That was the question Monday night as passionate neighbors from north St. Louis County packed the room at Christian Hospital Northeast Campus for an informational open house.
Participants were invited to give ideas and input on how best to redevelop the property.
“It’s important to people because we bought into this neighborhood,” said Virginia Price-Booker. “We want to live here. It’s a nice neighborhood.”
In a video posted during the seminar, images showed just how dilapidated the once thriving 1.2 million square-foot mall has become. It’s riddled with mold, the paint is peeling, there’s asbestos, and even dead animals are seen sprawled across the floors.
“We want a place that we can be proud of in our own community,” said Price-Booker. “Because when you come off of (Highway) 367, that’s the first thing people see and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God.’”
Many people said that even though they had a certain attachment to the mall, they have been ready for a change for a long time.
“Have a mixture of houses, small shops, restaurants, maybe small parks, that’s what I would like to see,” said Willis Dillworth. “Personally, I just hate to see the blight, I just hate to see a big piece of ground like that just go to waste. We need to do something with that.”
One idea that many believe would most likely never make the cut is building another mall.
Some other people said that in their opinion, some other type of retail business could be beneficial.
“Enclosed malls don’t work very well anymore,” said Kevin Bradford. “Teenagers don’t even flock to those anymore. I think open stores are more-friendly.”
Meanwhile, a 35-year-old woman who claimed to be an “urban decay tourist” was arrested over the weekend on trespassing charges. That is just one more reason why county leaders said, it’s time to be out with the old and in with new.
“This is a passionate redevelopment for north county,” said Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development and Partnership. “And I think it’s so important that we create some jobs, putting people back to work, and bring down the unemployment in north county especially.”
Sweeney said that the plan is to turn dirt before the year 2020.
If you happened to miss Monday night’s seminar and would like to give your input, visit http://www.stlouisco.com/Jamestown and scroll down to ‘Jamestown Mall Comment Form.’