This article was contributed by Rio Vitale of Ciaostl.com
It’s official. The development plan in the Hill neighborhood is moving forward. The plan is to build apartments, town homes, condos and single-family homes to replace a vacant 11-acre factory complex in the neighborhood. This property on the Hill is bordered on the east between Daggett and Bischoff on Hereford Street, directly behind St. Ambrose Church and South Kingshighway on the west.
American Stove Company, Coin Accepters, and other manufacturers occupied the 11-acre site. These companies once employed many neighborhood residents. The property has been vacant for almost 20 years.
The Sansone Group submitted final plans for this development, which includes a 225-unit apartment complex, 49 town homes, approximately 45 condominiums and 20 single-family homes at 4932 Daggett Avenue. The developer and the neighborhood are hopeful the project will bring younger residents to the Hill and the surrounding area. As developers have explained, this neighborhood is desirable because of the services available, restaurants, coffee shops, and salons all within walking distance and convenient to major attractions allowing an easy commute. The main concerns of many residents are the traffic and parking conditions. The proposed structure has its own parking garage, which is not visible from the front of the building. The Sansone Group has priced these units to attract millennials that enjoy city living, but also the modern conveniences that renting a typical shotgun home in the neighborhood does not provide. It appears likely for the upwardly mobile residents that they will eventually move into a home in or around the surrounding neighborhoods.
This has been the biggest and the most contested project on the ‘Hill’ since Highway 44 separated the most northern streets from the rest of the neighborhood in the 1972. Today Highway 44 separates Northrup and Pattison from the southern part of the Hill. One hundred homes were demolished on the south side of Pattison in order to build Interstate 44. The original plan for this section of I-44 was opposed valiantly by Hill 2000 (the neighborhood organization) lead by Fr. Sal Polizzi. The group was not successful in getting the highway rerouted. These dedicated citizens were successful in getting approval for an additional overpass on the highway when a committee from the Hill presented the United States Department of Transportation a check for $50,000. The bridge would keep the neighborhood connected so people could continue to walk to work and worship at St. Ambrose Church.
I have spoken and worked with a number of developers for this particular property over the past five years and each one had decided against development projects because of the neighborhood residents’ resistance to any plans that did not include residential homes and other restrictions placed upon the property, which would limited profitability.
This new $40 million development needed some bridges built as well. It required bridging the gap of what the old residents and political environmental wanted to preserve and what the newer younger residents wanted, growth and a potential for progress. Largely the Sansone Group and the new Board of Directors of the Hill 2000 Neighborhood Organization built the bridge, which brought the two sides together. Thereby, the current development plan was approved.
There were a number of neighborhood meetings help between residents, St. Louis City Alderman Joe Vollmer and the Hill 2000 Neighborhood Association that were heated and exhausting. There were surveys conducted that were contested, petitions signed trying to stop the project, and other obstacles. The Sansone Group believed in their project was determined not going to give up on the neighborhood. They had meetings with Alderman Joe Vollmer and Monsignor Vince Bommarito (Pastor of St. Ambrose Church) and came up with a plan that could be acceptable to both community leaders. While many older residents were not in favor of the Sansone plan, it seemed the majority of the residents welcomed the new development. Alderman Vollmer was then able to proceed with a presentation to the Board of Alderman for final approval of the project.
As more residents move into the neighborhood, there will be a need for businesses to open on Sundays in the neighborhood. It is expected that the Hill businesses will want to share in this new growth potential and expand their hours. This type of activity is very much welcomed around the neighborhood, as traditionally Sunday is a break away from the traffic and tourist that appear daily.
The Hill is currently undergoing a number of growing pains, which often come with progress. There have been a number of new homes built, restored or rehabbed. This means large dumpsters on the street, mud flowing into the street due to grading or the demolition of an older home. While it is understood there will be difficulties and inconveniences during construction, these are the challenges that accompany progress and change. There is no crystal ball to tell us what is going to happen in five or ten years, but this deal looks to be profitable for all involved.