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The History of Problems in North St. Louis

My intent for today was to summarize Paul McKee’s development proposal being dubbed ‘NorthSide.’  In starting to write that piece it became clear I needed to build a foundation on the origins of the current problems in North St. Louis. So today I take you through decisions from the 20th century that got us to where we are and tomorrow I’ll give you my thoughts on McKee’s proposal.

North St. Louis has many great streets, buildings and people.  But it has as many streets that are largely abandoned, buildings barely standing, vacant lots and criminally minded youth.   It is known more for the latter than the former.

Above: North St. Louis property in August 2007
Above: North St. Louis property in August 2007

When I moved to St. Louis in August 1990. at age 23, I was told not to go North of Delmar Blvd. — the long dividing line between white and black St. Louis.  I ignored the advice, however well-intentioned,  from the 50-something apartment manager and went North of Delmar.  The following year I moved to the Old North St. Louis neighborhood.  But how did this dividing line come to exist?  For the answer we need to start way back in 1917.

Harland Bartholomew came to St. Louis in 1916, at age 27, after working briefly in Newark, NJ as an employee of civil engineers E.P. Goodrich & George Ford.  Bartholomew was the first municipal planner in the country.  Yes, St. Louis was the leading edge for planning at the time.  Of course, planning as a profession was just getting started.  The 1910 Census was 557,238.

Upon his arrival Bartholomew located his family in a relatively new house on Goodfellow near Page (map).  Although within the city’s limits, it was very suburban relative to the older parts of the city near the Mississippi River.  His 1917 report, The Problems of St. Louis, shows his dislike of the older sections of the city surrounding downtown.

Above: 1917 book, click to view book

From the above:

The problems of St. Louis are briefly as follows :

(1) Restoration of districts wherein values and occupancy are at a low ebb to a greater degree of usefulness and productivity.

(2) Perfection of transportation and transit systems to make possible the use of property within the zone of the city’s influence, now inaccessible,

(3) Extension of the city limits, or power of the city, to secure greater uniformity and permanency of  development.

(4) Provision for public works and service sufficiently far in advance to preclude undue delay and excessive expense.

The problems then are still the problems today.  Bartholomew spent the next 30 years telling the city how bad the older areas are.  Bartholomew, for example, convinced voters to approve fund measures to widen many streets which involved cutting off the fronts of many buildings, see The History of the Ubiquitous Building Setback Line.   Jane Jacobs in her 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities called such funds “cataclysmic money.”  The Census count was 772,897 by 1920, 821,960 by 1930 and, a down a bit to 816,048 in 1940.

In 1947 Harland Bartholomew, now nearly 60, authored the Comprehensive City Plan which considered much of the city, North & South, “obsolete” or “blighted:”

1947 "Obsolete" (black) & "Blighted" (red) map.

In the above image North St. Louis is on the right.  Delmar runs top to bottom a bit right of center.  Clearly much of the city, mostly white, was labeled obsolete & blighted.  But what did that mean?

Obsolete Areas

Present obsolete areas must be cleared and reconstructed. This is a social necessity as well as an economic essential. The City of St. Louis cannot continue to thrive and prosper where there is nothing but progressive decadence in its housing supply, any more than is could with polluted water supply or smoke laden air.

The unit area for reconstruction must be the neighborhood. It is necessary to create a new environment. This can be accomplished only by large scale operations. Obsolete neighborhoods must be rebuilt, not merely with houses of good design and construction, but with more open space, more park and playground facilities, a good school and community center.

The new Constitution of Missouri authorizes cities to clear obsolete areas and to sell or otherwise dispose of the property, as well as to replan, reconstruct, or redevelop such cleared areas. The new Constitution also authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for partial relief from taxation for not to exceed 25 years for projects designed for the reconstruction or redevelopment of obsolete areas. A newly enacted Urban Redevelopment Corporation Act now provides for substantial tax relief for reconstruction projects. It should make possible considerable large scale reconstruction.

