Every once in awhile I need to drive through north St. Louis. Around St. Louis the north side is referred by some as “The Ghetto.” But it didn’t start out that way. Some of the oldest and most beautiful mansions in the city are located on the north side of town.
One theory as to why the north side of St. Louis is poorer that the rest of the city goes like this: At the end of the 1800’s there was a lake that ran along what is now Chouteau Avenue that cut the city in half.
Everything north of the lake was north St. Louis and everything south was south St. Louis. At the turn of the century they were pretty much the same.
Since this was in the days before plumbing, people started throwing their waste into the lake. Pretty soon it became very polluted. In the summer the wind blew up from the south and the north side of the city started to stink.
The rich folks that lived up there didn’t like the smell very much and they moved down south. This left that part of the city to the poor.
Recently, there have been efforts to improve that part of St. Louis. If you drive up there now a lot of the drug houses are gone and new housing is being constructed. Neighbors are getting together and opening new businesses and planting community gardens. But there is still a long way to go.
According to the St. Louis Front Page the city is slowly redoing some of the old neighborhoods on the north side. ” Ground breaking ceremonies were held today for a residential redevelopment project in north St. Louis City that symbolizes positive changes for a neighborhood’s economy and its residents.
Arlington Heights is just one of many neighborhoods that need revitalizing. It is bounded by Dr. Martin Luther King and Burd Avenues. Like many projects in poor neighborhoods started by churches, this particular one was spearheaded by the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.
There is currently an unemployment rate of 40% in some parts of the construction industry in St. Louis, so any kind of rebuilding project like this represents real jobs. And equally important, a large portion of these jobs will go to minority contractors. It’s also good for local businesses because the contractors will be purchasing a lot of construction materials locally as well.
Recently, one investor proposed a rather shady multi-billion dollar project for the entire north side of the city, but that fell through. Now it looks like we will have to do it one neighborhood at a time.