By Matt Sepic, KWMU
St. Louis – A 12-block area of South St. Louis will undergo a major overhaul next year. City officials signed a redevelopment agreement Wednesday for the McRee Town neighborhood.
Workers will demolish half the area, and some parts will undergo restoration. McBride & Son Homes will invest about $40 million to build market-rate housing.
The Garden District Commission is spending $4 million to relocate about 100 renters and 14 homeowners.
Mayor Francis Slay says the redevelopment will breathe new life into an old neighborhood.
"People were fleeing the city for better opportunities. What we need to do is create better opportunities here in the City of St. Louis if we want to turn this city around."
Critics say the plan eliminates much-needed affordable housing. At Wednesday's press conference, many protestors heckled the mayor.
Father Gerald Kleba is with Citizens for a Fair Plan for McRee Town. He says forcing the neighborhood's low-income residents to move will result in more homelessness.
"More poor people are going to get displaced and then we're going to knock down housing that's affordable, and so there's going to be a smaller pool of housing, but more fish in the pond looking for those homes," Kleba said.
The new neighborhood will be known as Botanical Heights.