A year ago the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis announced its Community Empowerment Center of Ferguson.
A few months later a groundbreaking on the site of the former burned-out QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue drew a big crowd. What had become a central place for protests in the days after Michael Brown’s death in 2014 would soon be a “phoenix rising,” officials said.
Urban League president and CEO Michael McMillan said they were ready to start construction soon after, but then three new partners approached with a total of $2 million in donations.
"The magnitude of that overwhelmed the desire to have immediate construction," he said. "Now we’ll literally have the best building we could possibly have that will hopefully be able to provide service for decades."
The plans have expanded from a 4,000 square-foot one-story building to a 13,000 square-foot structure with two stories. McMillan said it’s as big as the zoning ordinances allow and gives them space to house six service organizations.
St. Louis County is offering $1 million in federal tax credits that are expected to be approved by the end of the month. County Executive Steve Stenger said the center will be important to north county.
"Ferguson and Dellwood are important communities with rich histories, and I think the center will be an important chapter in that history and really the history of the entire region," Stenger said.
The Salvation Army also is donating $1 million and will have an office in the building. TIAA Direct, a St. Louis financial services firm is giving $300,000.
The center will include the Urban League’s "Save Our Sons" workforce program, which provides job training and placement services for young African-American men.
In addition to that program and the Salvation Army, the center will have offices for Provident, Better Family Life, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the University of Missouri-Extension.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.