by Michael R. Allen
If anyone tuned into last night’s excellent program on the 6:00 p.m. news program of KMOV Channel 4, you would have seen a compelling, tightly-edited report from Russell Kinsaul.
Just don’t get the wrong idea. More is at stake here than Old North St. Louis with its eager young middle-class white rehabbers. The “Blairmont” project encompasses the lives of thousands of people, and the biggest impact is on a largely poor, African-American population. This population may not survive the development apparently envisioned by Paul McKee’s McEagle Properties. (That project is in line to receive a large subsidy from the state of Missouri should a proposed bill amendment go through this week.)
The concerns of renters in JeffVanderLou are as politically important as those raised by homeowners in Old North St. Louis. In fact, the fact that both share the same concerns show that the near north side already enjoys incredible diversity — and an unfortunate deep bond in fear over the possible changes to come.
In the future, that bond and that diversity could be improved by thoughtful, careful redevelopment efforts. Clearance would erase the potential for retaining the existing population that has maintained the cultural fabric of the area despite incredible obstacles posed by decades of disinvestment.
Instead of viewing the area as a potential blank slate, would-be developers should see an area already possessing a great array of architectural, cultural and social resources. The focus needs to be on filling the gaps harmoniously to create a strong urban fabric for three very cool neighborhoods.
These neighborhoods already are rebuilding block by block, neighbor by neighbor, house by house. While Claire and I are a part of this effort, so are many other people. We look forward to many others joining us in the next decade, and to seeing our fellow near north siders stick around for the good future we share.