For married pastors Ken and Beverly Jenkins, the road to rehab winds its way through streets once blazing with rage after the police murder of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, past a thrift store and chicken restaurants. It ends with a life-size emblem of divestment from retail.
Under the gaze of a few hundred volunteers, elected officials and community members, the leadership team of the nonprofit Refuge and Restoration organized a groundbreaking Tuesday at 10148 West Florissant Avenue in Dellwood, home of the old Springwood Plaza anchored to the Schnucks.
With an estimated budget of over $ 16 million, much of which has yet to be raised, the two, who are also co-pastors of the Refuge and Restoration church, have announced the start of the transformation of the place in R&R Marketplace – described as both the largest project in the history of the nonprofit and the largest private investment in Dellwood history.
By mid-2023, more than 15 years after Schnucks packed and moved about two miles, the nearly 90,000-square-foot center is expected to be the site of more than 100 jobs. The Jenkins want to see long empty storefronts turn into a childcare center, workforce development center, innovation center, health center, bank, restaurant and more later. into a church for the 300 or so members of the Jenkins herd.
The couple’s seven-year journey to get their vision off the paper and on the ground was marked by potholes and man-made roadblocks. He traveled forward through their ability to see things that are not there.
“It’s a matter of fairness,” Ken Jenkins said in an interview with The St. Louis American. “When you look at our community, and it was [revealed] a bit during the Ferguson troubles and even more discovered during COVID, we don’t have access to a lot of basic services. For example, if you live in North County, there are very few primary care physicians. Most people in our community go to emergency care, to the emergency room, to the hospital. We’re running out of banks… so you’ve got a banking desert, and we’ve got payday loans out. [nearly] every other block. We have very little choice for grocery stores.
“So it’s really about fairness, equitable access,” he said, explaining the couple’s “God’s vision” for the project, “that we have the same opportunities here in North County. than anywhere else. “
Reggie Jones, Mayor of Dellwood since 2013, called the development a “big step [in the] the continuation of the march towards the reconstruction of the city ”, after protesters expressed their anger at Brown’s gunshot death in 2014 from storefronts along Florissant.
The nonprofit bought the center on September 27 for $ 3.5 million from RMS Properties, based in suburban Chicago. The sale came at least four years after the Jenkins offered $ 2.5 million for the largely vacant center, according to documents reviewed by The American,
The Jenkins said having to increase the supply was disappointing and somewhat surprising. A broker told The American that he has had difficulty renting the property, with its core of 46,558 square feet.
In a 2017 email, an executive at commercial real estate company Hillikercorp said that “their unofficial asking price is $ 2.5 million,” but added: “I’m very skeptical, it’s almost reasonable”.
Daniel Shoffet, a representative for RMS, said he “was not going to speak officially” to discuss the sale and hung up.
Ken Jenkins, who is president of the association, said RMS was “a bit rude actually”.
“And what we started to learn was that it wasn’t uncommon,” Jenkins added. “We’ll be frank with you, we started to see that there was a civil rights issue. Property in our community is often overpriced. Even if you got a 90% loan from the bank, you don’t. still can’t get it. So in essence our community is excluded from ownership… in the community. “
The purchase price may only be about a quarter of the total cost of the project, the Jenkins said, with the remainder of the budget being used to cover necessary upgrades to a structure they say is in short supply. adequate air conditioning and operating costs for the first year.
The first phase of the project, with an estimated budget of $ 11.2 million, includes a restaurant, nursing school and retail space as well as adequate air conditioning and operating costs for the first year. :
– Employ St. Louis: a workforce development center that is expected to train over 800 people per year in areas such as geospatial, medicine and technology, serving as a “conduit [for] underutilized labor pools; ”
– North County Innovation Center: a co-working space available for small businesses, designed to stimulate options for networking, business training, coaching and shared services;
– Banking Center: a point of sale for financial services focused on improving access to capital for home ownership and microcredit.
It will be funded in part by $ 3.2 million in state tax credits obtained through the Missouri Development Finance Board. The association is also able to receive $ 1.8 million in new market tax credits, designed to stimulate investment in troubled areas. The two are also counting on grants, bridging loans and donations from businesses and individuals to offset the nearly $ 3 million additional needed for the first phase beyond the funds already recorded.
The goal is to start working on the initial phase by the end of the year, Beverly Jenkins said.
The second phase will see the launch of what both are calling a multiplex, which is expected to include a small theater, as well as a permanent home for the church. Most of the $ 5.7 million needed for this phase has yet to materialize.
The two expect part of the funds needed to come from donations, including pledges made on Tuesday by dozens of supporters.
A glance at the nonprofit organization’s 990 forms filed with the IRS shows that an organization gets by with minimal donations.
The 2019 990, the most recent data available, shows that the nonprofit generated $ 5,000 in revenue but $ 27,000 in expenses, with half of the costs going to “professional fees” for independent contractors. Those funds went to experts brought in to help the project, the couple said.
According to an IRS file, the imbalance between revenue and costs has resulted in a 25% drop in the organization’s assets.
In 2020, the couple said the project would open this year, in the spring or summer.
The global pandemic has forced a change, said Beverly Jenkins, chief executive of the nonprofit, adding that “Our funding sources fell flat that year.”
“When we saw that we couldn’t even get a possible allocation for new markets [for 2020], we backed off and just waited, ”she said.
Tuesday marked a turning point and a chance to pick up the pace.
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For the Jenkins, the road to marriage was through Circuit City. The former Beverly Lee was chatting with a coworker who insisted she meet her brother. It was almost three decades ago, when a first date turned into an engagement in six weeks.
“He had kind eyes,” Beverly Jenkins recalls of her first impression. “We spoke on the phone a few times, and he wasn’t an operator at all. [On] our first date, we talked all night and have never separated since.
Beyond the two businesses launched by Jenkins – the non-profit organization that has helped returnees restart their lives after encounters with the justice system and the church – they also have four children.
“We worked together for most of our marriage,” added Ken Jenkins.
After the speeches and thanksgiving on Tuesday, the couple jointly held a shovel to symbolize the “physical transformation that will take place here,” Ken Jenkins said as the cars marched past Florissant.
“My wish was that this community could be transformed,” he said. “Our desire was that we could really achieve equity – equity in a way that is accessible to the community, to everyone here. I am grateful that we are doing this work together.
Karen Robinson-Jacobs is an economics reporter for The St. Louis American / Type Investigations and a member of the Report for America corps.