Snapshots from last Saturday’s Holiday on the Plaza & Window Walk

Though there were copious clouds and even a brief shower last Saturday afternoon, the 60 degree weather contributed to jam-packed sidewalks filled with young families out to participate in the annual Holiday on the Plaza and CWE Window Walk events. Thanks to months of planning by Maryland Plaza’s Frances Thompson and the CWE North Community Improvement District’s Kate Haher and Erica Lembo there were activities galore for all to enjoy.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Maryland Plaza’s Nathan Ambus, who’s very much behind-the-scenes and knows how to work all the bells and whistles (and turn on the Xmas tree lights on cue), with Ted Koplar, the third-generation patriarch of the family that has made Maryland Plaza such a huge success.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Top photo left: Kate Walter, president of the Central West End Association, and top right, ‘Scape’s David McDermott volunteered to slow walk the ponies as young riders took a spin on Maryland Plaza.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Above left, there was a caricature artist at the corner of Euclid and Maryland, a performance by the CWE’s Bob Kramer’s Marionnettes at Bissinger’s, ice carving demonstrations and family photo ops on Maryland Plaza.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Activities included horse and buggy rides along Euclid, a trio of strolling carolers and a lively performance by Saint Boogie Brass Band. Circus Kaput jugglers entertained at the corner of Euclid & Maryland.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Inside the Holiday Village Workshop kids could participate in a variety of craft activities led by the Magic House, Home Depot, Barnes Jewish Hospital, and The Cup. Students from Paul Mitchell the School were offering holiday hair styles, and for the adults, much appreciated chair massages from Massage Luxe.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Rosati Kain High School’s “R-K Voices” posed for a photo before their performance last Saturday.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro welcomed the crowd before the tree lighting ceremony.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Ted Koplar Maryland Plaza Kate Haher Holiday on the Plaza Frances Thompson CWE Window Walk CWE North Community Improvement District Central West End Association

Thanks to 10-year-old Khelby Calmese, a sickle cell disease patient at Children’s Hospital for flipping the switch that magically lit the beautiful Christmas tree.

The Holiday Window Walk continues today December 8 with carolers, free gift wrapping, and a Holiday Market in the heated tent behind ‘Scape. There’s still time to get your list to Santa, as he is on Maryland Plaza again today and will be there Saturday December 15 and 22.

Founders of CWE Farm publish “A Gift Garden”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

“It’s best to take the picture while we’re harvesting,” Arthur Culbert said, as he and his wife Nancy were hurriedly picking the last of the summer’s bounty grown at the CWE Farm to benefit neighborhood food pantries. With the first frost in the forecast, there was little time to pose for photos the morning I visited to learn more about the couple’s new book, A Gift Garden. The illustrated book, which the Culberts have been working on for the past 2 years, was inspired by their experience working with all the 4th graders who have participated in the “Citizens Making a Difference” curriculum at New City School.

The book launch is scheduled for this Monday, December 10, at The Mahler Ballroom (more information follows).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Photos above: Arthur Culbert and 4th grade students at New City School.

Arthur started the CWE Farm 8 years ago on a vacant lot in the 5000 block of Waterman (just west of Kingshighway). Over the past 7 growing seasons the farm has produced approximately 16,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables for food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. Tying the farm’s mission to eliminate hunger in the community to a program for neighborhood school children where they learn where food comes from, how to plant and grow it for those less fortunate to enjoy, was a brilliant idea and what inspired the Culberts to write A Gift Garden.

“We hope that the book will inspire others and initiate a movement working together towards eliminating hunger,” said Nancy, who co-authored the book aimed at a 4th grade reading level and up. They were able to work almost every vocabulary word that New City School 4th graders learn into the story. Arthur added that Nancy brought a magical touch to the writing.

The Culberts, who have been married for 11 years, have backgrounds in the public health arena. Arthur was dean of a public health program in Boston for 31 years before moving to St. Louis 13 years ago, and Nancy recently retired after 16 years as the Director of Student Services at the College for Public Health & Social Justice at SLU.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Central Reform Congregation and First Unitarian Church, which are neighbors of the CWE Farm, contribute vegetables from their own gardens to the CWE pantries as well. Together they have contributed an additional 1400 pounds of produce. Generous “alley” neighbors from Westminster Place have also joined the effort by contributing produce from their backyard gardens too.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

December 10, the date of the book launch, coincides with the 70th anniversary of first proclamation of the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights which in Article 25 declares that everyone has a right to food.