The Legislature has not enacted legislation which will permit St. Louis to undertake public housing projects of the type heretofore financed with Federal funds. Such legislation is imperative if St.Louis is to participate, as do other American cities in any future Federal public housing programs.

Present high costs of building construction together with rent controls preclude immediate reconstruction of obsolete areas, either for public or for private housing. As construction costs become lower the city must be in a position to encourage wholesale reconstruction of these obsolete areas. This can be achieved by public acquisition of land so that it could be made available for housing and other needed purposes if private acquisition and construction fails to accomplish the needed results. The total cost of clearance would scarcely exceed public expenditure during the past 25 years for other types of public work such as streets, sewers and airports. Unlike these, however, ownership of the land would be a sound investment. The land could be leased or sold, and much if not all of the expense involved could be recovered by (1) elimination of the present $4,000,000 annual deficit, (2) a long-term increment in taxable revenues on private housing projects, and (3) participation in Federal subsidy programs.

Plate Number 15 is a suggested plan for reconstruction of two extremely obsolete neighborhoods-DeSoto and Carr Neighborhoods. This plan calls for reconstruction of these neighborhoods, except for the present Carr Square Village, into super residential blocks with a revised street system that would recognize this block type of development and discourage through traffic; Fourteenth Street, Eighteenth Street, Twentieth Street and Jefferson Avenue would be widened while Cass and Franklin Avenues would remain as they are. Further proposals call for the grouping of commercial areas into designated shopping centers; the erection of two or three story row type apartment buildings generally except for a few multi-story apartment buildings; the erection of two new schools one east of Jefferson and the other between 18th and 20th at O’Fallon; the continuance of certain unobjectionable industries, the enlargement of Carr Park adjacent to Carr School; the development of DeSoto Park for active sports, swimming and as a community center; the enlargement of Murphy Playfield adjacent to the Carr Neighborhood on the north and the provision for landscaped areas throughout the community for passive recreation.

The effectuation of this plan would result in a good standard of housing with ample open space, freedom from multiplicity of small streets, attractive environment, small concentrated shopping areas, and a large neighborhood park and community center would replace one of the worst slums in the city. This is an area occupied by low-income families, many of whom should be rehoused here.

Plate Number 16 is a plan for the reconstruction of the Soulard Neighborhood. Some of the more important features of the plan are: the extension of Gravois Avenue from Twelfth Street to the proposed Third Street Interstate Highway, providing a direct route to the central business district; the widening of 18th Street, the widening and extension of 14th Street, the widening of Park and Lafayette Avenues; underground garages in the multi-storied apartment area between 12th and 14th; a neighborhood part of 10 acres or more complete with spray pool, community facilities and game courts; the extension of Lafayette Park to serve this as well as other neighborhoods; landscaped areas throughout the community for passive recreation; enlargement of the City Hospital area; grouping of commercial areas into orderly shopping centers and the complete reconstruction of the neighborhood into super residential blocks with a new street pattern to serve these blocks and to discourage through traffic.

Such a plan would transform an obsolete area into a fine residential neighborhood with a good standard of housing, enlarged open areas, greatly improved environment, small concentrated shop centers, and much needed park and recreation space. The new interstate highway passes diagonally through this neighborhood and could be most advantageously undertaken simultaneously with the reconstruction. This is an area well suited for families of medium incomes.

The plan sought to clear and reconstruct a vast area.  It had nothing to do with race – these areas were largely white.  It had everything to do with Bartholomew’s inability to see any value in these older areas.   Blighted districts, Bartholomew thought, didn’t need clearing but he clearly wasn’t a fan:

Blighted Districts

The blighted districts should be extensively rehabilitated before they degenerate into obsolete areas. This is both a social need and an economic essential because of high rates of juvenile delinquency, crime, and disease found in areas of poor housing.

Rehabilitation of blighted districts must be undertaken on a neighborhood basis also in order to protect environment and to create improved living standards. Because of the larger areas involved, special planning and experimentation is required. Obsolete buildings should be removed, some streets should be closed, new park, playground and recreation areas created, small concentrated shop areas established, and individual buildings should be repaired and brought up to a good minimum standard. The new Constitution of Missouri specifically provides for this type of rehabilitation. There is fully as much opportunity for private enterprise in this field as in the more spectacular large scale reconstruction housing projects.

