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The Dark Side of the Rust Belt Revival

Cities in flyover country are facing new redevelopment challenges as companies relocate from costly coastal cities. In St. Louis, downtown revitalization has also brought plans to tackle blight, and the consequences for residents could be immense.
August 21, 2019, 11am PDT | Camille Fink
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Paul Sableman

Michael R. Allen writes that the tech company Square has plans to expand its St. Louis hub, part of what the city is heralding as a successful reinvigoration of downtown.

Square founder Jack Dorsey also has plans to clear blight in the city’s neighborhoods through a private company called the St. Louis Blight Authority, says Allen:

The government is off the hook, and the city reduces its sizable number of vacant houses. But all of the demolitions that [Jack] Dorsey and [Bill] Pulte are funding are on the city’s north side, while at the same time, the city is funneling millions in tax incentives into development elsewhere. The effect of St. Louis' efforts will increase the value of central city neighborhoods while demolishing and depreciating the north side.

Allen points out that other blight-reduction projects in the past have resulted in the destruction of poorer communities of color on the north side of St. Louis, rather than improvement and stabilization. He argues that the city lacks an effective plan to ensure this latest strategy does not negatively impact the most vulnerable St. Louis residents.

"Imagine if the city had secured a fund from Dorsey and Pulte to create micro-grants for small business startups—or home repair dollars—in the same north city neighborhood. Imagine if St. Louis and Detroit counted progress in some other way than number of vacant buildings demolished and number of downtown jobs added this year," says Allen.

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Published on Monday, August 19, 2019 in CityLab
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