Love Bank Park on Cherokee Street will get some TLC next spring
To some, Love Bank Park is exactly that — a place where people can bank on love.
Although the park was officially founded in 2015, when its first basketball hoop went up, the area already served as a gathering place for the neighborhood. It wasn't established with money, but with community presence.
“We have to be mindful of this idea of made versus created,” said Cherokee community member Pacia Elaine Anderson. “Did it get created when the hoop went up? Or was it made when it was activated by these young people? We have to keep their stories and their experiences at the forefront of what the purpose is. It has an intention of being a place of love.”
Kaveh Razani, who co-founded the Blank Space venue and serves as vice chair of the Community Improvement District, acknowledged that there is some ambiguity about the origins of the park. “The community activated [the park] before the CID even owned the deed to the park,” he told St. Louis on the Air on Wednesday.
Eric “Prospect” White, an outreach coordinator for the nearby Guardian Angel Settlement Association, said the redevelopment is a progression of that same love.
“It started off as us as a community — as a family,” said White, who works as a DJ. “It snowballed into Love Bank actually having power outlets now.”
The redevelopment plans include a soundstage and greenspace, with its key feature being the region’s first water-permeable basketball court. “The way that the court is designed, it slowly traps water and funnels it into the ground … instead of sewer systems, which tend to overflow and mess up our waterways,” said Razani. With this addition, the Community Improvement District qualified for a grant from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District to help finance Love Bank’s redevelopment.
“We really see this space being activated in multiple different ways,” Anderson said, “from performances, to chess tournaments, gatherings, picnics. … People want all the things. And some of the ideas were fantastical. I would like to see that also.”
Anderson has heard some people’s concerns that this redevelopment is really code for gentrification, but she said most criticism comes from people who don’t live in the area.
“My concern is that the conversation [on gentrification] doesn't get amplified until we're talking about making things safe and good for young Black kids,” she said.
“The reality of Love Bank Park is about preserving safe and accessible space for folks that are already here,” Razani said. “Love Bank Park, and its development, by definition, is anti-gentrification.”
For Razani, the park’s redevelopment is also an opportunity to inspire other projects to follow a similar model. But, he added, “it also takes people in power paying attention to the models that are used.”
“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.