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A Possible Strategy for the North Grand Corridor

May 29, 2014 Economy, Featured, North City, Planning & Design 6 Comments
Upon going north to Delmar you can quickly tell you're suddenly in a different place.
Upon going north to Delmar you can quickly tell you’re suddenly in a different place.

This is the fourth post on the North Grand corridor, prompted by the announcement Schnucks would close a store. Here are the first three posts:

  1. Some Possible Reasons Why the North Grand Schnucks Didn’t Make a Profit
  2. Rethinking the North Grand Corridor for Jobs, Economic Opportunity
  3. Institutions & Businesses That Might Help Plan Rejuvenation of North Grand Blvd

The store is now closed. I’ve been reviewing materials on revitalizing low-income areas and one theme is repeated: JOBS! Critics would correctly point out it would take a lot to convince an employer to move their business to a depressed low-income area, that’s why the business and jobs must be created from within.

Anchor institutions—hospitals, colleges, and other institutions deeply rooted in their communities—are a form of commons that is viewed as crucial to revitalizing low-income neighborhoods. Besides being major employers and big customers for local businesses, they have an intrinsic stake in making sure their neighborhoods thrive. Your local hospital, for instance, is not going to pack up its beds and move to Mexico. 


An initiative in Cleveland aims to help local residents become owners of new businesses that serve a cluster of hospitals, universities and cultural institutions on the city’s struggling East Side, including the famed Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University. The Cleveland Foundation teamed up with Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland to launch the Evergreen Cooperatives: 1) Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, an environmentally conscious employee-owned firm with a contract to clean linens and scrubs for local hospitals; 2) Green City Grower Cooperatives, an employee-owned 3.25 acre greenhouse that produces greens year-round for hospitals and the university; and 3) Evergreen Energy Solutions, where worker-owners install photovoltaic panels and make weatherization improvements for anchor institutions and local residents. (source)

Let’s take a closer look at the Cleveland Example, Evergreen Cooperatives:

The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, Ohio are pioneering innovative models of job creation, wealth building, and sustainability. Evergreen’s employee-owned, for-profit companies are based locally and hire locally. They create meaningful green jobs and keep precious financial resources within the Greater University Circle neighborhoods. Worker-owners at Evergreen earn a living wage and build equity in the firms as owners of the business.

From their Vision & Goals page:

The strategic pillars on which the Initiative is built are: (1) leveraging a portion of the multi-billion dollar annual business expenditures of anchor institutions into the surrounding neighborhoods; (2) establishing a robust network of Evergreen Cooperative enterprises based on community wealth building and ownership models designed to service these institutional needs; (3) building on the growing momentum to create environmentally sustainable energy and green collar jobs (and, concurrently, support area anchor institutions in achieving their own environmental goals to shrink their carbon footprints); (4) linking the entire effort to expanding sectors of the economy (e.g., health care, our aging population, local food, and sustainable energy), many of which are recipients of large-scale public investment; and (5) developing the financing and management capacities that can take this effort to scale (that is, to move beyond a few boutique projects or models to have significant municipal impact).

In the 2nd post, above, I listed the major institutions in the area. Between them they hire out for many goods & services. It’ll take a lot of effort to do what Cleveland has done, but I don’t think we have a choice in the matter.  There’s no guarantee this will work, it certainly isn’t a magic bullet to solve all the ills. If you’ve got another idea I’d love to hear it.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Another idea? Let’s take a step back and identify why this has become “a depressed, low-income area” in the first place. 100 years ago, 75 years ago, this was a solid neighborhood – what changed? Blaming freeways, SOV’S, the demise of streetcars, suburban sprawl and white flight are all hollow arguments – places like the CWE, St. Louis Hills, Maplewood, Clayton and Belleville, Illinois all have a similar timelines, yet have different histories and much better outcomes. Is it political leadership, at the local/ward level? Is it outright racism? Is it as simple as poverty? Concentrated crime? A shift in jobs, especially industrial ones, out of the neighborhood? A resistance to any change? Why has Soulard come back, while this area continues its decline? Is it as simple as Budweiser staying and Carter Carburetor leaving? And if it is that simple, how do we change that dynamic? What do we build at, say, Grand and Natural Bridge, that will create hundreds of new, “good-paying” jobs, and how do we justify the likely massive public subsidies to make it reality? The new Tesla battery plant? Too late. A new casino? Didn’t help Atlantic City. A new stadium for the Rams? Not enough game days for very many “good” jobs. The new Schlafly production facility? Now, that might work.

    The most likely reason GM moved their plant from north city to Wentzville was a need for hundreds of contiguous acres that they were not able to assemble in the city. We have that ability now – are we willing to follow McKee’s lead and assemble dozens of blocks into larger, marketable parcels? Or, are we going to focus our efforts on maintaining the existing, “fine grain” urban infrastructure? Focusing on multiple “micro” projects? If it happens organically, with multiple private investments, that’s great. But once the government starts getting involved at the micro level, it’s a slippery slope – we can’t “lose money on every deal” and expect to “make it up on volume”. It’s also not very fair to existing businesses to tax them and to then turn around and subsidize new competitors. Government can (and should) do more on crime, and government can reduce taxes for ALL businesses. Government, however, should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,

    • Solutions to the current problems facing this area must be implemented with an understanding of previous problems & solutions (failed & successful).

      Who said anything about government? The Cleveland example uses a non-profit foundation to lead the efforts.

      • JZ71 says:

        Then maybe SLU needs to take the lead here, and follow Wash U’s lead and expand north instead of south . . . .

  2. Greg says:

    I worked in Cleveland for about 15 months in 1997-98 and had a corporate apartment on the eastern edge of downtown. Starting just to the east of where I lived were the beginnings of the impoverished areas in east Cleveland.
    The major difference between the east side of Cleveland and the north Grand corridor is that the two main institutions that developed the Evergreen cooperative are located smack-dab in the middle of the impoverished areas. They were there before the areas went bad and remain there today. Imagine if SLU or Wash U had their campus centered around Natural Bridge and North Grand while BJC centered around St. Louis Avenue and North Grand.
    Unfortunately ALL of the “institutions” you list don’t have anywhere near the clout, buying power or demand that CWRU or the Cleveland Clinic do individually.

    The Evergreen Cooperative is a great idea.. and it would be great to do the same thing in St. Louis, but you don’t have the same starting situation Cleveland was fortunate to have.

    • Agreed, the institutions in the area aren’t ideal. Maybe this route would’t work, but I still think it is worth exploring. Maybe in partnership with some additional institutions outside the area?

  3. guest says:

    The strategy is good, but maybe not for this area.

    The scenario you describe is largely how Skinker DeBaliviere and Forest Park Southeast/The Grove have grown. Skinker DeBaliviere benefits from its proximity to Washington University and Forest Park Southeast/The Grove from its proximity to BJC/Wash U Med Center. Those anchors have supported the adjoining neighborhoods.

    The thing STL *doesn’t* have is a major local foundation tasked with community revitalization. Foundations here focus on the arts, kids, parks, and technology/innovation. “Neighborhoods” are not on the major local philanthropic radar.

    Hopefully that changes with a growing awareness that millennials choose their communities looking for amenity rich, urban settings. That spells good things for some parts of St. Louis, less so for others.


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