- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) - A $37 million plan to improve a St. Louis County street that was the site of many protests following the last year’s shooting death of Michael Brown is poised to move forward.

A three-year preliminary study into possible upgrades along West Florissant Avenue finished last summer, just two months before the avenue was thrust into the national spotlight after the officer-involved shooting of Brown on an adjacent side street, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1GhQQ4p ) reported. In November, several buildings along the street were destroyed by fires after a grand jury declined to indict a former Ferguson police officer in the fatal shooting.

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments this year allocated $2 million to proceed with a proposal that would place West Florissant Avenue among the eight area roadways funded by the Great Streets Initiative. St. Louis County supplemented the East-West allocation with its own $500,000 contribution.

County executive Steve Stenger called the progress on the plan to transform West Florissant into a vibrant, economic byway “extraordinarily important as a symbol but also as a matter of practical importance to maintain and improve one of the major thoroughfares in the county.”

Project coordinator Paul Hubbman with East-West Gateway cautioned that the modification of West Florissant is still in the early planning stage.

“This won’t get anything built, but it will cue up the process” of moving the initiative toward the final design and preliminary engineering phase, Hubbman said.

Nevertheless, planners still say that it’s now possible to envision a day when shops and merchants will conduct business along West Florissant with bricked and improved sidewalks, bicycle lanes, stylish lampposts and lush landscaping.

“The challenge now is to find funding, resources and federal money,” said Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones, recently appointed to the East-West board of directors. “For this project to work we’re going to need federal dollars.”

Jones and Ferguson mayor James Knowles see the financial commitment by the county and East-West Gateway as delivering a message to residents.

“It will hopefully instill confidence in people’s minds,” Knowles said. “The plan in place will help change economic development along that corridor.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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