To Become Resilient, St. Louis Takes Aim at Wells-Goodfellow

By on February 13, 2018

From Riverfront Times:  On Thursday morning, the walls inside the Best Place Event Center on Martin Luther King Drive were covered with posters, notes and bulletin boards laden with messages in black marker. The messages reflected the previous day’s workshop sessions bringing together the city officials, private institutions and local community development activists who are participating in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative.

At the core of the discussions is St. Louis’ “resilience,” a catch-all term for the challenges facing the city as it attempts to confront the factors behind the conditions found in hard-hit neighborhoods, particularly those places languishing far outside the city’s development-rich central corridor.

In particular, they are looking at the neighborhood just outside the event center’s front door, Wells-Goodfellow.

The neighborhood, which lies on the city’s western border just south of I-70, has a largely minority population and suffers from high rates of poverty and crime.

“The reason we focused Wells-Goodfellow is that it’s one of the most challenged communities we have,” explains Patrick Brown, the city’s Chief Resilience Officer. The position is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation under a grant awarded to the city after a successful 2014 application made by the administration of former Mayor Francis Slay.

At the time, the city’s application was specifically tied to the protests in Ferguson and the social issues that unrest brought to the fore. More than two years later, though, Brown says the mission isn’t necessarily focused on protests, but on economic resilience. That’s what’s brought the program to Wells-Goodfellow, a neighborhood that suffers from shocking levels of vacancies — empty and crumbling houses are a depressingly common sight on MLK Drive — as well as disinvestment and few assets to attract new businesses.

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