Carondelet Neighborhood Flourishing

by Sister Marion Renkens, CSJ, motherhouse administrator and
Sister Mary Ann Nestel, CSJ, CCBF executive director

Back in the 1990s when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet decided to stay in the south city neighborhood and renovate the motherhouse, the Carondelet neighborhood had been stabilized by the efforts of CCBF (Carondelet Community Betterment Federation). Neighborhood stabilization continues with the expansion of businesses in the area and construction of new homes and rehabbing existing homes.

Recently CCBF has rehabbed and sold two houses across the street from the former Sts. Mary and Joseph School. The homes were gutted, floor plans reconfigured, new flooring or floor covering installed, state-of-the-art kitchens and very functional bathrooms designed, and attractive paint colors and wall coverings selected. All in all, these moderately priced homes represent much hard work by Carondelet Housing Corporation and their efforts to work with the City of St. Louis, which provided funds for these projects. The next home ready for transformation is next to the other two, thereby making a major impact on a “stressed” block.

In the last 10 years the Carondelet neighborhood has seen the building of the Family Care Health Center at the corner of Michigan and Holly Hills and, more recently, the building of the Carondelet Park Rec Complex by the City of St. Louis that opened in the fall of 2009. This facility is being managed by the YMCA and at present has almost 3,000 members compared to the former Carondelet YMCA on Loughborough that had about 1,000 members. The Rec Complex has an indoor and outdoor water park plus the regular fitness center amenities. The center can be seen from I-55 with easy access on and off the interstate, which is very appealing to commuters to downtown businesses.

The restaurant business is coming alive in the neighborhood with The Riverside Café, Patch Tavern and Ivory Coast Bistro located in the area of the former St. Boniface Church. A mainstay and highly respected restaurant near Bates and Virginia is Iron Barley, which has received great reviews. Some of the oldest businesses reside in the Carondelet neighborhood such as Carondelet Bakery on Virginia and Rathborn Hardware on Broadway. Southern Floral on Michigan has catered to the flower needs of the neighborhood for years.

The Carondelet Public Library on Michigan was completed in 1908 and is still a great resource to not only get a book but to surf the net, research, register to vote and take advantage of other services. The grand old building originally built with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Fund has been scheduled and rescheduled for renovation several times—one of these days.

Some of the most neglected citizens are housed in two group homes. The former Sts. Mary and Joseph Convent on Minnesota and the former Carondelet Hotel across the street from the Carondelet Public Library together are able to house about 50 mentally and emotionally challenged adults. Women in Transition and Harris House also are respected institutions. The motherhouse frequently shares the donated bakery items it receives with these residents.

How many neighborhoods can boast of its own historical society? Well, Carondelet can be proud of the Carondelet Historical Society and Museum located in the former Blow School on Michigan Avenue. Susan Blow changed the face of education by introducing kindergarten in 1873 after she visited Germany. A replica of Susan Blow’s classroom is located on the first floor of the museum. Last year the museum installed an elevator to make this former school building handicapped accessible.

Historic Carondelet is bordered on the east by the Mississippi River, which has Bellerive Park, Davis Park and Sr. Marie Charles Park, the only park directly on the river, and a little further west from the 180-acre Carondelet Park.

St. Louis Square and Fannetti Parks are also in the area. CCBF sponsors summer concerts at four of these parks. So you can attend a concert on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings in June, July and August.

In 2009 CCBF procured funds for a land use and infrastructure strategic planning process. Heading this process was Terrance Harkness, FASLA, RLA from the Department of Landscape architecture at the University of Illinois. Details and outcomes of this project are available through CCBF. In addition to this study, CCBF was selected by Habitat for Neighborhood Business: Proposal for a National Site Selection Framework and Selection of Future Site in St. Louis, Missouri. The Habitat is currently housed in St. Louis University’s Cook School of Business Center for Entrepreneurship.

Driving or walking around the Carondelet neighborhood awakens a feeling of pride by the steps that are being taken to rejuvenate the area. The Sisters of St. Joseph are delighted to be a part of this re-strengthening of the Carondelet neighborhood!

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