This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS – Wednesday was the first of many focus groups, conversations, and workshops set to be held in the West End.

Residents gathered to discuss why the West End and Visitation Park Development Plan is important and how they plan to keep the culture.  

“The best asset that we have in the west end and visitation park are our residents so having their voice shine forth is really going to be critical to the process,” Cornerstone Corporation Executive Director Monique Thomas said.  

The West End and Visitation Park community is planning a kick-off event, which had everyone at Ivory Perry Park ready to talk about what’s next for the area. 

“Reclaiming what it means to be a west end visitation park resident is so key to really defining what can happen in this community and kind of challenging the Delmar divide at that point,” Thomas said. 

The event represented months of preparation as the initiative will continue through the neighborhood’s equitable planning process under the identity weCollab.  

“I think this neighborhood is located ideally in one of the best locations in St. Louis. You could walk to Forest Park, you have The Loop, you have the Central West End, and so really this is one of the places to be. Lots of opportunities,” West End Neighbors Assoc. Board Member Walter Bonner said.  

The initiative gives residents, specifically those of color, a legitimate voice in controlling what types of housing, businesses, and entertainment comes into the area.  

The West End Plan Steering Committee, weCollab, and Cornerstone Corporation are working as a collective unit to hear which developments residents would like to see. 

“There’s so much there but people tend to cut us out of the equation of what value is because you see the abandoned buildings. You see the community coming back and saying no we have value we’re here and we’re important and we’re part of the process and we have a voice so that’s what this is about,” Thomas said. 

YARD & Co. will be the planning firm and will present multiple concepts for the development based on what they’re hearing from the community.  

Bonner said the initiative is a way for the people to protect what’s theirs and make it stronger.  

“We talk about the kids and the future. We talk about building wealth in communities and the way you build wealth is out value into the community, and I want people to realize we have that value here,” he said.

“I want it to be done from the community, not from the upper echelons of St. Louis government, but people in the community realizing the value we currently have in our community.”