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Black Entrepreneurs Plan To Purchase North St. Louis Land For Black-Owned Businesses

A vacant lot on Finney Avenue photographed on October 8, 2019. The Neighborhood Lot Maintenance pilot program aims to chip away at the issue of overgrown city-owned vacant land by hiring private contractors to maintain the land.
Shahla Farzan
St. Louis Public Radio
Black Wall Street STL wants to buy 283 vacant lots in north St. Louis to attract Black businesses and developers.

A group of Black entrepreneurs plans to purchase 283 lots in north St. Louis from the Land Reutilization Authority for Black-owned businesses.

Black Wall Street STL sent an application earlier this month to the LRA to purchase more than eight city blocks. LRA officials said the application will be discussed at the organization's August committee meeting.

The plan aims to spur redevelopment in the area and create a thriving business district.

“We are all very interested and invested in our communities, and we know that ownership is a problem, or lack thereof,” said Ebony Bowden, president of Black Wall Street STL. “We decided to come together and create Black Wall Street to go ahead and get the land so that we can have a foundation.”

Members of the group first met about four years ago to discuss how to create a corridor of Black-owned businesses and properties, Bowden said.

Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, said Black Wall Street STL offered the Land Reutilization Authority $150,000 to purchase the space. The properties consist of dilapidated buildings and vacant lots.

“No one’s doing anything with it,” Bowden said. “We know that we can definitely make the change that we’ve been envisioning for the last three or four years.”

Black Wall Street STL members plan to present the space as a blank canvas to businesses and developers.

Bosley and Bowden said the land could initially be used for community events, gatherings and open air markets, but they envision a redeveloped corridor in years to come.

The end goal is to create an area that resembles the kind of Black business district that existed in north St. Louis years ago, Bowden said.

“A lot of people worked over there,” she said. “They had a ton of factories there, and there were Black communities and were middle class, upper middle class, and we want to bring it back.

“We've already started working on how the business will be split up, they want us to make sure that we have all of the business structuring together,” Bowden said. "So we do that and we have to turn that into them, and then we'll basically finalize the purchase price.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.