If you live in or around St. Louis, chances are you have encountered one of Brooks Goedeker’s projects. Drive under one of the Grove signs that stretch across Manchester? Watch a game at the new City Armory? Enjoy a meal at the City Foundry? All of these projects resulted in part from Goedeker’s dedication to improving St. Louis. Young Urban Planners hosted Goedeker, a 1998 graduate, on Monday to teach students about these large redevelopment projects and what they mean for the city.
Goedeker grew up in the Dutchtown neighborhood in south St. Louis and rode the bus down Kingshighway to and from school every day. Since graduating from St. Louis U. High, he has received Masters degrees in social work from St. Louis University and nonprofit management from Washington University.
Still, Goedeker attributes much of his passion for urban planning to his time at SLUH. He recalls one memory from a history class where he started to think about how the city works.
“It was an election year and Harmon was running against Mayor Bosley,” said Goedeker. “Father Harrison (who taught history) was supporting Bosley and there was a student in my class who worked on Harmon’s campaign. So they would argue every day. I was a city kid, but I didn’t even ever think about how there were politics here. In my neighborhood, Dutchtown, nobody was there helping, and it was city leadership that could help do these things.”
Dutchtown was safe when Goedeker grew up there, but it has since become the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in St. Louis. In a recent clip that went viral, Mayor Tishaura Jones was giving a televised speech about curbing gun violence in Dutchtown, and gunshots could be heard in the background. The irony of the moment underscored a systemic problem in St. Louis.
Goedeker saw St. Louis declining as he grew up and decided he wanted to do something about it. He applied his education in social work to the field of urban planning and began to help rebuild and reinvent abandoned neighborhoods in St. Louis.
“None of it is rocket science,” said Goedeker. “It’s literally having somebody on the ground that different groups can turn to for help, because the city of St. Louis just doesn’t have enough resources right now to be proactive and to be the ones on the ground and helping the people through this. It’s a lot of listening.”
Beginning in 2002, Goedeker spent 15 years spearheading the redeveloping and rebranding of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Infrastructure was improved, businesses moved in, new housing was constructed, and the strip of Manchester from Vandeventer to Kingshighway became the Grove.
During the monumental project, Goedeker saw it as his priority to appease the residents of the neighborhood. Since they were the ones living there, he wanted to build a neighborhood that was right for them. As part of this, he also worked to keep affordable housing available to all in Forest Park Southeast.
“The residents are amazing because they’re there 24/7, and they’ve lived and breathed the neighborhoods. They’ve really invested everything they have in these neighborhoods,” said Goedeker.
After the Grove project concluded in 2017, Goedeker joined the newly formed St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation. In coordination with St. Louis University, the MRC aims to revitalize the central corridor of the city to promote retail development in St. Louis and improve the area around SLU’s campus.
The City Foundry, the Armory, and Topgolf are all part of redeveloping Midtown. In its first year of business, the Foundry alone welcomed 1 million customers. Like the renaming of the Grove, the new Midtown will be dubbed “Prospect Yards.”
Goedeker told the story of the projects he has worked on to instill in Jr. Bills hope for the future of St. Louis. With declining population, a small retail market, and many vacant buildings, St. Louis is still a struggling city. Goedeker predicts the city will go bankrupt in the next three to four years. Still, he sees a bright future ahead, and he believes the lessons taught at SLUH can be applied to the city.
“SLU High, being here in the city, opened my eyes to how it works. SLU High never backed away from dealing with the issues that we have in the city. That’s really helped me kind of set my course,” said Goedeker.
In his presentation on Monday, Goedeker inspired many other Jr. Bills to take their skills and drive change in the city.
“He showed me all sorts of things that can be done to strengthen the urban core and show what the city could be if we put in the effort,” said junior John Posey.
With his vision for the future of St. Louis, Goedeker encourages young people who are interested to get involved with urban planning.
“Anybody that’s interested in this field, it will relate any of their studies and any other research papers where they look at some of these greater issues and try to see both sides of things,” said Goedeker. “Also, when you have volunteer time, or are looking for summer jobs, then there’s plenty of things to do. I got involved with some urban planning because I was a camp counselor working for the YMCA. You can be on the ground and work with the communities and you can start to understand the residents in the city of St. Louis.”
Prep News – the weekly student-run newspaper of St. Louis U. High
Copyright ©2020 of St. Louis U. High's Prep News
No material may be reprinted without the permission of the editors and the moderator.