The most important single requisite for the improvement of housing in St. Louis is the enactment of a Minimum Standards Housing Ordinance. The City Plan Commission, the Building Commissioner and the Health Department with the aid and assistance of the American Public Health Association, have collaborated in the preparation of such an ordinance which provides for:

1. Elimination of overcrowding by prescribing minimum standards of space per family and per person.
2. The number, area, and openness of windows permitting entrance of fresh air and natural light.
3. Screens on doors and windows to restrict flies and mosquitoes.
4. Elimination of basement rooms as dwelling units unless they comply with the provisions set forth in the ordinance.
5. Improvement of sanitary conditions by elimination of hopper water closets and privies in sewered areas within six years of effective date of ordinance.
6. The location of water closets and the number of persons using them.
7. Keeping dwelling units in a clean, sanitary, habitable condition and free from infestation.
8. Maintenance and repair of dwellings necessary to provide tightness to the weather and reasonable possibilities of heating.
9. Installation of flues which would permit the operation of heating equipment to maintain adequate temperature in each habitable room.
10. Adequate daylight or fixtures for artificial illumination in public halls bath rooms and other habitable rooms.

Unless and until such an ordinance has been adopted and enforced, most housing areas in St. Louis will continue to deteriorate and blighted districts and obsolete areas will reach much greater proportions than at present.

The rehabilitation of blighted areas is the No Man’s Land of housing. It is more important than reconstruction of obsolete areas. It is a field that has been completely neglected partly because it is less spectacular than large scale reconstruction and partly because the opportunities for profitable investment are presumably less than in a new development. Without a definite plan for the rehabilitation of the present blighted areas new obsolete areas will develop faster than present areas can be reconstructed. Plate Number 17 illustrates the manner in which neighborhood rehabilitation should be undertaken.

So the message was clear in 1947, these areas were going to change.  The 1947 plan added to the pressure for whites to move to the suburbs. Soon race would be another.

At the time most of these areas were off limits to non-whites.  Blacks had few choices about where to live.  One choice was The Ville, located in North St. Louis:

The Ville is not St. Louis’ earliest Black community, but it is certainly the most cherished. When elder Black folks talk of their old St. Louis they remember the area bounded by Taylor Avenue, St. Louis Avenue, Sarah Street and what is today called Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Though embattled with middle-class flight to the suburbs, underemployment, and other ills, it remains a close-knit community of churches, schools, social institutions and residences. Fortunately, the Ville was never dominated by high-rise public housing.  (Source: Soul of America)

At the same time much of the city, where blacks still couldn’t live, was being set up to be cleared or rebuilt.  But soon blacks would be able to move beyond a few areas like The Ville:

In 1945, a black family by the name of Shelley purchased a house in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time of purchase, they were unaware that a restrictive covenant had been in place on the property since 1911. The restrictive covenant barred “people of the Negro or Mongolian Race” from owning the property. Neighbors sued to restrain the Shelleys from taking possession of the property they had purchased. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the covenant was enforceable against the purchasers because the covenant was a purely private agreement between the original parties thereto, which “ran with the land” and was enforceable against subsequent owners. A materially similar scenario took place in the companion case McGhee v. Sipes from Detroit, Michigan, where the McGhees purchased land subject to a similar restrictive covenant. The Supreme Court consolidated the two cases for oral arguments.  (Source: Wikipedia)

The Shelley house is in the 4600 Block of Labadie (map), just a block outside of The Ville.  In 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelley v. Kraemer, agreed that restrictive covenants are private agreements but state enforcement of them violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.   Blacks were now legally free to buy where they pleased. Easier said than done.  More on that in a bit.

By 1949 Congress passed the Housing Act of 1949 that funded large scale “Urban Renewal” schemes like those envisioned by St. Louis’ Bartholomew and New York’s Robert Moses.

