Teddy Bears and Racial Justice: How St. Louis Became a Laboratory for Social Work

The facility is expected to house nearly 1,000 nonprofit workers, who will have access to executive training programs, meeting space and other resources. And a residential wing will house hundreds of families of different races and income levels, some paying below-market rates.

Clark and Fox, an older white Jewish couple, were driven to pursue the project in part by the unrest in Ferguson, a town outside St. Louis, in 2014 and 2015. They became convinced that Black neighborhoods need money at a scale that more often goes to megaprojects like Ballpark Village, a $260 million real estate investment area around Busch Stadium.

But for Clark, Delmar Divine has also become a passion project.

“One day, I took a friend’s advice and decided to turn right on my way home instead of left” when commuting toward her home in Clayton, an upscale suburb, she said. “It changed my life.”

A mile west down the boulevard from Delmar Divine is an area called the Loop that, at first glance, looks much like other gentrifying neighborhoods across America: record shops, hip concert venues, fancy brunch joints.

The Loop’s revival owes its character to one man: Joe Edwards, a real estate developer known for his collection of antique memorabilia and the thousands of photographs he has taken with celebrities and plastered on the walls of his jazz bar, Blueberry Hill.

His latest obsession is the Loop Trolley, a project that has become a running joke in St. Louis.

Like all of his enthusiasms, it’s powered by nostalgia for an era when downtown residents took streetcars to shop in what was a diverse, almost cosmopolitan neighborhood until roughly 1955, when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional — driving many white residents into the suburbs.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/08/us/politics/st-louis-social-work.html