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St. Louis Seeks Public Input On Long-Anticipated Economic Development Framework

St. Louis city officials released a new framework Tuesday that aims to guide more equitable economic development that will also spur the city's population and economy.
Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis city officials released a new framework Tuesday that aims to guide more equitable economic development that will also spur the city's population and economy.

The City of St. Louis on Tuesdayreleased a draft of its master plan for equitable economic development. It’s calling for public comment until the end of August.

The new framework points out where economic development is lagging and lays out goals to boost wages, grow jobs and increase the city’s population by 30,000 residents over the next decade.

The St. Louis Development Corporation has been working on the framework for about a year and a half with consulting firm Mass Economics and a 47-person advisory committee. It includes business and community development leaders like Bishop Michael Jones Sr. He’s the co-chair of the committee and senior pastor of Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

Jones said it’s time to reinvest in north St. Louis.

“It is a critical time for this city and those in the seat of power to make decisions that are equitable and right for communities that have been rejected for a number of years,” he said. “And so what protesters are doing is shining a light.”

The framework, which connects a series of other plans, lays out key goals such as:

  • Reducing poverty and increasing median household incomes.
  • Closing the unemployment and wage gap between Black residents and their white counterparts.
  • Increasing the role of neighborhood business and community organizations to respond to resident needs.
  • Reducing vacancy rates and improving commercial corridors in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Slowing, then reversing population decline, particularly among Black residents with school-age children.

Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a statement that the framework is helping the city rethink how it does business.
“The hallmark of our plan is connecting people, neighborhoods, and jobs, so that we can address decades of inequity and disinvestment and, instead, help all St. Louisans build wealth through opportunities and strengthen our neighborhoods,” she said.

SLDC Executive Director Otis Williams said the city needed a master plan to align previously siloed economic development projects and ensure opportunities are dispersed across the city.

Over the past decade, he said, St. Louis has succeeded in creating jobs around major economic development projects like the Cortex Innovation Community and the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s western headquarters. But, Williams said, it’s time to connect the dots.

“What we’re trying to do is increase household wealth and eventually to support population growth in the city. And so in order to do that we’ve got to change the way that we’re doing business,” he said.

In particular, Williams said improving opportunities for Black St. Louisans, who make up nearly half the population, is critical to stabilizing the city’s economy.

According to the framework, between 2010 and 2018, the number of Black families with children declined by 24%, outpacing the decline in St. Louis County and the nation. Williams said the framework lays out strategies for increasing home ownership and retention in targeted neighborhoods, among other things.

“People are leaving for various reasons,” Williams said. “One is perceived better educational opportunities. What we want to do is try and grow our community such that we have all the amenities and services that a citizen would want to include — good education, safe neighborhoods and organized neighborhoods.”

Williams hopes the framework will guide developers to invest in underserved communities in north St. Louis, where African Americans make up 93% of the population.

The SLDC will guide implementation of the recommended strategies. Williams said he plans to reorganize operations by dedicating project managers to interact with neighborhood groups across the city and expanding the data team to track metrics.

He said SLDC plans to give the city an annual report on its progress.

The public can view and comment on the city’s framework on its website until Aug. 28. The final version will be presented to an aldermanic committee in the fall.

Follow Corinne on Twitter:@corinnesusan

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Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.