Quo Vadis, Domine?
I’ve just had the chance to look at the papers filed with the city of St. Louis, requesting the formation of a TIF district in support of the NorthSide redevelopment plan. As I have noted before, the plan raises a number of different concerns. Today, however, I want to focus on a list of houses of worship and/or ministries that are included on the list of properties to be “acquired” in pursuit of the NorthSide plan:
Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church, 1401 Biddle St.
Faith Hope Charity Church of God, 2722 Sheridan Ave.
Southern Union Baptist Church, 2701 Cole St.
Shining Light Pentacostal Church, 3054 Sheridan Ave.
New Union Vine Missionary Baptist Church, 3501 Evans Ave.
Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 3516 Evans Ave.
Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, 3513 Cass Ave.
St. James Spiritual Church, 2400 Elliott Ave.
Starlight Missionary Baptist Church, 2601 Montgomery St.
Star Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 3529 N. Jefferson Ave.
Please note, these are just the 13 properties listed as being actively used by churches. The TIF request includes many more properties that are listed as vacant, but are owned by religious organizations.
The concern here, of course, is that if the NorthSide developers consider these properties as necessary for the redevelopment, what happens if one (or more) of these houses of worship doesn’t want to sell its property or relocate? After all, churches are not like many businesses in the sense that they can simply find a new set of “customers.” To the contrary, many small churches — and especially those in longstanding communities like North St. Louis — continue to exist because they serve the same neighborhood families that have worshiped there for decades. If it becomes impractical for those families to continue gathering together (like, say, if their meeting place is taken away from them), the congregations will likely cease to exist. Would the redevelopers bulldoze these churches?