Bartholomew predicted by 1970 St. Louis' population would pass one million and we'd live in newly rebuilt high density housing.

The 1950 Census was St. Louis’ peak at 856,796.  In  the next 20 years (1950-1970) the population didn’t pass the million mark as Bartholomew had predicted.  Instead it fell 25% to 622,236.  Real Estate agents in these decades engaged in blockbusting and steering.  They determined which streets, blocks and neighborhoods would quickly shift from all white to all black.  And although some whites live North of Delmar and some blacks lived South of Delmar the dividing line was established.   North St. Louis has come to be viewed by all as black.  As time marched on white flight was followed by black flight, leaving North St. Louis with fewer total residents, more and more who were poor & black.

Many public housing projects were built on the near South side & near North side.  The most well known was Pruitt-Igoe, which opened in 1955.  In 1956 the Pruitt (black) – Igoe (white) project became integrated.

Above: Pruitt-Igoe (click to view Wikipedia article)
Above: Pruitt-Igoe (click to view Wikipedia article)

Within a decade the 2,870 apartments were only 2/3rd occupied.  In March 1972 the first of the 33 buildings were imploded with all being demolished within two years.  Planned as the type of project to rebuild a former Polish slum, Pruitt-Igoe didn’t last 20 years.

The RAND Urban Policy Analysis Program released 3 reports on St. Louis in 1973 including St. Louis: A City and Its Suburbs: By: Barbara R. Williams.  The following is the official summary:

A summary statement of the research findings and policy implications of a series of studies conducted under the St. Louis project of the RAND Urban Policy Analysis Program. Three possible futures for the city are posed: continued decline; stabilization in a new role as an increasingly black suburb; and return to a former role as the center of economic activity in the metropolitan area. The analysis argues that without major policy changes beyond the local level, the city will most likely continue to decline, and suggests that, among the alternatives open to the city, promoting a new role for St. Louis as one of many large suburban centers of economic and residential life holds more promise than reviving the traditional central city functions. However, new resources, available to the city from sources outside the city, are essential to any improvement. Several mechanisms are offered for consideration: (1) a more substantial federal revenue-sharing program; (2) a state revenue-sharing program to support selected public goods; (3) a metropolitan revenue program, sharing revenue generated by industry in the metropolitan area; and (4) a metropolitan earnings tax.

In response local firm Team Four was hired to look at the problems facing the city:


This document contains the technical memorandum that was submitted to the Plan Commission by Team Four, Inc. in 1975. This memorandum proposed public policy guidelines and strategies for implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan that was prepared by others. It offered a series of considerations concerning the process of adopting, staging, budgeting and ultimately implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan. In addition, this document contains a preface dated 1976 that attempts to clean up any inconsistencies and or controversies surrounding the proposed implementation strategies and a bibliography or annotated listing of Technical Memoranda and Appendixes. Part I of this document focused on strategies for three generic area types: conservation, redevelopment, and depletion areas; and Part II of this document discussed major urban issues and their solutions. (Source: Summaries of Historical Planning Documents, City of St. Louis)

This last document will forever be known as the “Team Four” plan.  It called for a triage approach to the city.  Letting areas that are too far gone to die, focusing resources on areas that could be saved.  Increasingly this meant white areas would get help and black areas would not.  The Team Four plan was never officially adopted but many feel it became the unofficial policy of the city.  Bartholomew’s 1947 Comprehensive Plan was the last city-wide plan adopted.

The city basically stopped trying to any planning.  People continued to leave.  By 1980 the Census count452,801.  In 1990, the year I moved to St. Louis, the Census count dropped below 400K to 396,685.

In the late 1990s the city embarked on the 5th Ward Comprehensive Master Plan.

By the time the plan was adopted by the Planning Commission in March 2002 the boundaries of the 5th Ward had changed as a result of the 2000 Census (now at 348,189).  No regulatory changes were made in the planning area to ensure the plan would be followed.

In 2005 the city adopted a new Strategic Land Use Plan.  But the old zoning and land use designations remained unchanged.  New more thoughtful & appropriate ideas alluded to in this new land use plan never materialized.  We remain stuck in 1947.

Developers have been free to build just about anything anywhere they pleased.  In 2006 I reported on the project by the now-defunct Pyramid Construction, Sullivan Place (see, Pyramid’s Sullivan Place Senior Housing An Anti-Urban Monstrosity).

The decline of North St. Louis goes back farther than anyone reading this blog post.  St. Louis basically stopped trying to plan their way out of decline — perhaps the best option.  Tomorrow I’ll look at the plan by Paul McKee to reverse this long trend.


Currently there are "20 comments" on this Article:

  1. anon says:

    Long post, no comments. The challenges of north city go much deeper than urban planning and deed restrictions. The racial side to this issue is the main context of the discussion. How does urban planning deal with issues of race, especially in a racially divided city like St. Louis?

  2. Jimmy Z says:

    To summarize, one, the city ain’t planning now, and when they have in the past, they’ve managed to do more harm than good?! Two, people who can afford to move, both white and black, generally choose to move to areas they find more appealing, be they urban, suburban or rural. And three, accomodating the single-occupant vehicle (SOV) has had a (the?) major impact for the last 60-100 years, and continues to drive land-use planning and redevelopment efforts today, both here and across the country.

    What remains unspoken is that tastes change. Post WW II, suburbs were the “best” answer for many, many people, based on the challenges of living with higher densities and aging infrastructure and building stock, before, and especially during, the war – “old” simply wasn’t appreciated in the same way it is today (just ask your grandparents). Today, we’re coming full-circle, again, and starting to embrace higher densities as an antidote to long commutes and $4 gas. Both buying real estate and making urban design decisions involve multiple trade-offs – nothing is simple nor black or white, and the really hard part is that you can’t predict how all the moving parts will play out until after the fact (the clarity of 20/20 hindsight).

    Pruitt-Igoe was built with the best of intentions and using the best available information and expertise of the time. Looking back, yes, many of those assumptions and decisions were certainly “wrong”, very wrong. Which, logically, and unfortunately, calls into question the asssumptions we’re embracing today – that higher densities, alternative energy and public transit are also going to be embraced by the larger community because they’re “good” and the “right thing to do”, that a larger number of our residents will actually trade in their cars for walking and using transit, and they’ll willingly sell their vinyl-sided, single-family box for multi-family living.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ve come to learn that people, many times, make choices that have little basis in logic – smoking, unregulated assault weapons, obesity, lack of exercise, neck tattoos and buying into long commutes over already-crowded roads are all illogical, yet continue to be the choice of many, many people. Which, in a roundabout way, gets back to why I’m both intrigued and leery of what McEagle has planned. They’re making a huge bet with their own money, and they’ll only win big if they give their buyers what they “want”, either directly or through “reducation”, aka, advertising and/or a better product than is available elsewhere . . .

  3. reviewer says:

    A major part of this discussion is the race issue. Urban planning and deed restrictions notwithstanding, racial motives played a huge part in the decline of north city. How does urban planning deal with the race issue, especially in a racially divided city like St. Louis?

  4. John says:

    Great post!

    North StL is in need of a plan, but its a shame that McEagle will be so highly compensated for merely coming up with one. As I see it McEagle is going to receive an ungodly government aid windfall whether Northside succeeds or not. The north stl revitalization plan should be led by an objective govt-private coalition, not the blockbusting money-before-people McKee.

    If I could withhold my taxes that McKee will receive I would gladly do so.

  5. john says:

    To create long lasting positive change requires motivated, intelligent, passionate and energetic souls. One of the best descriptions of what Blairmont represents was written over two years ago:http://ecoabsence.blogspot.com/2007/01/blairmont-aka-sheridan-place-finally.html
    – –
    “Blairmont has crossed a line. They did not cross it tonight. They crossed it a long time ago. The whole idea of a Blairmont is crossing a line. The very idea of buying up entire neighborhoods of people who are much, much poorer and less powerful than you … and then not even admitting that you own it is crossing a line.”
    – –
    Now Blairmont wants prime MoDOT property too. This is an important key to the final plans.

