2018 End of Year Report- Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation
Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, once said, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” As a small, neighborhood based Community Development Corporation, Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (TGNCDC) has always embraced the critical role to lead investment and implement other community development activities in areas identified as declining or at a "tipping point." We're first to "plant the flag" for redevelopment and our goal is for other investment to follow. Our accomplishments in 2018 highlight our dedication to stabilizing neighborhoods through public and private investments, helping low to moderate income people, creating quality affordable for sale and for rent housing, eliminating blight and vacancy, developing meaningful collaborations, and assisting on City level initiatives that benefit us all.
REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT
In 2018, TGNCDC successfully completed and sold 3 former nuisance and long term vacant properties at 3723 Hydraulic, 3631 Bamberger, and 3751 Potomac. Work also continues on our renovation at 4620 Arsenal with an early 2019 completion goal. The signs of dumpsters and ongoing renovations help spark interest in the areas we work.
Knowing our capacity limitations, TGNCDC facilitated the development at 3623 Hydraulic and 3715 Bamberger by purchasing, improving (in the case of 3715 Bamberger), and selling the properties to reputable developers to renovate. Both projects have started and are slated for a 2019 completion.
TGNCDC, over the last 5 years, has created over 70 quality, professionally managed and affordable rental units. The one bedroom units are rented at 30% to 50% to median income with rents at $395 to $550 per month. We use a method of "selective rehab" to accomplish our goals. By selecting buildings with some improvements that are not full gut renovations, we maximize each dollar spent while keeping costs down. In 2018, we purchased a long term nuisance property at 3732-34 Bamberger and created 4 new one and two bedroom units that rent for $550 to $650 per month.
TGNCDC made it's first purchase on Gravois Avenue in late 2018 at 3800 Gravois. Gravois Avenue is identified as a target area and important commercial corridor in Tower Grove South. 3800 Gravois is a mixed use building that had been poorly managed and minimally maintained over the years. It was a constant nuisance property that TGNCDC worked hard to contain before convincing the owner to sell. We started the renovation in late 2018 with a 2nd quarter 2019 completion date in mind. The building has some attractive historic features including original tin ceilings that will be saved. Grants from TIAA, First Bank,and PNC Bank directly impact these efforts to address the affordable housing and blight/nuisance property elimination. Also, Gateway CDFI has been a great partner to help finance the deals with a minimum down-payment and great customer service. Take a look at the video we produced in 2018 about our work in South Tower Grove South (The Wedge).
David Bailey also contacted TGNCDC over the holiday and has set a start date of March 15th for his second location of Bailey's Range at 4175 Shaw. The rendering below will been updated slightly to meet the guidelines of the Shaw Historic District.
LOW INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT PROJECT
TGNCDC made it's first foray into Low Income Housing Tax Credit (TGNCDC) space with a proposed 10 million dollar investment to create a mixed use 50 new construction senior apartments and one commercial space on an underused lot at 4914 Gravois Ave in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. The redevelopment plan is called "Crossroads Senior Living at Bevo Mill" and includes retaining Midwest Bank Centre Bank as a tenant. They currently occupy the South/West corner of the lot. The plan, after months of community engagement, also received approval from both neighborhood organizations. Our first LIHTC application was not awarded in 2018 but TGNCDC will apply again 2019. TGNCDC recently won an award of $500,000 from CDA for HOME funds that will bolster our prospects for our 2019 LIHTC application. Thanks to Midwest Bank Centre for working with us on favorable purchase terms that will allow this project to become a reality.
