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Midtown St. Joseph Looking for Revival

Organizers are working to boost community spirit and find grant money into repair the Bartlett Center and neighborhood.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  Some neighbors in St. Joseph's Midtown are tired about the status quo.

"One of the biggest problems has always been apathy," said Steve Holdenried, a community volunteer who works in the neighborhood.

There is the string of rundown houses and a community center that needs repairs. People are finally ready to do some work.

"Until the people themselves roll up their sleeves and do the work themselves and represent and say what they want and do the work, nothing is really going to happen," Holdenried said.

The plan for a Midtown revival will start with the Bartlett Center.

"At one time it used to be a premier stage for the lighting and the curtains," said Holdenried. "It's always been a part of this community and it has always hosted cultural, social affairs."

From the Bartlett Center, there are plans to move outward.

"We've got some other people in Midtown that are saying we've got so many boarded up homes," said Joyce Starr, a city council member who represents the neighborhood. "We have so many dilapidated parts in the neighborhood. Let's fix them up."

Legal Aid of Western Missouri has secured $20,000 in grant money that will help in the rehabilitation of three neighborhood houses.

"If one house or two houses or three houses are built together and they look fantastic or are rehabilitated, then it will radiate outward," said Alicia Johnson, managing attorney for the agency.

Some might ask why Midtown is important.

"Midtown is a gateweay into coming into downtown, coming out of town and going to the other side of town. It's the middle of the city that they need to focus on," Ramadhan Washington said.

While there's been an ebb and flow to Midtown efforts over the years, organizers are optimistic this time around.

"There is a focus again to revive the revitalization spirit," Washington said.

"If we work at it together then we can succeed, said Starr. "We can make all this happen and see little sparks flying so we can make a fire happen, I like seeing that."

Midtown's Juneteenth committee is coordinating the efforts. They're looking now to mobilize the neighborhood to get involved. A meeting is planned for the Bartlett Center next Sunday, June 19 at 4 p.m.

Plans are to revolve some of the renovation of the neighborhood around the 20th anniversary of St. Joseph's Juneteenth celebration this summer.
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