Hi, I'mJohn Cruz, AICP

Urban Planner and Professor in Greater Boston

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Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Plan

The Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods plan is a comprehensive community plan for the St. Louis City neighborhoods of Benton Park West, Gravois Park, and northeast Dutchtown. Adoption by the St. Louis Planning Commission in May of 2018, the plan has worked to guide community development efforts in the area and be. With this initiative, Rise has taken the opportunity to engage more deeply in these neighborhoods, strengthen its urban planning capacity, and lay the groundwork for long-term investment in the Gravois-Jefferson planning area.

This community-driven planning process was launched in September 2016, in collaboration with local elected officials, neighborhood organizations and other community stakeholders. Dutchtown South Community Corporation, the local neighborhood-based CDC and Rise co-developed a community engagement strategy that has included public meetings, focus groups, design charrettes, youth forums, pop up stations, and more.

The core values of this effort include an emphasis on community engagement, equity, and building an inclusive process and result, respectful of the area’s resident population. Residents and other stakeholders have been engaged in looking at economic development, racial disparity, land use issues, social services, environmental concerns, transportation (including pedestrian and bicycle networks), housing, educational opportunities, community health, parks and open spaces, and much more.

John’s Role

John’s employer, Rise Community Development, was a the lead on both planning matters as well as setting contextual existing conditions data via applicable neighborhood indicators, overall strategy for completion, and working to keep residents engaged and energized throughout the process.

John’s role was not only to assist in urban planning processes, community engagement, and plan structure, but to handle the GIS, data, and mapping needs that would show existing conditions as well as use data to guide policy. Much of this was done to fulfill requirements set by the City of St. Louis, which required a substantial analysis of existing socio-economic data, housing data, and surveyed conditions for all 5,000+ parcels in the planning area. John lead the effort on data collection, working with parcel surveying software, training Rise staff and coordinating volunteers to survey all planning area parcels.

John was also working directly with the planning team on a regular basis to help determine the scope and strategy for completing the plan.

Other direct involvement included being an active part of the community engagement process, helping to facilitate discussion among neighbors and other local stakeholders. The overwhelming majority of photos in the plan document are those taken by him either during community meetings or during existing conditions data gathering (including lots of historical research).

John was also directly responsible for writing the policy for the Transit, Streets, and Walkability section as well as editing other sections of the plan.

John Cruz and Rachel Souvre work the volunteer information table during a parcel survey volunteer day.


This plan was awarded the following:

  • Outstanding Plan Making awarded in 2018 by the  American Planning Association, St. Louis section.
    Pictured: APA National President Cynthia Bowen, John Cruz, Rob Wagstaff (Urban Design), Carrick Reddin (Project Management) and Scott Hanson, APA STL President.
  • Outstanding Local Government Achievement Leadership in Planning and Design Innovation  awarded in 2018 by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.

    Pictured: John Cruz accepts the OLGA Award at the East-West Gateway Awards Ceremony Luncheon
  • Outstanding Plan Implementation awarded in 2020 by the  American Planning Association, St. Louis section.