- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A local nonprofit is working with a group of Harvard University graduate students to turn St. Louis into a national template for revitalizing streets honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Melvin White launched Beloved Streets of America to find ways to redevelop deteriorating Martin Luther King Drives across the country, beginning with St. Louis. Many roadways dedicated to the civil rights champion are run-down and in conditions that are “kind of a slap in the face” to King, White told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1NWVprN ).

On Saturday, the Harvard University School of Design grad students arrived in St. Louis to interview residents and gather input on redevelopment ideas. They will examine the issues later this week in Washington, D.C., and then present their ideas on how the St. Louis street can be improved to White at the end of a 15-week course.

Professor Daniel D’Oca is leading the group of students who are studying urban planning and architectural design. His classes typically address social issues or injustices reflected in the ways communities and cities are built.

White took the students on a walking tour of Martin Luther King Drive on Saturday, allowing them to talk to business owners and to collect their input on the issues affecting the strip of roadway and what can be done to better the surrounding community.

The group talked to Karen Bryant, who owns an alteration business and has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years. She told the students that she would like to see goods or some sort of material produced in the community, but she said she realizes “deep pockets” might be needed to convince someone to invest or open a business along Martin Luther King Drive.

“If we were making something, a lot of people wouldn’t resort” to stealing and other crimes, Bryant said.

The group gathered on Sunday at the Forsyth House on Washington University’s campus for an oral history lesson on St. Louis, focusing on topics including the city’s design, population trends and the impact of segregation. The students also hopped on a bus for a tour of St. Louis and nearby Ferguson.

White hopes the students’ project will help the street in St. Louis become “a beautiful and vibrant place.”

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


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