Vacancy: In the City and on the Blog

Once again I seem to have fallen off the wagon as far as blogging is concerned. This is not for lack of interest, but rather lack of time. Since my last writing I have worked with Alex Ihen of nextSTL, RJ Koscielniak of Frontier St. Louis, and The Rebuild Foundation to develop a conference on the issue of vacant property in St. Louis. Currently St. Louis ranks second only behind New Orleans for percentage of vacant property with 19.3% of addresses vacant. Despite the scale of the problem, vacancy has not played a major role in civic discussion and both government and residents have turned a blind eye to the corrosive effect of vacant property on community stability.

One of my major complaints with urbanists in St. Louis is that activism has been confined either to the cozy confines of the internet or to ineffectual and late reactions to development issues. With Open/Closed we are taking a proactive stance by directing civic focus to an issue, convening a diverse group of residents, experts, practitioners, and politicians, and driving conversation.

In addition, we would like Open/Closed to serve as a paradigmatic inspiration to a new generation of urban activism. For too long St. Louis has been solely reactive and has waited for someone else to take the initiative. We are simply a group of concerned citizens who decided that this issue needed to be addressed. We organized this free conference in three months with no budget whatsoever. If we can do it, you can too.

Finally, in an unrelated note, I am now covering urban design and urban strategy issues for NextSTL. My first piece will be a three part series examining the recent 2010 Census redistricting data release. I will examine where we are as a city, what implication the data holds for the built environment, and how we should adjust our strategy for the next decade. As I write the pieces for NextSTL I plan to elaborate my thoughts on the data in greater depth here, so watch this space for more nuance.

[EDIT: Part II can be found here.]