Gate District West Neighborhood Thriving Three Years After Groundbreaking
David Young doesn’t have much of a commute these days.
Young, SLU’s director of events at the Busch Student Center, and his family made a major move this summer. Looking for a new place that hit their checklist, the Youngs relocated to the Gate District West neighborhood near the Saint Louis University campus.
“My wife and I are both SLU alums and have always lived together within the city,” Young said. “As our family grew and our need for space expanded, we started looking in areas that we felt were aligned with our values and offered walkability of neighborhood and closeness to elements of vibrancy that add the growth of the city.”
The Gate District West neighborhood is bordered by Grand Boulevard to the west, Compton Avenue to the east, Chouteau Avenue to the north and Interstate 44 to the south. The neighborhood features a mix of owner-occupied and rental housing.
The new housing — built on formerly vacant parcels that the University had owned for years — is the result of a unique collaboration between SLU and neighborhood residents.
While SLU was closely involved in the redevelopment process, the Neighborhood Association took the lead in issuing an RFP and selecting developers to acquire the properties that the University owned and build new housing on them.
SLU and the Neighborhood Association held a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2020 to kick off the development. Today, the neighborhood now has 40 single-family homes and 12 condos. Seven of the single-family homes are Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis projects.
Additionally, home improvements have been made to seven of the existing homes in the neighborhood. Proceeds from the sale of the SLU-owned parcels helped create a home improvement fund.
“It’s just been a pretty great success story for the City of St. Louis,” said Brooks Goedeker, the executive director of the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corp.
Most of SLU’s health sciences education buildings and many of its research facilities are located in Gate District West, including its medical and nursing schools, as well as its Doisy College of Health Sciences, Center for Advanced Dental Education and College for Public Health and Social Justice.
Gate District West falls within a 400-acre area where the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation – a joint effort of SLU and SSM Health – oversees all development and construction projects.
After being formed in 2017, the redevelopment corporation worked with recently retired 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis to re-establish the Gate District West Neighborhood Association. Goedeker said the Association has been the catalyst behind the project.
“This has been a completely community-driven process,” he said. “Getting the Neighborhood Association up and running has really been one of the biggest achievements that we’ve accomplished here.”
The project got off the ground in September 2020 with the groundbreaking. Vacant land and crumbling buildings have been transformed into a vibrant community.
“There are a lot of long-time residents who were born and raised there,” Goedeker said. “For them to see these beautiful new homes and renovations — they’re ecstatic about it.”
Goedeker said the change in the neighborhood is noticeable. He said one goal of the redevelopment project was to “stabilize” the neighborhood — something he said is happening.
“It’s so much more lively,” he said. “When you do neighborhood redevelopment, you need folks there to look out for each other. You need people to be on the Neighborhood Association and boards. It's hard to do that if half the neighborhood is vacant.”
So far, 36 of the new single-family homes have been sold, including the one to Young and his family. Some of his new neighbors also have SLU ties. Goedeker said several SLU employees who work on the north campus also moved to the neighborhood.
Young just moved in July, but he’s already enjoying his new neighborhood.
“We have loved the neighborhood so far,” he said. “The residents, both new and long-standing, welcomed us with open arms. The mixture of long-standing residents and new area residents provides a nice blend of what is great about the neighborhood as well as the potential of what is yet to come. I enjoy the ease of being close to the major highways. As a sports fan, the convenience of the short commutes to sports venues has been enjoyable.”