As seen in Electrical Worker Magazine
ST. LOUIS -- It was a middle-class enclave for the city’s black residents for part of the 20th century while much of the city struggled with segregation. Important American cultural figures raised there include rock musician Chuck Berry, singer Josephine Baker and comedian and social activist Dick Gregory. Tennis star and human rights activist Arthur Ashe spent part of his teenage years there.
In the adjoining JeffVanderLou neighborhood is the Henry Miller Museum, a renovated boarding house where Miller and nine other founding delegates convened the first meeting of the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1891.
So, it’s only fitting that St. Louis Local 1 and its signatory contractors are working alongside community organizations to bring affordable housing to The Ville with construction of the St. Ferdinand II project. The 36 new and seven renovated apartments – officially called St. Ferdinand Homes II– will occupy the space where 13 dilapidated buildings once stood.
New construction in the area, which has struggled for more than 50 years, has been virtually non existent while community assets such as a local public hospital have closed.
“There hasn’t been much built over there in quite some time,” said Local 1 business agent Mike Newton, who grew up on the city’s north side. “These were the first really new construction projects in that area in a while. On the residential side, it’s pretty high profile.”
The project is a 12-building apartment complex designed to provide quality housing in an area that has been lacking it for decades. It’s being funded by the Missouri Housing Development Commission, a publicly funded state agency, along with the locally based St. Louis Equity Fund and Gateway Community Development Fund.
Local 1 members have taken a prominent role among the hundreds of tradesmen and women on site. Signatory American Electric & Data, which is owned and operated by member Tom Prade, is one of the lead contractors.
But much of the work has spread to smaller signatory contractors as well. One sub contractor working under American Electric is J West. It is owned by Sabrina Westfall, who completed a Local 1 apprenticeship and was a member until she started her company in 2009.