In A Gift Garden, 10-year-old Bea, described as a super hero, declares: “Every person has a right to food,” as she and her friends develop a project to help feed the hungry. The book’s characters decide to become citizens making a difference and work toward planning, building and growing a community gift garden.

Tickets for A Gift Garden Book Launch at The Mahler Ballroom, 4915 Washington, $25 (for soft cover book) to $35 (for hardcover edition), include a copy of the book, a CWE Farm signature drink, light hors d’oeuvres, and music. At 7 p.m. there will be a reading by the authors followed by a Q & A led by KMOV reporter Alexis Zotos. Tickets are available on Eventbrite here. A Gift Garden will be available soon at Left Bank Books.

CWE Farm is a non-profit organization. Proceeds from Monday’s book launch benefit Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation.

A must read: McPherson STL editor Jack Grone on Argyle Garage TIF

Reprinted with permission from McPherson STL editor Jack Grone:

Nicki's Central West End Guide Opinion

 

An irony of the 20-yr-old Argyle TIF for a CWE parking garage: even after the TIF expires in 2021, St. Louis schools still won’t get any property taxes from the garage. It’s worth $13.2 mln, but it’s owned by the city. So it doesn’t pay those taxes.

A SINGLE PARKING GARAGE in the Central West End is turning into one of the city’s most expensive tax increment financing deals, keeping millions of dollars away from the St. Louis Public Schools.

The Argyle TIF, which helped pay to build a city-owned parking garage at the corner of Lindell Boulevard and Euclid Avenue, has diverted over $23 million in property tax and other types of taxes since its inception two decades ago, according to figures disclosed at a Board of Aldermen committee hearing this week.

McPherson first reported on the Argyle TIF in July. A follow-up story detailed how the TIF is part of an unusual arrangement that diverts tax money to help subsidize the debt of the city’s Parking Division, which is overseen by Treasurer Tishaura Jones. (The Argyle garage, which opened in 2001, was supposed to have been funded primarily through the fees it charges for parking.)

TIFs are economic development tools that capture tax revenue  — from property, sales, payrolls and other sources — and use them to help finance projects including shopping centers, apartment buildings and hotels. The Argyle TIF district’s boundaries are drawn in such a way that the vast majority of its tax revenue comes from the Chase Park Plaza hotel complex and attached condominium tower, a block west of the Argyle garage.

The Chase complex, which became responsible for its full share of property taxes in 2017 after 35 years of full and partial tax abatement, is now stuffing millions of dollars into the Argyle TIF fund each year. The latest figures show the TIF has captured $23.3 million in tax money, an increase of more than 30 percent from a year earlier.

The 2018 figures are contained in a presentation by officials at the St. Louis Development Corp., the city’s development arm.

A solution coming soon?

Under state law the Argyle TIF will expire at the end of 2021, and any money remaining in the TIF fund at that point will be disbursed to the school district, the city’s parks and libraries, the city’s general fund and other public entities which are normally entitled to its tax money.

Officials in the Treasurer’s office and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro told McPherson in July they want to devise a way to free money from the TIF ahead of 2021, so the schools and other entities receive it sooner. It’s possible such a move could come during the current aldermanic session, which runs until next summer. The Treasurer’s office and Navarro did not respond immediately to requests for comment for this story.

The Argyle is one of the oldest of the city’s more than 100 active TIFs. Its unusual, open-ended financing structure is a key reason it has mushroomed into one of St. Louis’s biggest TIF deals, even though the core project it funded — a parking garage with about 460 spaces and a public library branch on the ground floor — is small compared to other projects.

The Loughborough Commons shopping center on the city’s southern edge, for example, has over 200,000 square feet and is anchored by a Schnucks supermarket and a Lowe’s home improvement store. That TIF has captured just $14.9 million in taxes since it was approved in 2005, the city’s records show. That’s far less than the Argyle.

In downtown St. Louis the Park Pacific, a 230-unit apartment building with an attached garage, has captured just $3.1 million in taxes since aldermen approved its TIF in 2006, city records show.