St. Louis Housing Authority cites POAH’s track record of using housing as a springboard for community-wide redevelopment and resident involvement as key factors in choice
St. Louis -- Following years of discussion about the future of St. Louis’ oldest public housing site, Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. (POAH) has been selected as lead developer of the Clinton-Peabody Apartments.
The selection by the St. Louis Housing Authority marks an important next step for Clinton-Peabody. Built in 1942, the development includes 358 apartments spread over 24 acres and 31 buildings. The complex at full capacity served 950 residents but today houses far fewer because of chronic vacancy.
“Redeveloping the Clinton-Peabody Apartments is a key priority for the St. Louis Housing Authority,” said SLHA Executive Director Alana C. Green. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed our efforts, I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with an experienced and thoughtful development team headed by POAH.”
While this will be POAH’s first major development effort in St. Louis, the non-profit housing firm has a long history in Missouri as owner and manager of 1,500 apartments in Kansas City, Springfield, and southwest Missouri.
“We are delighted to have been selected for this important project as an endorsement of our proven strategies that create modern, sustainable housing while improving the lives of residents and communities alike,” said Aaron Gornstein, POAH’s President and CEO.
POAH’s proposal for Clinton-Peabody is built on a commitment to resident and community engagement in the planning and development processes and successful experience with using housing to catalyze comprehensive neighborhood revitalization in Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston and elsewhere.
POAH’s work in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn is particularly noteworthy. Here POAH accomplished not only the full redevelopment of a 504-unit blighted housing development but leveraged a $30.5 million federal grant into investments of nearly $500 million in new mixed-income housing, amenities, restaurants and stores, including the community’s first full-service grocery store in decades.
POAH’s work will be led by Vice President Julie DeGraaf-Velazquez, a veteran development professional who spent 15 years working in St. Louis before joining POAH’s Chicago-based Midwest office in 2019.
An initial development phase could start by late 2024, but ultimately the site’s full redevelopment will occur in multiple phases over the next several years with at least $100 million in new investment projected. Resident and community engagement work is already under way, with the goal of building broad consensus on a master plan that re-envisions Clinton-Peabody as a healthy mixed-income community better connected to the surrounding neighborhoods.
“All redevelopment begins with a good plan that reflects the needs of current and future residents and strengthens the broader neighborhood. We believe the best plans are developed in partnership with residents and community stakeholders” said DeGraaf-Velazquez.
In addition to DeGraaf-Velazquez, POAH’s engagement work will be led by POAH Communities Vice President for Strategic Partnerships Felicia Dawson and Senior Vice President William Eager, who heads POAH’s Midwest office.
As development progresses, the new phases will be managed by POAH Communities LLC, POAH’s affiliated property management firm. POAH will also implement its Community Impact platform, which provides data-informed resident services focused on housing, education, employment, financial stability, and health. The design, implementation and ongoing operations will be shaped by best practices in trauma-informed design to create welcoming, safe and empowered communities.
For planning and construction POAH has assembled a team of primarily St. Louis-based partners for the planning, engagement and construction work ahead. These include Roanoke Construction and the design team of Trivers and Lamar Johnson Collaborative. Also on the team are landscape architect Arbolope Studio; civil engineer David Mason & Associates; and MEP engineer Custom Engineering, Inc. as well as the Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce and Unicorn Group; the St. Louis Small Business Empowerment Center; Prosperity Connection, a provider of financial coaching and financial services access; and Key Strategic Group.
About POAH: Headquartered in Boston, with branch offices in Chicago and Washington DC, POAH owns and operates more than 13,000 apartments in 11 states and the District of Columbia. About half its portfolio is in the Midwest – Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. Its properties are managed by POAH Communities, LLC, its property management affiliate.