Phase 1 of Delmar Divine nears completion in St. Louis' West End neighborhood
Plans for Maxine Clark’s Delmar Divine began in 2015. The Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and philanthropist saw a for-sale sign in front of the old St. Luke’s Hospital. The building, which spans 500,000 square feet in St. Louis’ West End neighborhood, was derelict. But despite the building’s condition, Clark saw incredible promise. She bought the building, and now the first phase of that project is nearing completion.
Clark wanted to address the “Delmar Divide,” the demarcation in St. Louis that divides north and south St. Louis and that highlights areas of stark inequality. In doing so, her goal was to create a space where nonprofits can address disparities in St. Louis and receive the resources they need to operate and foster collaboration between organizations.
“[Delmar Divine is] not just an office complex. We are a social enterprise,” explained Jorge Riopedre, executive director of Delmar Divine, on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “We are all about transforming the nonprofit sector by having more collaboration amongst the agencies.”
Shawntelle Fisher, founder and CEO of SoulFisher Ministries, was one of the first nonprofits to move in to Delmar Divine late last year. SoulFisher Ministries offers support to youth with incarcerated parents, promotes restorative justice for those currently or formerly incarcerated and offers workforce development to those reentering society. Fisher opened a satellite office at Delmar Divine to supplement the organization’s headquarters in north St. Louis County.
“I immediately thought about capacity. I’m always looking for ways to serve more people in the community, but also ensuring that as we serve more people we’re continuing to have the same impact,” Fisher said. “I like to think of [SoulFisher Ministries] as one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in St. Louis. Our staff continues to grow, and we just flat out did not have a space large enough to train all of our staff.”
Since expanding to Delmar Divine, SoulFisher has opened its services to formerly incarcerated men, something the organization was unable to do previously because of a lack of resources.
With more than 30 nonprofits that now occupy Delmar Divine, Fisher has been able to collaborate with other organizations including the Sophia Project.
“While they don’t target justice-impacted children, they do serve underserved children in the community, mainly little girls,” Fisher said of the Sophia Project. That collaboration has allowed both organizations to better serve children with academic-support programs.
Riopedre said the collaboration SoulFisher Ministries has experienced is just the beginning.
“[Delmar Divine] is just out of the chute. If we’re able to make [collaborations] like this happen now, imagine when we get our feet under us over the next several years. I really think that this has the opportunity to be a transformative project.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.