At the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis, Missouri was the fourth largest city in the nation. Although a combination of suburbanization, industrial restructuring, and job loss have created a smaller St. Louis today relative to other U.S. cities, in 2008, the "Gateway to the West" marked its first net population gain during a decade since 1950. Today, the city is home to more than 310,000 residents. Demographically, St. Louis is 49 percent African American, 46 percent white, 3 percent Latino and 2 percent Asian.
In 2008, St. Louis received an Urban Renewal Award from the World Leadership Forum — a not-for-profit organization that promotes leadership internationally, especially in the areas of science, technology, education and the arts — for its progress in urban revitalization, specifically in the areas of tax credits, Brownfield redevelopment, tax exempt financing and housing credits. In addition to these revitalization efforts, the city is also home to many community wealth-building efforts that contribute to the city's revival.
The historic Old North neighborhood is one area that has received a significant amount of attention. At the forefront of the effort, the Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group has been working in the community since 1981. This community development corporation has been pivotal to the rehabilitation of multiple historic buildings, development of affordable housing, and neighborhood clean-up work. Today, the Restoration Group is working with the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance on a $35 million redevelopment effort to convert 27 vacant historic buildings into 80 mixed-income apartments and more than 34,000 square-feet of commercial and retail space.
The Restoration Group has also actively collaborated with the University of Missouri at St. Louis, leveraging its resources as an anchor institution to spur revitalization. The University's Community Partnership Project focuses on neighborhood stabilization, historic preservation, home maintenance, financial literacy, environmental health and safety, community organizing, and leadership development.
The Project's Old North Healthy Community Initiative has been instrumental in improving access to healthy food in the community, aiding the establishment of a CSA [community supported agriculture] program, urban community gardens, and the Old North Grocery Co-op. The Co-op, which just opened in 2010, is another part of the effort to eliminate the area's food desert and help revitalize the community.
Another project in the area is the Urban Food Café, a non-profit café dedicated to fostering a stronger community by serving as a community-gathering place while providing quality food. Striving to be a catalyst for economic revitalization in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, this social enterprise café will provide job-skills training with financial literacy and profits from the café will go towards funding The Urban Studio art programs.
An overview of community wealth building efforts follows: