Rise, in partnership with Dutchtown South Community Corporation and other local stakeholders, has initiated a neighborhood planning process for the Benton Park West, Gravois Park, and Northeast Dutchtown Neighborhoods of South St. Louis City. With initial support from Lutheran Development Group and additional funding from the Incarnate Word Foundation, we look forward to an inclusive and empowering process for the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Plan. Our new Community Development Coordinator, Carrick Reddin, has been a big part of the facilitation process so we have asked him to let us know how the effort is progressing.

“We want to ensure our community’s future reflects the rich history and diversity that characterizes our neighborhoods.”
– Community Resident during Public Kick-Off for the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods Planning Process

We are excited to announce the recent launch of a community-driven planning process for the area of St. Louis City defined by Gravois on the north, Meramec on the south, Grand on the west and Jefferson on the east. For the purposes of this effort, we are calling this area the Gravois-Jefferson Historic Neighborhoods, encompassing Benton Park West, Gravois Park, and Northeast Dutchtown. Rise Community Development and Dutchtown South Community Corporation, in collaboration with local elected officials, neighborhood organizations and other community stakeholders, are facilitating the development of a shared community vision and strategy to ensure the long-term growth and vitality of the area

Over the past few months, we have been working with residents and local stakeholders to determine community assets, challenges and opportunities; focus areas for intervention and community-led development; and priorities and strategies for the Gravois-Jefferson Planning effort. At our October Kick Off Event, we have more than 90 people emphasize the following values for our process:
• The importance of bringing people of color and youth from these neighborhoods into the planning process
• The Benton Park West, Gravois Park and Dutchtown Neighborhoods have strong assets from which to build, especially its diversity and density
• While many focus areas are interrelated, people continuously expressed the need for strategies that address health and safety, youth and families, and inclusive economic development

From the information gathered during that meeting, in addition to conversations with area leaders and our Steering Committee, we hosted our first Public Working Meeting around the theme of People. At the meeting, close to 80 residents were engaged to look at economic development, racial disparity, land use issues, social services, environmental concerns, transportation (including pedestrian and bicycle networks), housing, educational opportunities, community health, parks and open spaces, and much more. In small group discussions, participants developed strategies, goals, and partners to address the needs of our neighborhoods. There is no doubt that the most effective, long-term solutions for community vitality come from those who live in the community. We saw people who had never met come together to develop a vision for their shared future, and brainstorm strategies for how to make that vision a reality. Our hope throughout this process is to facilitate a space that encourages relationship-building and collective action so that neighborhood improvements can begin before the plan is completed.

This goal of relationship-building manifests in all of our outreach. Since the beginning of the planning process, we have met three times with our Steering Committee – a fourteen-member group composed of residents working tirelessly to make our community thrive. We have also had the pleasure of meeting one-on-one and in groups with people proud to call this area home. Last week, Rise and Dutchtown South Community Corporation staff went to a meeting with 70+ Vietnamese elders to share information about our planning work and to hear about their priorities and vision with the help of an interpreter and copies of a survey translated into Vietnamese (we also have a Spanish translation). We also met with representatives from Forward through Ferguson (to seek their guidance on applying an equity lens to the planning process) and co-sponsored a convening of Black-owned Business Owners.

In the coming months, we look forward to another convening of our Steering Committee, the hosting of our second Public Working Meeting, and a series of outreach activities aimed at engaging youth and others who have yet to contribute their voice to our process. If you would like to receive updates on our progress, you can visit GravoisJeffersonPlanning.org and provide your email in the contact form.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

Carrick Reddin
Community Development Coordinator at Rise