New Growth: Beyond Housing
When you think of a community, you envision neighbors, parks, groceries and services that weave families together through shared experiences. But all those were sorely lacking in the municipalities that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative (school district). With one small grocery store and only a scattering of services, neighborhoods were disconnected and a strong sense of community was lacking. But thanks to Beyond Housing, new life is pushing through the cracks.
The 42-year-old organization is a comprehensive community development nonprofit that focuses on everything from affordable housing and education to healthy lifestyles and economic development. Now, a 16,000-square-foot Save-A-Lot is experiencing year over year growth, a 370-seat movie theater welcomed 66,000 guests in 2016, a health center is about to open, and a wealth accumulation center provides one-on-one financial advice and other services. The 24:1 Community—so called for the 24 municipalities it comprises—is on the rise. “People didn’t think it was possible, but we are changing the landscape,” says Chris Krehmeyer, Beyond Housing president and CEO.
Changes are happening within Beyond Housing, as well. Last week, the nonprofit moved its operations and most of its staff of 140 into a newly renovated building, the former Garfield Elementary School. How the organization has chosen to utilize this new space is representative of its overall ethos. “Our work is holistic,” says Krehmeyer, who has considered the building’s role in meeting the community’s needs just as carefully as he has the building blocks of an entire urban district. “Our new headquarters must be a bellwether for the changes happening in the community as a whole. It must serve as a welcoming center.” In addition to offering office and conference space to other nonprofits, it also houses a gym large enough for 300 people, and a kitchen where cooking classes soon will be held. Krehmeyer says the new HQ and Center for Community is within walking distance of 53 senior housing units built 18 months ago, of the new Barack Obama Elementary School (which left Garfield Elementary empty and available for renovation in 2011), and of 80 new homes, existing or soon to be built.
This $7.5 million expansion is part of Beyond Housing’s $15 million Campaign for Community initiative, which focuses on improving the organization’s ability to collaborate with St. Louis area residents, businesses, municipalities, nonprofits and schools. The total space is 38,996 square feet and consists of the school’s original two-story building, a gymnasium and annex. Garfield’s gymnasium and stage have been kept intact to serve as a place for meetings, recreational activities and community events, while the annex is a hub for residents to connect with program staff and the many resources that Beyond Housing has to offer, such as financial literacy and health education.
Krehmeyer has led Beyond Housing for the past 24 years and is passionate about the work. “To make the communities we serve stronger, our organization needs to be strong from the inside out,” he says. “Moving into the community will increase efficiencies and allow us truly to be a part of the 24:1, providing the best assistance for our neighborhoods.” Previously, Beyond Housing’s staff was spread out across multiple locations. It shares its new home with the 24:1 Community Land Trust, which is a supporting nonprofit that assists Beyond Housing and its mission.
Pictured: President and CEO Chris Krehmeyer
Photo: Chris Cross
Beyond Housing is a community development organization working in the 24 municipalities that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative in North St. Louis County. Pictured in front: Viola Murphy, Cool Valley mayor; Carmen McClendon-Roberts, Uplands Park trustee; Lillian Eunice, Northwoods city manager; Earline Luster, Velda Hills mayor. In back: Irvetta Williams, Beyond Housing; Capt. Clay Farmer, North County Cooperative Police Department; Lamar Huddleston, Greendale mayor; Chris Krehmeyer, Beyond Housing; and Nate Griffin, Wellston mayor.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Bill Barrett