The nation's economic crisis brought down some mighty players during the last year. As the dominoes fell, community development professionals saw funding vanish and dreams fade. The future may be uncertain, but is it all doom and gloom? A recent conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis focused on innovation and its role in helping organizations survive, and thrive, despite the economy. This issue of Bridges is devoted to topics covered during the conference.
A few years back, Paul C. Light was not necessarily a welcome sight to community development organizations. In fact, they would hold their collective breath when they saw him coming. He says, with a grin, that he was known as “The Coroner.”
Each weekday around noon, customers come to McMurphy’s Grill in downtown St. Louis to enjoy lunch—a bowl of Irish stew, a corned beef sandwich or other flavorful dishes. Waiters and waitresses hustle to get the crowd fed and back to work in a reasonable amount of time. From all appearances, McMurphy’s is a typical cozy eatery.
For more than 30 years, the Institute for Community Economics has touted community land trusts as a way to stabilize neighborhoods and provide affordable homes to low- and moderate-income residents. The concept has taken hold in coastal states like Massachusetts and Washington, where real estate costs have been escalating for years, but it is not as well-known in the Middle West or the Mid South, where, until recently, prices have remained fairly reasonable.
In the midst of the devastation that pervades some cities, there are also signs of life, such as new stores, schools under construction and new houses that stretch down tree-lined streets. The progress is on a small scale, but there are clearly rays of hope in the city.