HYDE PARK – Crowned with a scarf wrapped into a beehive-like shape around her head, Fatimah Muhammad’s eyes light up through her shaded, black, triangular specs. She wears a proud smile on her dark brown face as she beelines to the front of the building that she and her husband purchased two years ago from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority.
The building, at 2017 Salisbury St., is slated to become north St. Louis’ first shared space. Work on the project will begin in January, with completion expected in June.
Muhammad can’t wait.
She watched the building sit derelict and crumbling over the years in her Hyde Park neighborhood, near a park there.
She’s excited about the planned transformation. Others seem to have “liked” the idea too.
Neighborhood residents are ready. She was voted a winner for a little start-up money for the concept, which goes toward her $80,000 fundraising goal. Muhammad also won a mural painting on the building by widely popular St. Louis visual artist C’babi.
“It’s a great commercial space,” Muhammad said. “It’s on the mainstream of the Hyde Park neighborhood, and we decided to bring life back to it and offer services that the community needed.”
This won’t be an ordinary, average, run-of-the-mill shared space. It will quite possibly be the first of its kind.
Named Apiary@The Park, it will be a cultural co-working space for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers as well as new and established small businesses.
That will include pop-ups, desks, conference rooms, or a dedicated office/space or event space.
This spared space, however, will also include co-living spaces, complete with full-service private one-, two- and three-bedroom residential units.
Apiary@The Park will also house Be Well Cafe, which will double as an eatery and marketplace. Complete with a commercial kitchen, it will also serve as an incubator and training ground for culinarians, including caterers.
Beauty and health professionals will also have a space – not just a chair – in which to grow.
All spaces will carry a low overhead. A “nonpartisan” community gathering space will be available free of charge to Hyde Park residents and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association.
Muhammad addressed the unusual multitude of offerings at the future Apiary@The Park shared space.
“There are several of these spaces that are located south of Delmar; This space was created out of a necessity in our community,” said Muhammad, founder and chair of the neighborhood association.
Muhammad called supporting black and brown people the niche of her venture.
“People often make jokes about us, but we are so very diverse, so all of the things included in The Apiary speak to the needs of the culture of our people,” she said. She noted, “There are tons of creatives, freelancers and small business owners on the north side of Delmar.”
However, Muhammad explained that although The Apiary addresses a specific need where black and brown people live, everyone – no matter their color – is welcome.
The name, in fact, grew out of a buzz for a need for a community meeting space, something she discovered during an aldermanic (Third Ward) bid three years ago.
“I said, ‘Think about the bees, because they are the greatest community builders on the planet. Everyone has a job and a responsibility. They support and protect each other.’ So I said, ‘The Apiary makes a great name because it’s about community,’” Muhammad explained.
Dictionary.com defines “apiary” as a place in which a colony or colonies of bees are kept, as a stand or shed for beehives or a bee house containing a number of beehives.
The name was cemented when Muhammad later saw a graffiti painting of a black queen bee on a third-floor wall of the structure. It’s proximity to a park completed the name.
Apiary@The Park isn’t the first business that Muhammad, a serial entrepreneur, has owned. She has owned a women’s boutique and a decorating business and has freelanced as an estate liquidator.
In her professional career, Muhammad has worked twice for the city of St. Louis as a minority- and woman-owned business contract compliance monitor and an employment certification officer.
Landing a job with the city required Muhammad, who has lived “all over the metropolitan area,” to return to city.
Her return, she said, gave her a chance to see what north St. Louis had to offer and get involved in her neighborhood.
She fell in love.
“I moved back to the city because of a requirement, but I stayed in the city because of the love,” Muhammad said.
“My parents taught us that you have to be engaged and involved where you are, whether you are a homeowner or not. If you want to see something changed, you do the work; and I watched both of them do that,” Muhammad said.
“So, the focus isn’t just for ourselves,” Muhammad continued.
She’s just the queen bee.