RFP for Chuck Berry Museum and Cultural District Issued by City of St. Louis

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The City of St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (SLDC) has issued an RFP for what it’s calling the “Chuck Berry Museum & Cultural District”. You can view the full RFP here as a PDF, or read the document as images below. News of the RFP was first reported by St. Louis Public Radio.

Introduction:
The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (LCRA) is issuing a public Request for Proposals (RFP) for redevelopment of the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) owned property at 3137 Whittier Street and surrounding LRA properties (the “Property”).

Significance:
There are fewer more well‐known and influential guitarists than the legendary pioneer of American rock and roll – Chuck Berry. His words, music, and lifestyle have shaped the genre as we know it today. And his name is about as “St. Louis” as toasted ravioli, ooey gooey butter cake, or provel cheese. This brief history is provided as an overview of the life of Chuck Berry and the significance of 3137 Whittier Street to the history of rock and roll.

Born in the Ville Neighborhood of the City of St. Louis on October 18, 1926, Charles Anderson Edward Berry was the son of an educated African American woman, Martha Berry, and a skilled carpenter and deacon, Henry Berry. At the time of his birth, north St. Louis was the epicenter of a prosperous and entrepreneurial black community, nestled within a deeply segregated City.

Context and Redevelopment Strategy:
In the mid‐1800’s The Ville was a semi‐rural suburb of St. Louis known as Elleardsville, which later became a part of the City of St. Louis. In the early 1900’s, The Ville became one of the few areas of St. Louis where African‐Americans could own property, and by the 1920’s and 30’s The Ville had become the cradle of culture for Black St. Louis. The Ville not only attracted major Black figures in a number of fields, but produced a disproportionate number of individuals who went on to achieve world‐wide recognition, including Tina Turner, Dick Gregory, Arthur Ashe, Annie Malone, and Josephine Baker. And while crime, deferred maintenance, population flight, and vacancy have resulted in the disinvestment visible today, the area still has many important historic and cultural assets like Sumner High School and Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

Incentive Package:
As part of the redevelopment strategy, SLDC will work with the Respondent, the Alderman, and all applicable boards and commissions to seek and negotiate the following development incentives,
which may include (but is not limited to) the following: Chapter 99 Real Estate Tax Abatement (up to 25 years), Sales Tax Rebate / Development Agreements, State and Federal Historic Tax Credits, Set the PACE St. Louis: PACE Financing, and New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC).

Full Chuck Berry Museum & Cultural District RFP (PDF) ]

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  • STLrainbow

    What an exciting opportunity! Hitsville USA/Motown Museum seems like it would be a good template to learn from. The open air Heidelberg Project also in Detroit perhaps could provide some ideas, too.

  • RJ

    I always wrestle with the issue of location when honoring famous citizens with museums constructed in their original home in a neighborhood that is now unsafe. Quite frankly the neighborhood location is authentic but will anyone go to this Museum? You can also make the argument the neighborhood today is no where near the same when Chuck Berry lived there in the 1950’s, so how authentic is it really by keeping it there? I would rather see a Chuck Berry Museum in the Loop or Grand Center where more people would go see it. You can look at the Katherine Dunham Museum which is located in a beautiful restored home in East St. Louis but very few people will go there given the dangers of the neighborhood. Scott Joplin’s was restored does anyone go there? Is it possible to relocate the original homes of several famous citizens to a designated location where more people will support it?

    • John

      Agreed. The museum is a nice, thoughtful idea, but the ROI and neighborhood don’t justify the effort in this location. Sorry to say that, but I am being realistic rather than idealistic. I know “something” has to be done to turn things around, but is this museum the catalyst for neighborhood safety and revitalization? I don’t think so, but I would love to be wrong.

    • jhoff1257

      I’d go. I’m also not the type of person that thinks simply stepping into the North Side means certain death like many others in the St. Louis area. The Ville and surrounding area needs help and it does have many issues, no argument there, but to sit back and say “it’s too dangerous, let’s not even bother” is about as dumb as an idea as you can get. You have to start somewhere, and a small little project like this might just be a good start. Certainly better to try this then “silver bullet” the neighborhood like we’ve tried and failed at in so many other similar areas.

      And for what it’s worth, people still live up there. I know the prevailing narrative in St. Louis is the North Side is empty and desolate and while that is true in some parts the Ville and Greater Ville has a population (2010) of about 8,000 people combined. There are plenty of other North Side neighborhoods that are still densely populated as well. Is it really necessary to move all of their cultural sites to the south just so suburbanites can feel safe visiting it?

  • brickhugger

    I haven’t reads the details, but on the surface of it I love this. I hope it exceeds all expectations for the neighborhood.