At the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Hamilton Avenue, there are vacant lots, several abandoned businesses and the construction site of the St. Louis nonprofit, Beloved Streets of America.
The organization invited Gov. Mike Parson out on Thursday to examine the desolate areas surrounding the 5900 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Parson walked down the block on Hamilton Avenue with the organization’s CEO, Melvin White.
White explained to Parson, on his first trip to the neighborhood, how the Wells-Goodfellow community was once a thriving area for families.
While surveying the area along with White, Parson asked, “If someone wants to go to the grocery store, where do they go?” White quickly responded, “They don’t have one.”
Since Parson noticed the area is a food desert, he suggested to White that the land could be used for agriculture.
“I’m a farmer by trade, so you want something on that land,” Parson said.
The mission for Beloved Streets of America is to revitalize desolate communities around streets named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by developing innovative education and job centers and providing housing.
“My priority is adequate housing, because it creates more jobs,” White said. “You have to stabilize the housing aspect of it in order to make Martin Luther King a thriving corridor.”
After the walk, White invited Parson to meet with members of Global 1000 Urban Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship along with state Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis, and state Rep. Ashley Manlove, D-Kansas City, at the Victor Roberts Building, which houses the center.
Parson discussed with the group ideas for how to draw businesses to rebuild the urban area, ways to bring education systems to the community and workforce resources.
Although there were a number of solutions proposed, Parson said he wants to prioritize what the community needs first.
Low-income housing and jobs were two needs the collaborative advised Parson of during the meeting.
“So, if we are going to add that (low-income housing) to these neighborhoods, how do you have a piece of that, that's part of getting them the tools they need to train, to figure out how to get them skilled up for the workforce?” he said.
Parson said he plans to give a hard look at the suggestions that White and the group shared, and said he is willing to find ways to redevelop the land and build the community’s economy back up.
Andrea Y. Henderson is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland, Oregon. Follow Andrea at @drebjournalist.
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