of the same
Wouldn't this be concentrating more poverty into an area that already has a substantial amount?

Wouldn't it be better if more market rate apartments were sprinkled into the area?
^That was my thought as well. I strangely wish Paul McKee owned this lot. I wish they could trade lots with someone in Southampton or somewhere to bring about more socio-economic diversity. De-concentrate poverty.
^The problem is better for who? "Market rate" isn't going to be all the much and the developers are better off getting the low income subsidies - Cheap land + cheap buildings + low income subsidies = profit... It's not just a North St. Louis problem either
You guys do understand that rents and sales prices in North St. Louis don't support "market rate" housing developments, right? The only projects that are financially feasible in North St. Louis require some kind of subsidy, and those subsidies all require affordability and income eligibility restrictions.

On the other hand, if there were subsidies to develop non-income restricted, "market rate" housing, that would be a different story. But that's just not the case, unless you count tax abatement. And tax abatement alone isn't enough to offset the low rents and sales prices in North St. Louis.

And if you use subsidies to assist non-income restricted households, what happens to the low income households in need of decent housing? Subsidize the wealthy at the expense of low income families? Sounds like Reaganomics to me.

The fact of the matter is, most Section 8, low income housing tax credit financed, and other HUD-assisted housing is generally the highest quality housing in most of North St. Louis. Why? Because those landlords actually receive enough income to properly manage the property.

Problems arise from the truly non-subsidized, slumlord operators - the ones not up to HUD standards. Those are your true Northside "market rate" properties right there. These are where you find the under-funded landlords and problem properties that really run down a neighborhood.
^ I don't disagree, but saturating the area with these developments is going to slow or stop other private investment into the area.

What sorts of jobs and services tend to locate proximate to Section 8 developments? Will additional Section 8 development encourage or discourage "market rate housing" (when/if that ever becomes feasible).

I see it as a short sighted investment that won't help the area in the long term, even if it gets rid of some vacant/problem lots in the process.
There is such a short supply of subsidy available, that there is no chance of saturating the market. Another way to look at the issue is this: the decay of vacant housing far outpaces the development of new affordable housing. And it's that decay, not low income families housed in quality new affordable housing, that scares off developers - and drives away current residents.

There is so much emphasis on development in these urbanist conversations, but development alone is not the answer. You cannot build your way out of a blight situation (unless you're a Paul McKee and the whole community is taken to zero and then built over again).

The challenge for Northside neighborhoods is to keep the people living in North St. Louis there. Think of the neighborhoods like a bucket. New development/people moving in fills the top of the bucket. People moving out/expanding vacancy is a hole in the bottom of the bucket. Until we stop the outflow of people from neighborhoods (the leak in the bucket), we will never preserve any existing neighborhoods.

The first challenge for the Northside is how do we keep the people we already have?
Start encouraging owner-occupied developments, which Section 8 is not. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for it, but building one development after another WILL saturate the market because as long as there is a slow and steady increase of these developments, the more meaningful and sustainable development simply won't come.

In 30 years, what do you think these developments will look like, based on histroical precedent in the St. Louis area?
How do you encourage owner occupied development when market values are abysmal and development costs are extreme? It costs typically $150,000-$250,000 to build a new home, and market values in most of North St. Louis are under $100,000. That's why it takes subsidy.

Don't forget, you can buy very nice homes all over North County for under $100,000 (see the Post Dispatch feature from yesterday detailing the challenges of selling homes in North County), so why spend $200,000 to build one in a struggling north city neighborhood?

As far as having a high percentage of rental housing goes, including Section 8, one only need to look as far as Soulard on the South side to see how a high percentage of rental housing can be a very good thing. Neighborhoods need residents to succeed. And with home prices still barely in recovery, renting is still a very attractive option.
Location is Carr and 16th. I think I had a typo in an earlier post. That puts this project squarely within the footprint of McEagle's Northside development area. I wonder how this fits with McKee's vision for the area. Pic attached. Blue outline is Northside project area. Yellow dot is the site of the proposed Loretta Hall Townhomes.
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Don't forget, you can buy very nice homes all over North County for under $100,000 (see the Post Dispatch feature from yesterday detailing the challenges of selling homes in North County), so why spend $200,000 to build one in a struggling north city neighborhood?


Exactly. Now put up another Section 8 development and ask the same question... Then add another Section 8... and another...

One cannot keep putting in the same type of development over and over and expect things to change. EX - Old North isn't simply creating affordable housing in their developments, they are also investing in retail, offices, and restaurants.

There's no need to rush into things, either. If there isn't a market for sustainable redevelopment, I feel its better to wait than to just build something, especially when that something defaults to more section 8 developments.
Old North was over 20 years to get to the point where outside investors would take a risk on the neighborhood.
That's the point, these sustainable developments will take time and won't pop up overnight... But these low-income housing developments will as long as there is vacant, subsidies, and residents demanding anything now instead of something better later on.
Didn't a lot of the work in Old North happen with help from various subsidies and tax credit programs? Without those subsidies, would the neighborhood be where it is today?
Yes, subsidies/credits/etc have and will continue to play a major role in both Old North and any other developments north of downtown for the next few decades, but that is not the point.

