On April 25, the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) released its “Roadmap to Economic Justice” plan. In the days before the plan was released, Mayor Jones announced a commitment of $150 million in ARPA funds for North St. Louis, while an additional $96 million has already been earmarked for the predominantly black north. The plan will be implemented with these funds before the end of 2024.
In evaluating the plan, there are five main objectives:
- Strengthen neighborhoods
- Closing the Wealth Gap
- Improving health and education outcomes
- Broaden the tax base
- Increase city population
From there, the three pillars are:
- Economic emancipation
- Equitable and inclusive development
- Neighborhood Transformation
The pillars have concrete and achievable steps to move St. Louis in the right direction. For example, a revolving loan fund aimed at encouraging and growing minority-owned start-ups could have a huge impact on St. Louis’ business culture. It should be noted that St. Louis already has one of the best scenes for female entrepreneurs looking to start a business and 25% of start-ups are minority owned. Building on this success is extremely important for Saint-Louis. Another important aspect of this plan is a real estate arm that will help neighborhood residents and businesses with tools to rehabilitate the beautiful architecture that has long been systematically neglected by financial interests.
In addition to creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs, the plan also aims to create a stronger middle class through skills training and industry growth. While St. Louis has long had strong institutions of higher learning, what allowed the city to thrive economically in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was its wealth of opportunity for non- graduates. At the confluence of American industry, St. Louis is full of untapped opportunities for its workforce.
Finally, the economic empowerment pillar calls for increased access to opportunities for students in the city of St. Louis. While young people shouldn’t be thought of solely in terms of their economic potential, St. Louis Public School’s mission to help students live happy, full lives can align with the city’s business interests. to have a strong and prosperous economy since the latter helps the former. .
Equitable and inclusive development
Saint-Louis has long awaited incentive reform. The central corridor has seen the bulk of the city’s tax incentives for development projects despite questions about their necessity. When Lux Living sold the Tribeca to DeBaliviere Place in 2018 for a hefty amount, critics complained that they essentially pocketed the tax incentives as profit in the process. And just this summer, St. Louis found itself embroiled in a scandal as two aldermen and the chairman of the Council of Aldermen were charged with corruption related to tax incentives. Creating clear and transparent policies and procedures for tax incentives is a welcome goal.
The plan also calls for proactive development. This includes identifying and acquiring neglected properties and actively marketing city-owned properties. Although it’s a no-brainer, the city has struggled to do so. Despite an ordinance that would allow the city to repossess properties from negligent owners, it is apparently never enforced despite numerous opportunities to do so. Additionally, the city’s Land Reuse Authority (LRA) department is both the largest vacant landowner and the perpetrator of real estate neglect in the city, mainly due to a lack of funds. Will the abundance of ARPA funds provide an opportunity to change that? On the bright side, the City of St. Louis has begun using Prop NS funds to stabilize some important buildings that it says can help turn the tide in disinvested neighborhoods. It’s a worthwhile effort, but the city will need more funding to see it through.
The revitalization of trade corridors also envisions a better connected city. North-South Metrolink and Brickline Greenway both promise transportation networks that connect residents across the city and, most importantly, the Delmar Divide. Prioritizing infrastructure improvements can help both meet the immediate needs of current residents and stimulate private investment.
Perhaps one of St. Louis’ most important assets is its vibrant neighborhoods. The plan aims to create positions and programs that help neighborhoods and their existing organizations better serve residents. While St. Louis has many productive neighborhood organizations, better alignment of collaboration between city government and neighborhood organizations can lead to better access to resources for residents. Using state-sponsored programs like Main Streets (Delmar’s program is ongoing) can also provide an additional level of support.
Previously, the plan was to be proactive with real estate. This section examines how the city can center land use around a better experience for residents. By creating greenways, stabilizing buildings, creating community gardens, and aligning resources with residents who cannot afford to fix code violations, residents can lead healthy, more prosperous lives. This section seems to get to the heart of why it is ultimately worth stabilizing buildings and constructing greenways. It is not primarily for the accumulation of wealth, but rather to meet the needs of the residents.
Finally, an economic justice plan must necessarily focus on accessibility to housing and this plan does exactly that. Through loan assistance, anti-displacement policies and a commitment to build more housing, this plan envisions a path to ensure St. Louis remains an affordable city. This is much easier said than done, however, and there is often a lot of political pressure against these types of policies. If this plan can lead policy makers to adopt policies that perpetuate housing affordability, St. Louis will provide all of its residents with a brighter future.
Towards a fair future
Plans are not new to St. Louis. This city has stumbled, got lost, torn and paralyzed: all for plans. But these plans were so often focused on exclusion and quick fixes. This city has rarely created comprehensive plans that focus on inclusion and systemic change. This plan prioritizes equity and proposes a City of St. Louis where every resident in every neighborhood is valuable. A commitment of $250 million is significant, and if the city is serious, it should continue to commit additional funds to achieve these goals.