Foundation is being laid for St. Louis 'Promise Zone' | St. Louis Public Radio

Foundation is being laid for St. Louis 'Promise Zone'

Dec 4, 2015

A formal rollout of a federal initiative that could help revitalize some of the poorest sections of north St. Louis County and city is expected next month.

The Promise Zone effort allows community stakeholders in the designated area to move to the top of the list for funding opportunities from various federal agencies, include the Department of Housing and Urban Development, USDA and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

About 150 people attended an information session on the initiative Friday at Harris-Stowe State University.

Rep. Lacy Clay
Credit St. Louis Public Radio

"This is still in the formative stages," says U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D - University City.

Clay organized Friday's meeting.

"This is a process of getting the community engaged, the stakeholders engaged so we have clear direction of where we want to go jointly as a partnership," he said.

Wellston, Ferguson and Hazelwood are some of the St. Louis County cities included in the Promise Zone.Credit Department of Housing and Urban Development / HUDEdit | Remove

HUD is one of the key federal agencies behind the effort. In an information sheet about the St. Louis region's zone, it says the unemployment rate in the St. Louis region's Promise Zone is roughly 20 percent and the poverty rate is around 35 percent.

The program has five goals that might help lower those numbers:

  • Increase Economic Activity
  • Reduce Serious and Violent Crime
  • Improve Educational Outcomes
  • Create Sustainable Mixed-Income Communities
  • Improve Health and Wellness

HUD says the St. Louis zone is the largest in the country. Others include areas of Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Camden, New Jersey.

The St. Louis area includes the proposed site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters.

How that potential development links to the Promise Zone initiative still has to play out.

"It would probably have more bearing around the surrounding area as far as future development once the footprint of the NGA is established there," Clay told reporters following Friday's session at Harris-Stowe State University.

The NGA is considering other sites, including one near Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East.

A decision is expected next year.