The difference between Old North and any other low income development is that they are forgoing potential short term gains for a longer term and sustainable approach. Like I said above, these developments are brought on by vacant/available land, subsidies, and residents demanding anything now instead of something better later on.

That's the crux of it - STOP building so many cookie cutter low-income developments and invest in more sustainable growth... even if it takes years, or a decade, or two.

This is especially true when these developments start to become concentrated like they are around the Cass/Tucker/MLK area.

Given a few more years of steady/concentraded low-income housing growth, they may well BLOCK their chances at something more meaningful. Wahington could be the new Delmar
Appreciate the dialogue, but it seems like you have developed some kind of bias against affordable housing developments. You do understand that the people living in these homes have stable income, decent credit, go through a criminal background check, and have a good landlord history, right?

And when you deride people for wanting something/anything now versus getting something more sustainable in the future, what does that even mean? These neighborhoods are losing population. Affordable housing developments and other incremental investments create a bridge to a more sustainable future.

Are you opposed to McCormack Baron's North Sarah development or Friendly Temple's Arlington Grove project? These northside projects carry huge subsidies, are mixed income including low income housing, and are major successes. But go just a block or two away from these developments and you see massive decay and abandonment. Indeed, these developments *are replacing* massive decay and abandonment. Today.

St. Louis is a complex place with very specific, neighborhood by neighborhood challenges. Broad generalizations about markets and sustainability sound great in academic conversations, but in the real world, things happen in a much more incremental, one step at a time sort of way.
I have nothing against low-income developments, in fact I think more are needed in the City... Just not all lumped together in residential only areas. They also need to create more than just a roof over the tennants head - brining in jobs and community focused developments have to come along too and so far there simply aren't as many proximate to these Cass/Tucker/MLK developments as I would hope to see.

I think that concentrating these low-income developments is kicking the can down the road and aren't solving real problems - they are not helping to create owner occupied housing, they are not bringing proximate employment (unless you want to count corner gas stations...) and are not creating a sense of community (By sense of community I mean creating things like the Co-Op/Community Garden in Old North)
I think I am going to have to give up on this conversation. First of all, you keep mentioning the Cass, MLK/Tucker intersection. Why? Affordable housing developments are scattered pretty much all over St. Louis, except for southwest city.

Regarding emphasizing owner occupied housing, some affordable housing developments *are* owner occupied. Many are.

This statement is baffling to me:

"...in fact I think more [affordable housing developments] are needed in the City... Just not all lumped together in residential only areas."

Residential developments go into residential areas. What are you suggesting? They should go into commercial or industrial areas?

And I don't understand what you mean when you say that the city is "concentrating low income developments". Where exactly? The most concentrated areas of affordable housing might be where public housing towers are being replaced with mixed income housing, but in those cases, the concentration of affordable housing is going down.

When you say building affordable housing isn't solving a problem and is kicking a can down the road, that totally confuses me. Of course it is solving a problem: it is helping families move from low quality housing into good quality housing at an affordable cost.

Bringing in employment is a fine thing and we should by all means be doing that. But to suggest putting off building more affordable housing to focus on economic/job development makes it sound like we can't do more than one thing at a time.

Quite the contrary. Of course we can build more affordable housing and create economic opportunities at the *same time*! Indeed, providing families with a safe and decent place to call home is one of the first steps to stabilizing neighborhoods and households, and puts them on a path to greater economic opportunity.
I think I've been doing a poor job explaining my thoughts - let me try a different approach - answer me this:
Would you rather copy/paste Old North type developments or copy/paste the developments that have gone into that area already. I think it's time to transition, and more of the same won't accomplish that.

Northside Neighbor wrote:
I think I am going to have to give up on this conversation. First of all, you keep mentioning the Cass, MLK/Tucker intersection. Why? Affordable housing developments are scattered pretty much all over St. Louis, except for southwest city.

Because it is the general area of the development being discussed and I feel that this area in particular is focusing too heavily on low income developments and could do better with more middle class and commercial developments.

Northside Neighbor wrote:
Regarding emphasizing owner occupied housing, some affordable housing developments *are* owner occupied. Many are.

I dont know about "many" - but regardless of semantics, I'd like to see more detached single families mixed in with denser developments

Northside Neighbor wrote:
This statement is baffling to me:

"...in fact I think more [affordable housing developments] are needed in the City... Just not all lumped together in residential only areas."

Residential developments go into residential areas. What are you suggesting? They should go into commercial or industrial areas?

I mean mixed use - ie. Old North. I don't mean large commercial towers or mega-block industrial, but something other than cookie cutter townhomes so close to downtown.

Northside Neighbor wrote:
And I don't understand what you mean when you say that the city is "concentrating low income developments". Where exactly? The most concentrated areas of affordable housing might be where public housing towers are being replaced with mixed income housing, but in those cases, the concentration of affordable housing is going down.

When you say building affordable housing isn't solving a problem and is kicking a can down the road, that totally confuses me. Of course it is solving a problem: it is helping families move from low quality housing into good quality housing at an affordable cost.

That may have been a poor way to put it. It's a capacity issue. It's a great purpose to provide higher quality housing at affordable rates, but I think the end goal should be to move families OUT of these developments and into market rate homes, hopefully in the same neighborhood. It's a capacity concern - if affordable housing is overbuilt to meet a short term need at the sacrifice of more stable mixed use/income developments, as I see the trend occuring now in the area, then I don;t feel like it is the best long term choice.

Northside Neighbor wrote:
Bringing in employment is a fine thing and we should by all means be doing that. But to suggest putting off building more affordable housing to focus on economic/job development makes it sound like we can't do more than one thing at a time.

Quite the contrary. Of course we can build more affordable housing and create economic opportunities at the *same time*! Indeed, providing families with a safe and decent place to call home is one of the first steps to stabilizing neighborhoods and households, and puts them on a path to greater economic opportunity.

I completely agree and that is what my emphasis has been all along. Just take a look around the area and see all the new-ish housing and vacant lots - I think it's time to start angling more towards mixed use. Just my opinion - we can agree to disagree.
Not sure if we disagree or not, I just think we are talking about different things.

First of all, you seem to have a fairly static understanding of affordable housing. Affordable housing comes in many forms. Single family, multi-family, new, and rehab.

Next, you keep citing Old North, but what about places like Midtown? Did you know that the Salvation Army has built very attractive, urban scale, affordable housing right on Locust in the Midtown Alley area?

The other thing you seem to ignore is the high cost of building in St. Louis. It's a real challenge. Rehabbing vacant buildings is expensive. Building new buildings on top of buried rubble is expensive. And St. Louis has high labor costs compared to the rest of the state.

Whatever gets built must make financial sense. Just look at the effort to squeeze density out of the DeTonty site in Shaw. A big reason for this is to try to get more bang for the buck in a tight real estate market.

Economic development is really a totally different ballgame from building affordable housing. "Jobs, jobs, jobs" is the Paul McKee mantra. It's everyone's mantra.

Let's hope the macroeconomic forces influencing St. Louis, the midwest, and the global economy competitively position St. Louis for growth in the coming decades. The "green shoots" we are seeing in terms of tech startups happening here is a good sign.
Just a few points.

-Nobody builds Section 8 housing. Semantically, there is no such thing as Section 8 housing. There are housing units that are eligible, at the discretion of the landlord, for tenants who hold Section 8 vouchers to occupy so that they can utilize their voucher funding in lieu of a portion of the rent that is charged. A Section 8 voucher is funding for housing that stays with the low-income individual it has been awarded to, as part of a federal program to allow for the de-concentration of affordable housing. Section 8 funding is not involved in the construction of housing units.

"Affordable housing" today typically means that the unit was built with subsidy from federal and/or state Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Typically what happens is that a developer is awarded LIHTC, sells it for cash to bring down their construction costs for the development, and agrees to keep rent at a set percentage below market rate for a set percentage of the units in the development for a set number of years. Only a set percent of units within an LIHTC development are set at a rent below market value. The other units in the development can be market rate. Additionally, after 10 or 15 years (I can't remember which one), the developer is free to charge market rate rent on those previously "affordable" units.

Many LIHTC units are also Section 8 eligible so that the affordable units are truly affordable at the price point that low-income tenants can afford and partly so that the landlord receives a guaranteed portion of the rent paid every month.


-ONSLRG has relied heavily on LIHTC to fund their projects. I greatly appreciate their work and what they've done to help stabilize their neighborhood. But LIHTC projects have been critical to stabilizing Old North. As I understand it, and at no fault of their own, ONSLRG has had a much more difficult time filling the commercial properties they've redeveloped in large part because there is not enough of a population base there anymore (or, more optimistically, yet) to support vibrant commercial activity. Also similarly difficult are owner-occupied redevelopment or new construction projects because the costs of development cannot yet be recouped at the time of sale due to low demand in the area. Currently, LIHTC projects are essential for building the population base to support a more vibrant neighborhood and commercial environment in that area. They help to build demand for additional private development in their vicinity.

-LIHTC projects have helped to stabilize and bring economic activity to areas all over the city, including the near north. Vacant land has public costs and brings in little to no revenue to the city. Even if an LIHTC development helps to create no demand for additional private development immediately, the economic activity generated by the presence of these occupied units brings revenue to the city.

-With all that being said, LIHTC developments can often be designed poorly and can be aesthetically unappealing. It can be argued that this is due to the need for construction costs to be low, but still it sucks that these developments are often, but not always, ugly. I hope this project won't be ugly.