Eliminating vacancy is a major focus for our organization and we continued our work in 2018 using nuisance lawsuits against private owners and working with neighborhood associations to pressure owners to renovate or sell. 3838 Flora Place is one example where helped get the wheels in motion to activate redevelopment efforts at the property. A quiet title case is pending before the property may be sold and redeveloped. We also worked on 3541 S. Grand and started work on 3964 Parker and 4420 Arsenal. Thanks to Stinson- Leonard and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri for pro-bono legal work on the nuisance lawsuits. In addition, Executive Director, Sean Spencer, co-wrote "A Guide to Understanding and Eliminating Vacant Property" in partnership with Dana Malkus at the SLU Law Clinic with a grant provided by Rise Community Development Corporation. You can download it at http://www.risestl.org/what-we-do/public-documents/vacancy-guide/. Spencer is also a member of the Vacancy Advisory Committee working in partnership with the City of Saint Louis to implement planning and vacancy elimination activities City wide. Read more about this effort at https://www.stlvacancy.com/collaborative.html
TGNCDC continued the pursuit of collaborations with an agreement to assist Dutchtown South Community Corporation (https://www.dutchtownsouth.org/) with their InvestSTL (http://investl.org/) grant award from 2018. We look forward to seeing how the partnership develops in 2019. We are also proud of successfully completing the first North-South CDA grant collaboration with North Newstead Association for our 2018 Landlord Training program. Our work with the US Energy Foundation also continued in 2018 with goals of advocating for improved incentive programs to help lower utilities for low to moderate income renters in multifamily buildings. We also continued our beatification efforts with Covenant House in South Tower Grove South with our trash pick up program. Last, TGNCDC was awarded $27,000 from MSD for rain-scaping grants to help improve the appearance of our low to moderate income rental buildings in Shaw. The plantings are complete and will bloom next Spring. TGNCDC, with our own funds, also landscaped all seven 4 family properties on Bamberger in Tower Grove South.
About ten years ago, our Tenant Screening program started as a CDA CDBG activity funded with federal dollars. When the program ceased to be funded with grants, TGNCDC renamed it HomeScreen and developed it as a community development tool that could also generate operating revenue. 5 years after starting, the program has increased volume by over 150% and we completed over 2100 applications in 2018. Through a generous grant from Equifax, TGNCDC hired Enliven Software Development to create a new and more efficient back end workflow, improve our product and increase communication with both our landlord clients and tenants who apply through HomeScreen. The new application process will be launched in early 2019. In addition, and as a direct benefit to low to moderate income people (our core customers), HomeScreen is now able to refer tenants that are not recommended for apartments for free one on one personal financial training through our partnership with Prosperity Connection (https://prosperityconnection.org/). And TGNCDC is working with Mocafi (https://www.mocafi.com/) to allow tenants to count rent payments toward improving their credit scores. We believe this will be the first time these options will be offered by a tenant screening operation.
Another important accomplishment in 2018 was the offer of a donation of a new "headquarters" building at 2337 S. Kingshighway from BMO Harris Bank and Draper Kramer to Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC. Thanks to Capes Sokol for their pro-bono legal work to secure the property. This generous donation not only keeps our costs low but also provides an opportunity for future growth. Our new office is in a highly visible location, easy to access and will be place for community development work to continue for years to come. We moved into the space with a "no cost" lease in February 2018 and expect the donation of the building to close in early 2019.
The "Lights, Camera, Community Action" fundraiser was held November 16, 2018 with a crowd of over 325 attending at "The Wild Carrot" event space in Shaw. TGNCDC helped facilitate the event space redevelopment of the former movie house in 2016-2017. The crowd enjoyed live music, celebrity impersonators, red carpet photo opportunities, a silent auction, 4 community development awards and more. The proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward our community development work in Shaw, Tower Grove South and Southwest Garden neighborhoods. Thanks to our Presenting Sponsor- TIAA Bank and our Title Sponsor-Mangrove Development.
A huge thanks to our staff, Kristan Nickels (Asset Management/Development Manager), Ella Gross (Home Screen Manager), Adam Drake (Tenant Screening Specialist) and Dana Gray (Community Outreach Coordinator) and our board who make all these accomplishments possible! Onward and upward into 2019!
2018 TGNCDC Board Of Directors
Janice Drake- President Jason Kempf- Vice President Colleen Hafner- Treasurer Jillian Guenther- Secretary Jim Zirngibl Jeffrey Bargielski Denise Rogers Floyd Wright Raymond Flojo Denise Evans Vihar Sheth Jessica Pachak