A small, community-built park on the northeast corner of Cherokee Street and Nebraska in South St. Louis, known as “Love Bank Park,” is scheduled to receive major upgrades in 2023. After seven years planning, collecting community feedback and applying for grants, the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District (CID) announced plans to launch an ambitious $1.2 million project this spring to modernize the park.
When completed, the approximately 7,000 square foot park will include an expanded basketball court with three hoops, a shade structure that will also serve as an outdoor entertainment venue with integrated sound and lighting, a storage structure and a place with seating, chess tables, wifi, and extensive landscaping. Plans call for a permeable asphalt basketball court – a first of its kind in the region.
“Patterhn Ives, Arbolope Studio and our team of qualified consultants are committed to giving back to our community and are grateful to help redevelopment Love Bank Park.” said Anna Ives of Patternh Ives. “Cherokee Street CID is committed to building a place that embodies and nurtures the diversity of the local community. The park will constantly evolve to reflect the identity of a myriad of gatherings, both formal and informal, associating the park with the daily life of the community it serves.
The Cherokee CID selected EM Harris as the general contractor.
The project will be funded by a combination of grants – the largest of which comes from MSD’s Project Clear program, tax revenue from the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District, a bank loan from the Town & Country Bank, and donations from individuals and businesses.
“This is the culmination of many years of community involvement and a lot of work by the Cherokee Business District alongside community partners.” said Cara Spencer, alderman of the 20th arrondissement. “This is a phenomenal example of how tax districts can serve not only their business interests, but surrounding neighborhoods as well. I’m thrilled to see this finally come to fruition.”
History of Love Bank Park
In the early 2000s, Cherokee Street experienced a high vacancy rate in the commercial district, and vacant land was in even less demand than vacant buildings. The Cherokee Station Business Association (CSBA), the predecessor of the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District, owned five vacant lots in the district. Most, if not all, previously owned buildings that were demolished in the 1980s or 1990s and then obtained from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) after being auctioned off and receiving no bids. In an unusual strategy to keep maintenance costs low, the business association, in 2006, paid approximately $30,000 to have the grounds paved (to eliminate ongoing lawn maintenance) and install wrought iron front and back to keep litter out and cut through alley traffic to Cherokee.
According to the minutes of the 2013 meeting, the CSBA, under new leadership, began thinking about ways to activate the dead space created by the fenced plots it owned. The council discussed selling four of the five vacant lots to businesses or individuals who would activate them and using the proceeds to create a small park with a pavilion that could be used for live music and events. in the last.
With the demolition of 2857 Cherokee, which suffered structural failures and was demolished by the city in 2012, the CSBA identified this vacant parcel, combined with the adjacent paved lot (2853 Cherokee) already owned by the association, as the best location for a park, and then approached 9th District Alderman Ken Ortmann to obtain the property. The alderman, citing a preference for economic development and a lack of funds or detailed plans to develop the park space, declined the request and said he would be prepared to reconsider when more substantial plans became available.
Over the next few years, both plots remained vacant and overgrown with weeds. In 2015, the wrought iron fence in front of 2853 Cherokee was barely visible.
Although the trade association was unable to move forward with major capital improvements to the space, Cherokee Street Reach, a group led by community members Pacia Anderson, Eric “Prospect White and Shareca “Shae Brown” Pitts, began using the empty lots for youth programming, including live performances, arts activities and an annual summer camp. With no water or electricity at the venue, a garden hose and extension cord was installed from Blank Space, two doors down the street, to power the events.
In November 2015, Will Porter, then a CSBA board member and owner of Master Pieza, a pizzeria across from the grounds, offered to install a basketball hoop in the asphalt pavement. Anne McCullough, Community Liaison Officer for the CSBA and resident of Cherokee Street, found one on Craigslist and, along with Will Porter and other community members, cleaned up both lots and installed the new hoop. Porter wrote “Love Bank” on the sign and the name “Love Bank Park” was born. The following month Alderman Ortmann agreed to transfer ownership of the corner plot from the LRA to the CSBA.
In 2016, an additional basketball hoop was donated to the park along with park benches. Love Bank Park continued to serve as an important recreational and gathering space for the surrounding community, hosting holiday events, yoga sessions, wakes, arts camps, and basketball tournaments.
With the corner lot acquired from the city, the trade association began selling the other paved lots located at 2647 Cherokee (now used as an outdoor bar for Whiskey Ring), 2726 Cherokee (now an outdoor patio for Earthbound Brewery), 3415 Iowa (converted to a parking lot for residential use) and 2836 Cherokee (still owned by the Cherokee CID and currently up for sale).
In January 2017, the CSBA submitted a grant proposal to MSD and received $169,000 for the renovation of the park. The grant award stated that it was a repayable grant and would be funded upon completion of the entire project. Lacking the additional funds needed to carry out the entire project, the CSBA has still not been able to proceed with the construction.
In March 2018, the new Cherokee Street Community Improvement District (CID), which replaced the CSBA, transferred ownership of the two vacant lots to the Cherokee Street Development League (CSDL), a new nonprofit entity that hoped- he could make the project a reality. During this time, stakeholders have conducted multiple design charrettes and visioning sessions on how the park can grow and evolve. Many Community Improvement District board members also served on the Cherokee Street Development League board, and the project suffered from the same challenges under the nonprofit organization, namely the lack of financing. Two years later, in 2020, ownership of the property was transferred to the Cherokee Street CID, which had by then saved additional funds through its relatively new status as a community improvement district – receiving a sales tax 1% off all sales in the district. This also allowed the CID to obtain bank financing bringing the project closer to reality.
The Cherokee Street CID launched a capital campaign fund in partnership with the St. Louis Community Foundation to raise private donations and help fill the remaining funding gap for the project.
“This project is a great example of the Cherokee Street community and where we are headed,” said Brandin Vaughn, fashion designer and Chairman of the Board of Cherokee St. CID. “The new Love Bank Park creates a space for performance, events and the arts; it creates a space to meet, relax and play; and above all, it keeps a place for the community and the young people of the neighborhood at the center of our neighborhood.
To learn more about the redevelopment and how to get involved, visit cherokeestreet.com/park.
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