  6. Jimmy Z says:

    Race combined with poverty is a true planning and political challenge. If non-African-Americans take a risk and buy into an historically-African-American (and currently “distressed”) neighborhood, and succeed at improving things, they get labelled with “gentrification”. If non-African-Americans decide not to take a risk and avoid investing in an area, they get labelled as racists. In a perfect world, every community would have the resources (financing and expertise) to do their own thing. We don’t, however, live in a perfect world, especially here, so racial undercurrents continue to color every discussion. Thus, the question now boils down to whether the community, both these two wards and the city as a whole, should leverage this white man’s money and plans, or whether the community should wait for a developer who’s more sensitive to their heritage?

  7. “Pruitt-Igoe was built with the best of intentions and using the best available information and expertise of the time.”

    That’s disputable — there were planners and architects opposed to that project in the 1950s, but their voices are marginalized or nonexistent in most historical accounts. I do agree, though, that the planners who thought that Pruii-Igoe was a hot ticket were under the influence of popular ideas, just like today’s planners.

  8. Jeff K says:

    Good article, but, as previous posts have pointed out, barely addresses the racial factor. Jimmy Z says, “Race combined with poverty is a true planning and political challenge.” Actually, race is inextricably tied to poverty as racist policy makers throughout the entire period covered in this article virtually engineered our pockets of black urban “deep poverty” — a kind of poverty that never existed in this country before and which is generally exclusive to African Americans. The best and most recent book to document this process is “Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City” by U. of Iowa’s Colin Gordon (2008). If you’ve read this, please comment on it. If you haven’t, please do. This history, often downplayed, denied or completely ignored, is vital. It imposes on us a profound burden of collective responsibility to make this our absolute priority. It must be forefront as we plan.

  9. Jeff K says:

    Paul Tough, in “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America” (2008) describes The Harlem Children’s Zone, which President Obama wants to replicate in other cities as “Promise Neighborhoods.” It is more than a mere “educational” program; rather it is a cluster of coordinated programs aimed at radically changing the culture of poverty in entire neighborhoods. And no, it’s not another example of white “cultural colonialism;” it’s conceived and executed (mostly) by African Americans, incorporating the best research on the achievement gap and putting it to work on a large scale. I’m convinced that we will not see in St. Louis anything near the same level of success as is happening in Harlem if we don’t address the same concerns and in the same audacious way — however much we may need to modify the model for our own conditions. Gordon describes the history of the problem and Tough describes the essentials for the solution that we need to have in mind as we plan and develop.

  10. Shay says:


    I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you putting all this background research together. I have been trying to articulate to my father why Paul McKee’s plan may not be a perfect solution to the problems faced by north St. Louis and this info will really help. Thanks!


  11. GMichaud says:

    Thanks for the research. A major problem is the timeline. Michael Allen posted the Tif approval timeline. (McKee is smart, approval of the TIF means approval of the redevelopment plan, without mentioning urban planning)

    So the photo of the timeline board shows one public hearing. This is how they do this stuff, they get into a big hurry all of a sudden.(after sitting several years). If he wants to get the project going quickly then it seems he should get the public involved today.

    There are simply too many serious questions to ask given the world situation. How do you build a sustainable city?
    For example I still believe mass transit planning should move to St. Louis city control. Dump Bi State, East West Gateway and Modot. The planning for transit in the city is horrible, it should be spawning areas of density, public spaces (squares) and community, instead, if you look at the fifth ward plan, other than some future metro train, transportation is almost an afterthought. They state a goal of using transportation as a resource. But there is no discussion on using transit to form neighborhoods and densities.

    If we cannot have debates like these now, then when do we have them? America and St. Louis face serious challenges. Urban planning is included in those challenges.

