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Ville Phillips Estates Remains Unfinished Months After New Alderman Takes Office

July 25, 2007 North City, Politics/Policy 11 Comments

Nearly four months after I showed the unfinished mess left by developer Mary ‘One’ Johnson, the issues at the Ville Phillips Estates look to remain the same.  Click here to see my prior post.
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Above was the scene earlier this year, an open sewer adjacent to a sidewalk where I child playing could get hurt by falling in.


Monday the same sewer is still open.  Do I need to personally find a piece of plywood and some bricks to cover this hole myself?  Hmmm, I think Mary One’s old signs remain in the pile of weeds, perhaps I simply use those to secure this dangerous situation?

Building lots remain empty with no marketing signs in place, unfinished sidewalks only add to the appearance of failure.


An alley remains just shy of reaching the street.   Sure, money is limited but so are people’s patience.  If we can’t finish the infrastructure and new homes right now let’s at least find a way to keep the lots looking moderately decent and get some signs up marketing the lots to potential home owners.  These lots aren’t going to sell themselves.  Tearing down every vacant building in site also isn’t going to fix the ills of the neighborhood.

In many ways we are starting from scratch.  The area has needs an economy — unless we think the Ville should simply become a bedroom community for jobs elsewhere.  Like neighborhoods everywhere, the Ville is overwhelmingly occupied by decent hard working people with a few bad apples.  But as we know from past experience, tearing down old buildings or constructing new ones will not stop people from dealing drugs or engaging in other illicit activities.  A good economy and a hopeful future, while significantly harder to achieve than razing or constructing buildings, is the more sustainable path.  Covering open sewers is likely one of the easiest first steps.


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Thor Randelson says:

    Hmm… jobs in the Ville you say?

    Don’t worry the City has been all over this issue for the past 30 years.

    Step 1. Close down Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

    Step 2. Close down all City Hospitals.

    Step 3. Removing remaining health services (ie. Connect Care) to the old St. Luke’s complex on Delmar (ie. a location outside of the Ville)

    Step 4. Rehab Homer G. Phillips Hospital with senior housing.

    All joking aside, when the City allows the employment and educational anchors for the neighborhood to disappear, what you get it the current situation. I am not saying that a full City hospital would be financially possible; in fact it might well not be (though I have always wondered about a combined City-County regional hospital combined with a UMSL med program on the former Homer G. Phillips site). All I am saying is that with Homer G. Phillips Hospital, at least the neighborhood would have had a clear employment center, an anchor for making the Ville thrive as it should be: the cultural, economic, and social heart of the regions African-American community, full of middle-class and upper middle class African Americans. The “black CWE” if you will.

    [SLP — Agreed, many past decisions have led us to where we are today.  Vacant buildings are not the root cause of problems in the Ville.  With acres of vacant land along MLK, it would be nice to see a new medical facility like the ones operated by the Family Care Health Centers in Forest Park SE and Carondelet.  Note to self, email Bob at Family Care to initiate discussion about a northside location.]

  2. LisaS says:

    BJC committed to putting some healthcare facilities on the North Side as well as a result of the Lease Deal, so there’s another possible resource …. although that may be tied into Bosley’s ward. Jobs in the area would definitely help.

  3. Joe Frank says:

    UMSL will never have a medical school; between WashU, SLU, and MU, I just don’t see it happening.Meanwhile, there IS an operating health clinic still attached to the Homer G. property! It was reopened in 1991 (per Michael Allen’s article) by the City Health Department, then transferred to ConnectCare as a clinic about 1997-98, and last year ConnectCare transferred all its facilities other than the “Smiley Urgent Care Center” on Delmar to one of four Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). This included the former city clinics.

    The FQHCs each have more-or-less defined service areas, so they cannot be located too close to one another. That may not be a rock-solid rule; but I think it’s generally true, just as with Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) — Hopewell Center has St. Louis City north of I-44, BJC Behavioral Health has St. Louis City south of I-44 plus part of St. Louis County, Washington, Iron and St. Francois Counties; Crider Center has St. Charles, Lincoln, Franklin and Warren Counties; and Comtrea has Jefferson County.

    Much of the Northside, then, is under Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, which took over both the Homer G. Phillips Clinic and the city-owned Florence Hill Health Center on Riverview Blvd. in Walnut Park. They also have locations at 5471 MLK Drive (their Headquarters) and at 4411 N. Newstead in the Prince Hall Building, also a former hospital (first Christian and later Central Medical Center).

    Meanwhile, Grace Hill‘s health centers division has the Near Northside and Near Southside locked up, between their original location in Old North St. Louis, its long-time clinic on N. Grand near the Water Tower, a satellite operation at St. Patrick’s Center, and their most recent expansions with the opening of the Grace Hill South Health Center on Jefferson @ Cherokee, and their takeover of the former city clinic at Gravois and Lemp, now re-christened the Grace Hill Benton-Soulard Health Center, which replaced a small office Grace Hill once had at 12th and Russell in Soulard; and the former Lillian Courtney city clinic on Biddle St. in Carr Square, now called Grace Hill Murphy-O’Fallon Health Center.

    The other two FQHCs are a little smaller: Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers, serving West St. Louis and inner-ring County areas, with headquarters at 5701 Delmar Blvd. and branches in Maplewood and Florissant; and of course Family Care, with headquarters in Carondelet and a second location on Manchester in Forest Park Southeast.

