By Chris Zuver, Staff Writer
Last Thursday, at the city of Dellwood’s New Life Community Church of God, people from St. Louis County gathered to give their input on a plan to revitalize parts of West Florissant Avenue. The plan is called the West Florissant Avenue Great Streets Project.
This project, sponsored by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, St. Louis County Department of Transportation, the cites of Dellwood and Ferguson, and St. Louis County, is to revitalize a 2.5 mile section of the street that runs through both Dellwood and Ferguson. The renovation would happen along West Florissant Ave, from the Norfolk Southern Railroad, north to Interstate 270.
According their website, westflorissantavenue.com, their goals include “creating an attractive sense of place that integrates the surrounding communities; enhancing mobility and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians; and catalyze economic and community development opportunities for the community and surrounding neighborhoods.”
The plans for revitalization began in November 2013. This began their first phase, known as the Master Plan, which was completed in June 2014. Coincidentally, this was right before the violent protests broke out over the controversy of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s shooting and killing of Michael Brown.
Today, the area is filled with lower-middle class homes, chain-store shopping centers, and abandoned lots.
“It’s strictly a street and pavement. There’s no greenery. The lighting is not that great,” Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in regards to the street.
Thus far, the project has received $2.5 million in funding, which is enough to design improvements from the Norfolk Southern Railroad north to Stein Avenue. This phase of the project, known as the Preliminary Design, will run until late 2017.
The phase will focus on three segments of the corridor with their own designated names.
One is the Dellwood Town Center, which is at the Chambers Road intersection. This area is an important hub for downtown Ferguson. Dellwood Crossing is an important retail area along the corridor. The project plans to improve conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles, as well as build the Bus Rapid Transit Station proposed for Chambers Road.
Another segment has been named Residential Avenue, which includes the area west of Highmont Drive to Maline Creek. This is a highly residential area, and the project plans to improve it by adding a center planted median, minimize the impact of traffic noise, as well as add trees and a multi-use pathway.
The third segment is named South Gateway, which goes from Maline Creek to the rail line south of Ferguson. This is a mostly commercial area. The plan intends to attract new retailers, to bring in more people, as well as help opportunities to build apartments and townhouses along Maline Creek.
This project is one of many in the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative. The Initiative was first proposed by Les Sterman, former executive director of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, in 2006. Since then, the council has taken part in numerous endeavors for improving streets in the bi-state area.
One such endeavor was for nearby Natural Bridge Road, of which UMSL was a partner of in the project. It was completed in the spring of 2016.
“Metropolitan Land Grant Universities, like UMSL, have a responsibility to enhance and serve the educational, health, social, cultural, and economic needs of the neighbors,” said UMSL Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Ronald Yasbin. “The Great Streets Project is an example of how we as a university can help meet our responsibilities.”
The final expected price for the West Florissant Avenue Great Streets Project is upwards of $33 million. As of right now, efforts are being made to secure more funding. If all goes well, construction could start in 2019 or 2020.