HAMILTON HEIGHTS–Local financial institutions and development organizations set the tone for redefining equitable community development at Tuesday’s community meeting at the Friendly Temple Baptist Church campus.
The community development meeting focused on the distressed neighborhoods of north city and north St. Louis County. According to developers, theses areas are plagued with high crime and dilapidated housing.
Cordaryl Patrick, Economic Recovery Coordinator with the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, spoke on the Promise Zone and how it affects the St. Louis region—specifically how it affects the people living in the zone. The Promise Zone was designed to focus on areas that suffer due to lack of economic development and to break down silos that inhibit work that can be done there. Promise Zones are intended to act as a catalyst by bringing organizations together to align their efforts in north city and north St. Louis County.
According to Patrick, the Promise Zone includes 11 city wards, 28 municipalities and 20 zip codes.
“As a region, we have real challenges,” said Patrick. He adds the biggest challenge our city faces is not aligning resources systematically.
The Promise Zone hopes to help reduce crime, create a mixed-income community, and increase economic development in areas north of Delmar. Patrick believes the Promise Zone is about investing in people and, by doing that, changing the lack of equitable development in these neighborhoods.
Veta Jeffery, Senior Vice President of Midwest Centre Bank, described an equitable community as a business that should function like a healthy body. There are certain necessities needed to ensure everything is working properly and working together as a team to get the job done, he said. Just as having an accountant, an attorney, and a financial advisor are necessary to build a successful business, that is how we should look at our communities, Jeffery said, like something to invest in.
Ron Roberts of Garden Capital warned north city and north St. Louis County residents that they live in the “opportunity zone”, a space that could attract outside speculators looking to make large profit from cheap land. Robert urged residents to stay connected to the communities they live in and reminded them of the assets that the houses, buildings and land in these communities represent. He urged them to start investing in their communities now.
But discussions about community development can be a scary thought for many St. Louisans. Many people fear they will be displaced due to gentrification. Audience members expressed their concerns about being pushed out and left out of the American dream.
Patrick believes the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) decided to build in St. Louis because that area is in the Promise Zone. He said the NGA is a $1.75 billion project that Patrick believes will propel other economic ventures in the area. Even though eminent domain was used to clear the land for the project and many homeowners and businesses were displaced, Patrick believes that the effect will be positive on the surrounding community. He says the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership is not in the business of displacing St. Louisans. Their goal, according to Patrick, is to empower people where there are. He believes equitable community development is an attainable goal for the St. Louis region, when all of St. Louis is a part of the discussion and plans.