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St. Louis Community Development Leaders Argue Residents Need More Say After Decades Of Exclusion

A few blocks south of Hyde Park in north St. Louis near Highway 70, contractors are gutting a row of old apartment buildings that have been vacant and boarded up for years.

These former nuisance properties are on their way to becoming charming two-family townhomes. Michael Woods, the co-founder of the nonprofit Dream Builder 4 Equity, hopes they will help draw people back to this part of town. It’s one of many northside neighborhoods that have been severely neglected by developers for decades.

A lifelong resident of Hyde Park, Woods is pioneering a new neighborhood-based strategy for community development, something he wants to see replicated across the city.

“We have an opportunity as an organization to create that perfect model,” he said. “We’re able to say, ‘This is what it looks like when you engage the right people, when you engage the community. This is what it looks like when you have people who are from the community participating and uplifting the community.’”

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