    While I could see there being room for another FQHC location in the far north part of the City, and maybe even one or two more south, I doubt there’d be much support for another FQHC to locate on MLK so close to MHDCHC’s locations.

  4. stlmark says:

    It’s a shame you have to waste your time with ineptness like this. Firstly, the city should cover the manhole. Secondly, the people who let their kids play here, or whose kids end up playing here need to take care of it themselves. I know I wouldn’t tolerate an open manhole in my neighborhood, nor would my neighbors.

  5. WWSPD says:


    If there’s anyone to blame for the decline of the Ville, it’s the flight of the black middle class after desegregation. For generations, the Ville was a vibrant, virtually self-sustaining black community. Many former residents that lived in the Ville during its height say they almost never needed to leave for anything. Everything they needed was within walking distance.

    But once they had a choice to live where they wanted, the release valve was loosed and the mobile black middle class left with its cash in hand. Social and financial capital steadily hemorrhaged from a neighborhood that produced so many national icons.

    So, your blame is largely misplaced. The city cannot ‘make’ people stay put.

    The question of rebuilding capital in the Ville has to start with the assets present. The Ville does have a significant density of local churches who still have a very large middle class membership almost all of whom commute INTO the city from the county for worship every week. Perhaps there should be some stewardship coming from these churches regarding the revitalization of the Ville.

    It’s easy to say, “Let’s bring jobs.” But there have to be people with the right skills and experience to work the jobs and if they are non-basic service and general retail businesses, is there a sufficient density of residents within the neighborhood to sustain them? Retail follows Rooftops, and all that.

    [SLP — Following Shelley v. Kraemer those of color still faced a hard time getting houses in mostly white areas. Following 1964 civil rights legislation, it was certainly much easier for the black middle class to locate to those areas the white middle class was quickly leaving behind.

    Government policy supported red lining. The government shut down services such as street cars and public hospitals. I think we have plenty of blame to go around, starting with white folks that thought owning other humans was justified.]

  6. Thor Randelson says:

    Tell me WWSPD, how is the situation particularly different from that of the CWE?

    Sure when the Ville was thriving, segregation, restrictive covenants, and unfair lending practices all played a roll in restricting where affluent blacks could locate. Whites of the same affluence could move freely.

    As you rightly point out when the opportunity presented itself the affluent Ville population left and much the same occurred in the CWE. Yet, today the CWE, while not the bastion of wealth it once was, still maintains high home prices.

    The primary difference between the Ville and the CWE is the continued presence of the hospital in the CWE (combined with its proximity to the county border), which has subsequently helped keep an employment center with affluent employees nearby. If the Ville still had a hospital and associated medical school and nursing school, I firmly believe that the Ville would be much better off.

  7. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    “I think we have plenty of blame to go around, starting with white folks that thought owning other humans was justified.”
    We can say the same thing about black folks that thought owning other humans was justified.

  8. WWSPD says:


    Your comment is a bit incoherent. I don’t disagree with your recitation of historical facts. But I fail to see what point you’re trying to make. However, your last sentence is interesting because you brought it back to slavery and the roots of this country’s separatist, racist treatment of blacks, which perversely enough are the very conditions that allowed the Ville to become what it once was.

    It was institutionalized racism that kept all those people together in an area that allowed for the tight-knit community bonds, the breadth and depth of artistic creativity and the intense passion for learning and entrepreneurship that flourished there. We all know those things can be natural by-products of density and proximity.

    We also know, historically, what spatial and socioeconomic isolation can do to people. No one forced what was once the Ville community to disperse across near north county or elsewhere.

  9. WWSPD says:


    During the ’60’s, the patient counts at the City Hospital and Homer G. Phillips were very, very low for the size and cost of those operations. The middle class, both black and white were still emptying out the city. You agree that the Ville had a density and sense of community that was largely created by institutionalized racism. It’s basic math, when you lose roughly 500,000 residents from your city and many of them are the ones with money and you are left with the ones that demand more services, do you really think you can just ‘throw’ more money at Homer G. and the City Hospital and pretend like everything is going to be okay?

    In order to survive, you have to adapt. Steve’s already mentioned one way we’ve adapted. The city hospital is now The Georgian and Homer G. Phillips is a senior living center. There are now two family health care centers: one in FPSE and one in Carondelet. It’s appropriate and it makes sense. Yes, it took 30 odd years to do so but do you really think just keeping the hospital open in the face of a massive population loss made any sense at all? You say, ‘coulda-woulda-shoulda’ kept the hospital open but you don’t say how. Were you going to get more federal monies from Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s to keep the hospitals open?

  10. Kunta Kinte says:

    Steve, that’s racist bollocks. If you want to point fingers at those of color, you may start with the blacks who sold them in Africa. Only a fraction of the enslaved Africans brought to the New World ended up in British North America– perhaps 5%. The vast majority of slaves shipped across the Atlantic were sent to the Caribbean sugar colonies, Brazil, or Spanish America.

    At some point, blacks are going to have to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for their future. Of course, lefties like Steve sure aren’t helping their condition by making excuses for them.

    [SLP — I think we have plenty of blame to go around, starting with white folks that thought owning other humans was justified.]

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