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St. Louis’ Southwest Garden: A model of neighborhood cooperation

*NOTE – This article was originally written in August of 2006 for the newsletter.

As individuals, it can be hard for a single property owner to have a major impact in improving a neighborhood. A solitary voice and limited resources offer a major impendent.

To overcome this issue, various organizations have formed in the St. Louis area to bring landlords together to educate them and allow them to network. What these groups fail to address are neighborhood specific issues. Many neighborhood landlords have formed unofficial groups to address area crime and nuisance issues, but their lack of official standing limits their clout and effectiveness.

The property owners of the Southwest Garden neighborhood seem to have found an effective solution to this dilemma. Formed in 1992, the Southwest Garden Property Owners Association (SWGPOA) is the neighborhood landlords’ association. The group formed out of area landowners desire to stabilize the area and promote development. Each quarter, SWGPOA meetings are held to help area landlords network and share experiences on marketing apartments, tenant public safety, building repairs and development. SWGPOA also maintains an apartment rental hotline at 314-772-7661, where apartment seekers can leave contact and desired unit information. Area landlords will then reply within 1-2 days to help schedule an interview and showing of available apartments.

One example of the groups influence can be seen in the formation of the Gardenside Subdivision Special Business District. In 2002, with the backing of SWGPOA, neighborhood residents voted to impose a property tax of 85 cents per $100 of assessed value in the area between Tower Grove Avenue and South Kingshighway Boulevard.

For nearly four years this tax has paid for 28 hours of professional security patrols every week. The patrols have had a significant impact in improving safety on the streets of this dense rental market. The special tax, which was set to end at the close of the 2006, was recently extended to 2011.

By improving the quality of their neighborhood, SWGPOA has also improved their property values and rents. Many four family homes in the neighborhood are now selling for well over $200,000. The efforts of SWGPOA are a model to other property owners throughout the city on how they can improve their neighborhoods. Appreciation of property values generally occurs naturally over time, but with a little effort you could help the process along.

The next meeting of SWGPOA will be on Wednesday, February 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm at the Ridgeway Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Everyone is welcome to attend. It will be a great opportunity to find out more about the neighborhood, as well as how you can implant a similar program in your own area. For more information about the organization, visit their website.

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