SLACO Summer Program a Success

Soon, a new Special Business District (SBD) will be coming to the City of St. Louis in an area that includes north of Delmar Boulevard. It is significant because this is the _first_ SBD that will encompass an area that has been commonly referred to as "the Delmar Divide". 

"We are doing something unprecedented, crossing Delmar to do the SBD," said Judith Arnold, Urban Planner and Neighborhood Organizer VISTA. The new district will be called the North Central Special Business District. Its boundaries will be Taylor Avenue to the West; Vandeventer Avenue to the East; Finney Avenue to the North; and Lindell Boulevard to the South. "This is strategically important because all of the Central West End southern and western neighborhoods adjacent to this area already have an SBD. This is the last piece of the central corridor to be developed and it links two communities together - Gaslight Square and Vandeventer," Arnold said.


By definition, a special business district is a political subdivision that may impose additional property and business license taxes to fund special community needs. It is set up by a state statute. Most SBD's address needs such as safety and security services. Residents and businesses pay for those services through the additional tax.


To help bring the SBD to fruition, Arnold has been organizing neighborhoods; providing technical assistance to residents; providing support for philanthropic gifts; and coordinating public officials and stakeholders of the neighborhoods. Arnold has also assigned graduate students from Saint Louis University, Harris-Stowe State University and Washington University to either help map or document what works and what doesn't in surrounding SBDs so that established best practices would help the new North Central SBD. 


Once completed, the students will present their findings to the SBD Leadership Team, which consists of residents and business owners in the community, Arnold said.


One of the challenges of creating an SBD in the new proposed area is the current tax base.


"As you go north, the taxes get less and less," Arnold said.


To deal with the gap in tax revenue being generated, Arnold has been working with the SBD Leadership Team to address the issue. So far, $500,000 in philanthropic donations has been raised to cover the gap. The goal is for the SBD to raise $1.5 million per year in tax revenue. After five years, the SBD ordinance would have to be renewed, Arnold said. 


Another challenge has been educating residents on the benefits that the SBD would provide. In addition to safety initiatives and the improved infrastructures that an SBD would bring, it would set the stage to attract new housing and spark the rehabilitation of current housing stock. 


"These benefits would help, and thus, benefit the whole city," Arnold said. 


One project that residents plan to see develop within the proposed SBD area is new residential, single family housing that will be marketed to former military personnel who are returning to civilian life.


The project, called Veterans as Community Builders, was discussed at a recent symposium called "Building on Our Strengths" by Dr. Daniel Monti, a professor of Sociology and the doctoral program in Public and Social Studies at Saint Louis University.


At the symposium, Dr. Monti outlined how the project would be conducted, which includes:


  • New housing would be developed around existing homeowners, rather than displacing them;
  • Low-income residents would not be priced out of the neighborhood as it improves because Missouri tax laws limit the amount that existing homeowners can be charged in taxes as the value of their property increases;
  • Veterans can become both homeowners and business owners, and thus, provide both economic resources and social stability to the area; and
  • Existing residents would see an enhanced value of their own real estate


"We won't need any new legislation to do this project," Dr. Monti said. "It can be embedded within the current community with no gentrification."  


As both the new proposed SBD and Veterans as Community Builders plans develop, more information will be made available to residents and the community at large. 


-- By Kimberly Kendle Roberson
​AmeriCorp Marketing/Development VISTA for SLACO

Introducing Kevin McKinney, SLACO's New Executive Director

SLACO is pleased to announce Kevin McKinney as the fourth Executive Director in its 37-year history.  He succeeds Nancy Thompson, who retired this month.


McKinney bring SLACO eighteen years of experience in housing and urban development.  He spent twelve years as an elected official, nine years as Mayor and member of the Board of Aldermen in Jonesborough Tennessee.  Since 2003, he has been the owner of Housing 202, Ltd. serving as a consultant for faith-based and non-profit organizations in Missouri and nationwide.  He has been involved with the development of eight senior housing facilities and two housing developments for persons with disabilities.  


Kevin and his wife Kimberly are residents of the Shaw Neighborhood.  He is a board member of the South City YMCA, Friends of Tower Grove Park and the 1st Vice President of the Garden District Commission.


He was named to the Business Journal's "Top 40 under 40", won the Centurion Award for Outstanding Contribution in Human Rights and Completed the FOCUS St Louis Impact St Louis Leadership Program.

SLACO News

West End Neighborhood - Sign Up for Free After-School Program!   
This free program for ages 6-12 is held every weekday from 3:30 p.m. - 6 p.m. at our Etzel Community Center on Hamilton three blocks south of Page. Stop by any day that school is in session. We have contracted with Neighborhood Houses to run this program, which is available on a first come, first served basis, so apply early if you live within the area bounded by Page on the north, Skinker on the west, Delmar on the south, and Union on the east.

YOU (Young Organizers University) 
SLACO is still looking for people ages 14-18 living in the City or inner suburbs who would like to learn about their communities, how government works, and how to organize around an issue they care about.  Email you@slaco-mo.org to start the process of being considered.

This summer, SLACO and Neighborhood Houses partnered with Etzel Place Apartments to offer youth in grades Kindergarten through eight grade a free, full day, 7-week summer camp experience that included enrichment activities, field trips and summer fun. 

Held at SLACO's Community Center, the camp ran from mid-June to late July during the weekdays. Campers received lunch daily, along with snacks. A total of 27 youth from five different schools (charter schools, magnet programs and neighborhood schools) attended.


The camp provided parents with a safe, affordable option for their children while many worked during the day, while also providing learning activities to help avoid the "summer slide".   


Enrichment Activities involved:

  • Science, Math and Literature;
  • Social Development; and
  • Artistic Expression 


By practicing these essential subjects, campers worked toward reducing learning loss that many children experience during summer months. They also honed their social skills by doing daily activities that centered on dealing with emotions and every day conflict. Campers also wrote journals and were eager to share their entries with new friends. Journaling was a real confidence-builder; a way for campers to relive positive daily experiences. 


In addition to enrichment activities, campers enjoyed the arts via dance/music and artistic expression. Led by a dance professional, campers learned African and contemporary dance steps. Other artistic expressions were experienced through activities like mask making, where campers made self portraits that later hung in the halls at SLACO. At the end of the summer, children took all their art work home. 


Field trips gave campers a welcomed break in routine. Campers eagerly prepped for every outing by researching where they were going. Many of the outings were a new experience for campers. Some field trips were hands-on learning experiences, while others were places for observation. Wherever the place, campers journaled their thoughts about their experiences, and shared likes and dislikes with their friends. 


At the end of the summer, all campers received a backpack filled with school supplies and a t-shirt. Funding for the program was provided by grant from Horizon Housing and SLACO. In-kind support was provided by Neighborhood Houses and AmeriCorps VISTA.  






Proposed Special Business District for North of Delmar

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St. Louis Association of Community Organizations