Photograph of the front façade of a two-story building with a line of trees and a parking lot in the foreground.
Photograph of a two-story duplex with a brick façade.
Photograph of four two-story, single-family dwellings with brick façades.
Photograph of a paved plaza with newly planted trees in front of a two-story brick commercial building, with similar buildings in the background across the street.
Photograph of a historic three-story, brick single-family house behind a small, landscaped front yard; portions of similar houses flanking the building are at the edges of the photograph.
Photograph of a security camera affixed to the corner of a commercial building.
Photograph of two historic, two-story, brick single-family houses featuring porches and landscaped yards.

 

Home >Case Studies >St. Louis Hospitals Help to Sustain the Forest Park Southeast and Central West End Neighborhoods

 

St. Louis Hospitals Help to Sustain the Forest Park Southeast and Central West End Neighborhoods

 

Washington University Medical Center, which includes Washington University School of Medicine and BJC HealthCare, has long maintained a commitment to two nearby neighborhoods west of downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The medical center created Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation (WUMCRC), which has initiated economic development, safety, and housing programs in these neighborhoods for more than 40 years. WUMCRC has also built local capacity and provided support to help the community sustain those initiatives.

WUMCRC’s Early Work

According to Brian Phillips, executive director of WUMCRC, the organization that eventually became WUMCRC began in the 1950s as a cooperative entity encompassing several institutions housed on the Washington University Medical Center campus that originally aided in campus planning and expansion. In the early 1970s, when much of the surrounding neighborhoods’ population and even some of the original cooperative institutions rapidly migrated to the suburbs, the remaining institutions changed the organization’s mission. They widened the scope of their efforts to include Central West End, the neighborhood where WUMCRC is located, and to Forest Park Southeast to the south. The institutions reorganized as WUMCRC, a chartered Urban Redevelopment Corporation, under a state tax abatement program. The new designation gave WUMCRC jurisdiction over zoning and land development, as well as the authority to offer economic development incentives within portions of Forest Park Southeast and Central West End, including approximately half of the present-day Washington University Medical Center campus.

From an Active Urban Redevelopment Corporation to a Supporting Community Partner

WUMCRC’s policy is to develop programs in response to local issues, build up local capacity to address those issues after WUMCRC’s initial intervention, and then move to a supporting role, according to Phillips. As an Urban Redevelopment Corporation with the power of eminent domain, WUMCRC played an active role in land development by purchasing properties in the redevelopment area, including homes owned by absentee landlords; offering financial incentives; and selling the properties to developers who would restore the buildings to their original condition.

WUMCRC also developed public-private partnerships to foster the revitalization and stabilization of the larger Central West End and Forest Park Southeast communities, beyond the established redevelopment boundaries. WUMCRC used the resources of the medical center to acquire land outside of the redevelopment area and sell those properties to developers dedicated to the community, says Phillips. In Forest Park Southeast, WUMCRC also funded the development of the $6 million Adams Park Community Center, which houses afterschool and summer programs for youth offered through the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club. For adults, WUMCRC supported MERS/Missouri Goodwill to provide job training. In addition, WUMCRC provided funding to help the Grove Community Improvement District complete a $3.5 million streetscape improvement project for Manchester Avenue after the city was unable to provide matching funds.

These efforts have helped stabilize the real estate markets within both neighborhoods. WUMCRC has sold all of the property it owned in Central West End and most of the property it acquired in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, according to Phillips. For WUMCRC’s remaining parcels in Forest Park Southeast, WUMCRC recently selected Rise Community Development to develop 50 affordable housing units and issued a request for proposals to develop up to 150 additional housing units with a 20 percent affordable housing set-aside.

As WUMCRC’s role as an active urban redevelopment agency winds down, the organization has focused on building community capacity to address remaining issues in the neighborhoods and supporting community institutions. According to Phillips, when the city struggled to maintain an adequate police presence in areas experiencing economic decline, vacancy, and illegal activity, WUMCRC helped the Central West End neighborhood establish six special business districts, which collect a tax on residential and commercial properties to fund efforts to improve safety and aesthetics. This arrangement funded off-duty police officers to patrol the area. WUMCRC is now providing administrative support and technical assistance to help the neighborhood develop a seventh special business district.

