We must invest in remedying the city’s ‘Depletion Areas’

By on April 12, 2018

From The St. Louis American:  Better Family Life, Inc.’s renewed strategies for community outreach call to mind an urban legend that continues to haunt North St. Louis. The so-called “Team Four Plan,” many people continue to believe, was a secret development strategy intended to lay waste to majority-black North St. Louis by concentrating public and private investment in developing the diverse Central Corridor and majority-white South Side. The truth is messier than the legend – this so-called “plan” actually was a mash-up of a development memo (crafted by Team Four Architects), an unrelated map of the city, and two unrelated board bills. None of it was secret, and none of it was enacted into law or policy. However, public and private investment have been focused on developing the diverse Central Corridor and majority-white South Side, and much of majority-black North St. Louis is so disinvested that it does look like it was intentionally laid to waste.

What Team Four’s Memorandum 6B actually proposed was three types of areas that would receive different strategies for investment: Conservation Areas, which would be maintained in their current state of relative health; Redevelopment Areas that would be targeted for redevelopment; and Depletion Areas, whose poorly chosen name had something to do with the sprouting of an urban legend. So did the fact that these “Depletion Areas” – that is, areas “experiencing severe problems requiring redevelopment but where reinvestment had not yet begun,” as William Albinson of Team Four Architects wrote in The American in 2008 – were heavily concentrated in majority-black North St. Louis. However, Team Four did not recommend merely letting these areas go to ruin and depletion. Rather, as Albinson wrote in this paper, it advised that “spreading scarce redevelopment funds thinly across all depletion areas would not work” and therefore “the city should make commitments to specific locations before turning them into redevelopment areas.”

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