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$81 million development will boost O’Fallon Park neighborhood, alderman says

O’FALLON – The planned $81 million City District commercial and housing development adjacent to O’Fallon Park could help turn around surrounding areas of north St. Louis, the alderman for that area said.

“If we do not change the mindset of north St. Louis, we’re not going to get people outside of north St. Louis to reinvest and come back and be a part of all the great things that are happening,” 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad said.

The six-block area set for the makeover is bounded by West Florissant Avenue on the southwest, Harris Avenue on the northwest, Algernon Street on the northeast and Alice Avenue on the southeast. Work is set to start next year and finish in 2025.

The development will be in a key part of north St. Louis, on the boundary of the College Hill and O’Fallon neighborhoods. All of Harris Avenue and part of Algernon Street are next to O’Fallon Park, with its recreation complex and other amenities. It’s less than a mile from on- and off-ramps to Interstate 70.

That location was considered in the planning for the project, said Ashlee Cooksee, who is the project manager and in charge of architectural design for the project.

Plans call for building new single-family houses and subsidized apartments and rehabbing and saving historic homes, as well as new businesses, but the number is uncertain, Cooksee said.

However, Muhammad put the number of new single-family units at 200, plus 105 rehabbed buildings and about 22 businesses.

AMJ Investment Group, St. Louis and the Kwame Building Group are partnering in the project. Kwame is the manager of construction and programming, while Jackson Design Group is the architect.

Money for the project will come from tax subsidies and private funds, Muhammad said.

“It’s coming from a variety of sources, because a project this big is going to take partners of all kinds,” Muhammad said.

A key to the project is preserving the rich historic character of the area, Muhammad said.

 “We don’t want to demolish these buildings that have been here for centuries that can be saved,” he explained.

Buildings that can’t be saved are being demolished, Muhammad said. Already, 13 buildings have been torn down.

“The ones that can be saved, they can get some life to it, we’re going to preserve it,” he said.

Muhammad praised Kwame for its work in management, architecture and developing a community.

He also spoke of how the project would affect surrounding areas.

“I truly believe that if we invest in O’Fallon and College Hill, we’re going to see some investment in Hyde Park,” Muhammad said. “We’re going to see some investment in the Fairground neighborhood. We’re going to see some investment in the Penrose neighborhood.

“This is going to have a trickle-down effect on all neighborhoods that are adjacent to this neighborhood.”

Muhammad also said the project would help cut crime in his neighborhood. It’s already down, he said.

“We have to make sure every block in every stretch of our neighborhood is safe, and that starts with economic development, because studies show that communities that are invested in are less likely to see crime,” Muhammad said.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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