WUMCRC representatives also sit on the boards of several community organizations, such as Park Central Development, a local community development corporation; the Neighborhood Security Initiative (NSI); and the Grove Community Improvement District. Philips notes that the WUMCRC representatives keep abreast of the community-based organizations’ activities and bring issues back to WUMCRC when its help is needed.

Although WUMCRC has moved to a supportive role in redevelopment efforts, the agency continues to look for gaps in needed community services and initiate programs to address those needs. WUMCRC is actively assisting NSI with safety and security efforts throughout Central West End. WUMCRC recently helped NSI create a network of 90 security cameras in the neighborhood, 60 of which were funded by WUMCRC. In Forest Park Southeast, WUMCRC has funded and is implementing the Safe Block program. WUMCRC identifies blocks where service calls indicate that safety measures are needed and provides residents on these blocks with security motion lights, door guards, window locks, and steering wheel locks for cars. In 2015, the program installed security upgrades in 36 homes.

Signs of Success

Conditions in both neighborhoods indicate that WUMCRC’s efforts have been successful. Central West End and Forest Park Southeast now offer ample amenities such as public transportation access, retail and entertainment options, and employment and housing opportunities. Recently, the American Planning Association recognized Central West End as a Great American Neighborhood with active community leadership and pedestrian-scaled amenities. Forest Park Southeast’s Grove Community Improvement District has seen 270,000 square feet of development totaling $27 million over the past 10 years. Retail sales in the district have also grown by approximately $10 million between 2009 and 2015. In addition, WUMCRC’s efforts to increase safety and security are showing signs of success. Between 2008 and 2015, crime dropped by 37 percent in Forest Park Southeast, compared to a 32 percent drop in St. Louis neighborhoods overall.

Ashley Johnson, WUMCRC’s community development manager, and Phillips assert that other anchor institutions could replicate the WUMCRC model. The basis of the model is WUMCRC’s policy to develop social capital and, after an initial intervention, to support the community as it addresses its own issues. Johnson and Phillips stress that the partnerships formed with a community’s people and organizations are the most important aspects of the model; the model only works when a neighborhood has active people and organizations dedicated to its success. As Phillips says, an anchor institution must “work on the ground with the community, not for the community.”


 

Source:

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. 2016. “Washington University Medical Center.” Accessed 4 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. n.d. “Who We Are.” Accessed 4 May 2016; Joint interview with Brian Phillips, executive director, and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. 2016. “Washington University Medical Center.” Accessed 4 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. n.d. “Who We Are.” Accessed 4 May 2016; City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency. 2011. “Central West End Neighborhood Map.” Accessed 18 May 2016; City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency. 2011. “Forest Park South East Neighborhood Map.” Accessed 18 May 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016.

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Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. n.d. “Community Outreach.” Accessed 4 May 2016; Park Central Development. 2011. “Cutting The Ribbon On Manchester: Celebrating The Completion Of A $3.5 Million Streetscape Project,” press release, 20 May; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. n.d. “Manchester Streetscape Make-Over Almost Complete.” Accessed 4 May 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. 2016. “Year in Review 2015.” Accessed 3 May 2016.

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Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative. n.d. “Special Business Districts.” Accessed 18 May 2016.

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Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. 2016. “Year in Review 2015.” Accessed 3 May 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, community development manager, Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, 12 May 2016; Central West End Community Improvement District. 2014. “About The CWE.” Accessed 18 May 2016; Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association. n.d. “About FPSE.” Accessed 18 May 2016; American Planning Association. 2014. “Great Places in America: Central West End — St. Louis, Missouri.” Accessed 18 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. 2016. “Boom Town, Part I: The Incredible Grove.” Accessed 3 May 2016; Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. 2016. “Year in Review 2015.” Accessed 3 May 2016; St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 2016. “Report: CRM0013-BY Part 1 Crime Comparison Based on UCR Reporting Neighborhood — Report 2014–2015.” Accessed 14 June 2016; St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 2010. “Report: CRM0013-BY Part 1 Crime Comparison Based on UCR Reporting — Neighborhood Report 2008–2009.” Accessed 14 June 2016.

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Source:

Joint interview with Brian Phillips and Ashley Johnson, 12 May 2016.

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