Missouri Sen. Brian Williams held a town hall meeting Saturday morning to share plans for and receive feedback on the proposed development of the North St. Louis County Business and Workforce District on South Campus at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Dozens of elected officials and residents from neighboring communities turned out to UMSL’s Ward E. Barnes Building to hear from Williams and UMSL officials about what they envision for the project, which Williams has helped champion.
“The idea for the district is an ambitious project designed to improve the quality of life and economic impact for the St. Louis region, north St. Louis County and the State of Missouri,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said as she welcomed those in attendance to the UMSL campus. “The district, as well as our plan to consolidate the university’s academic core on our North Campus, is in alignment with the campus master plan, UMSL’s map to transform our campus into the public, urban university for the future. This transformation will better serve our students and the community while confirming UMSL’s position as St. Louis’ premier public research university.”
Chris Spilling, UMSL’s vice chancellor for research and economic and community development, and Karl Guenther, assistant vice chancellor for economic and community development, gave a presentation, sharing more details and conceptual renderings of the project.
The business and workforce district would include a public plaza along Natural Bridge Road; workforce, business and research incubators; entrepreneurship facilities and business accelerators; and mixed-use commercial and residential spaces, including apartments, condominiums, restaurants, health services, a grocery store and office spaces.
“Underpinning all of this is deep commitment that this development – both in the process of getting it built, and who it serves at the end of the day – supports the local community, supports economic opportunity for Black and Brown residents and business owners,” Guenther said. “And that’s going to be a core value that we put front and center throughout the development of this project.”
Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget would direct $40 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act to UMSL to support preparation for redevelopment.
The consolidation of UMSL’s academic core onto North Campus with renovation of classroom and laboratory spaces would allow for the subsequent demolition of vacant buildings and clearing of land on South Campus. That would open up 35 acres for new development.
“We’re really excited about this,” Williams said. “I tell you, it’s such a great day in St. Louis County. It’s a great day in north St. Louis County. I’m truly grateful and proud to represent this community. I’m grateful to represent every single one of you, and I think when you leave here, you’re going to be inspired. You’re going to be reminded that the future of St. Louis County and the future of UMSL is nothing short of bright.”