    This is an opportunity to have a thorough discussion about many issues in public. This isn’t about McKee, it’s what is wanted for St. Louis in the next century. It is a large enough project that it could influence much of the city in a negative as well as a positive manner.

    In any case the usual corporate/ political end run around is being set up and put into place if the timeline has any meaning.

  12. Jimmy Z says:

    Racism is a tough subject to discuss. I agree, racist policies here have contributed to a cycle of poverty, but they don’t explain why all African Americans don’t remain in abject poverty. Atlanta has a thriving black middle class. Denver’s main minority (and its poorest) is the Hispanic community; African Americans make up less than 10% of their population, and they struggle with gentrification of the historically black Five Points neighborhood. Miami has a thriving Cuban community, that came here with few resources fifty years ago. The same goes for Vietnamese and Hmong communities – they all faced racial discrimination whever they settled, following the Viet Nam war. “Blaming” racism is walking a fine line – yes it happened, but it can also be a crutch and an excuse for not doing more to change one’s own future and one’s own community. Does whitey have a head start and multiple advantages? Yes, absolutely. But we also have an expanding web of legal protections and funding alternatives that are available and meant to start to “level the playing field”. People of all colors climb the economic ladder by working hard and creating their own breaks – my grandparents and great-grandparents were all immigrants, and that’s how they and their kids did it. If you’re waiting for the government to make you better off, it’s gonna be loooooong wait . . .

  13. Jeff K says:

    Jimmy Z, please read “Mapping Decline.” All African Americans do not remain in abject poverty because not all African Americans have been subjected to our zones of urban “deep poverty.” But the vast majority of people trapped in those zones ARE African American. Those zones were engineered by white policy makers specifically to “protect” white communities from black presence and to bar opportunities of advancement that might enable blacks to impose their presence on white communities. Other immigrant groups have not had the history of 200 years of slavery, 100 hundred years of Jim Crow terrorism, and the systematic residential segregation endemic throughout the NORTHERN states that black Americans faced throughout the 20th century. Other groups, including whites, have poverty rates, but no other group is burdened with the profound quality of deep, enduring, self-reinforcing poverty that has been imposed on urban black America. To be born into such poverty is to be virtually guaranteed deficient parenting, deficient nutrition, deficient education, exposure to health risks others don’t face, early exposure to drugs, alcohol abuse and criminal influence, and minimal or NO job opportunities. It virtually guarantees the “criminalization of survival.” Those who escape are profoundly lucky and have had help and intervention not available to most. The services and programs you mention are, for many reasons, notoriously NOT available to many who need them most. Yes, some use all of this as an excuse for their own inaction and irresponsibility. But for many others, it is not an excuse, it is a reasonable explanation — an explanation involving developmental deprivation, profound and crippling depression and anxiety, and no life-skill modeling or training whatsoever. It’s an easy, but morally perverse, cop-out to say that people are trapped in poverty because they choose to be.

  14. LW says:

    Race combined with poverty is a true planning and political challenge. If non-African-Americans take a risk and buy into an historically-African-American (and currently “distressed”) neighborhood, and succeed at improving things, they get labelled with “gentrification”. If non-African-Americans decide not to take a risk and avoid investing in an area, they get labelled as racists. In a perfect world, every community would have the resources (financing and expertise) to do their own thing. We don’t, however, live in a perfect world, especially here, so racial undercurrents continue to color every discussion. Thus, the question now boils down to whether the community, both these two wards and the city as a whole, should leverage this white man’s money and plans, or whether the community should wait for a developer who’s more sensitive to their heritage?

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  19. joanne keaney says:

    Nothing, nothing will change in St. Louis without the elimination of racism and integration. The racism in St. Louis and attempts to ignore it make the concept of “Urban planning” absurd. Very good article but there is an “elephant in the room” and everybody is pretending it’s not there.

  20. Nothing, nothing will change in St. Louis without the elimination of racism and and successful integration. The racism in St. Louis and attempts to ignore it make the concept of “Urban Planning” absurd. Very good article but there is an “elephant in the room” and everybody is pretending it’s not there.


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