by Nancy Stiles
As part of developer Paul McKee's embattled north city regeneration plan, cornfields have popped up near St. Louis Place Park in vacant lots between St. Louis and Cass Avenues. It's not the first urban farm around town, and hopefully it won't be the last. A local group, Family Roots, is leasing 60 acres of space from McKee's company. Sounds great, right? Apparently some local busybodies are worried the corn might provide hiding places for criminals. Because if anything is linked to a rise in crime, it's totally corn.
KMOV reported that neighbors were concerned about getting mugged by ne'er-do-wells hiding in the stalks. They also reported that the cornfields would be gone in a few weeks.
That part is true -- but not because of crime. It's harvest time! North Side Regeneration's Jim Gladl tells Gut Check that the group along with Family Roots is planning a big community harvest.
"We're not removing the crops -- the crops are going to be something that we're gonna grow continuously, and we're going to add new crops," he says. "The crime in the north side is there. The corn's not going to cause more crime or give the criminals a place to hide. They've got plenty of places to hide."
Family Roots, which is run by East St. Louis native Jackie Joyner Kersee and Maurice Foxworth, is partnering with North Side Regeneration to cultivate agriculture not only for community consumption but also for research and development.
"The hope is that the residents there are excited about it and become part of it, the reaping of it and the business of it so it becomes community-driven," Gladl says. "The idea that this is going to turn into a place to create more crime is way off base."