THE VILLE – Fourth Ward Committeewoman Dwin Evans dug into rehab, upkeep, property ownership and development in the area at the committee’s recent monthly meeting.
Two of the developers were on hand: master developer Laura Hughes and developer Walter Lobster.
Hughes, a former Ville resident, has returned to the declined but once-thriving historical neighborhood, to rebuild it toward some of the grandeur of its heyday.
Hughes was handpicked by 4th Ward Alderman Sam Moore for the lead development in the area. Moore, who couldn’t make the meeting, has broken the development areas down into eight sections that include surrounding neighborhoods. That way, one developer won’t be overloaded with too much to manage.
“But we’re all working together, collectively, to make sure we share resources and that we have similar ideas,” Hughes said, “so in the end, the entire community will be more uniform, instead of a hodgepodge of things.”
Lobster and Hughes said they also wanted to work closely with the public. Residents’ continued input, they said, is germane to the development.
“This is an opportunity for you folks to shape and help improve the community that you live in,” Lobster said. “There’s a lot to be done, but help is on the way, and we will be building entire neighborhoods.”
For Hughes that means smart, quality homes with sustainable building materials. Her own development is beginning with two-family-flat rehabs in the 4200 block of Maffitt Avenue.
“There’s a lot of pride in this area, and we deserve the best, so I’m only interested in bringing the best to the area,” Hughes said.
Along with rehabs, other developments slated are mixed-income homes and rentals, and mixed-use structures. The developers said they were also planning to include business incubators, a grocer and playgrounds.
Hughes has also been in talks with such institutions as Ranken Technical College, which would take on one of the eight development sections.
Specifically for The Ville, Hughes’ vision has led her into talks with a local university, and a major cultural spot, neither of whom he is willing to identify publicly just yet. Moore has been a trusted collaborator.
“He walks me through, gives me the facts and says, ‘I trust you,’” Hughes said of her development dealings with Moore.
Investment in the area will also include updating the properties of current homeowners, Lobster said, in order to get up to code, increase market value or simply beautify.
That was good news to Washington University student Jameel Spann, a new father. He said he was in the process of buying a home for his family in the block where Hughes is beginning her development.
“I don’t have a lot of experience developing anything, but I grew up in north city, so I decided to put my money where my heart is,” Spann said, “and with the help of Ms. Laura Hughes and her colleagues, I feel even more confident than I did when I woke up this morning.”
Hughes said she and other developers would be at forthcoming ward meetings to give updates and continuing public engagement.
“You been here for the long haul, you should have a stake in your community,” Evans said, adding, “I’m so excited about all the new development that is about to come into our community, and you should be too.”