Monday, March 21, 2011

Wooed by youth with hopes for the city

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.
Full commentary can be found at the St. Louis Beacon

You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. She was made to be wooed and won by youth. — Winston Churchill

The words of the late British Prime Minister sum up my feelings about the two-day "Open/Closed: Exploring Vacant Property in St. Louis" event hosted by Shortly after arriving at Friday's opener at the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, I realized that the conveners, volunteers and attendees were mostly young people - bright-eyed, idealistic 20somethings, ready to boldly tackle problems that have plagued our region for decades.

According to a recent report by the Show Me Institute, there are more than 9,000 parcels of vacant property in St. Louis. Yet, when Andrew J. Faulkner, 27, a graduate of the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, described the problem it was done with refreshing optimism:

"If land equals security, stability and potential wealth in the American cultural psyche, then we are sitting on a potential goldmine," Faulkner said before detailing the intent he and his peers had for the event: "The key to discourse is to identify shared goals, shared experiences and potentials for shared success. I hope in our own small way that we managed to build a foundation for such a discourse."

Through panel discussions, a caravan tour of vacant North St. Louis properties and a communal dinner in the basement of Holy Trinity Church, the youngsters were able to thoroughly dissect the subject of vacancy in St. Louis with a contagious vibe of progress. Oh, there were contentious moments -- discussions about solutions and how vacancies negatively impact the region were bound to make a few city representatives and developers jittery. But the disputes and differences were minor blips in the otherwise engaging discussions.

For the rest of the commentary click here