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EPA in Missouri

From Triage to Recovery: Pruitt Igoe Becomes New Medical Campus in St. Louis

– EPA Region 7 Feature 

What was once a site that seemed hopeless for the North St. Louis community is well on its way to becoming a new medical school. Ponce Health Sciences University recently announced an $80 million investment to develop a new medical campus on the former Pruitt Igoe site.

image of Pruitt Igoe demolitionDemolition of Pruitt Igoe in 1976Historically, the Pruitt Igoe complex was meant to provide new, improved public housing for a community struggling with overcrowding in the 1950’s. Yet, design flaws and lack of funding for maintenance led to increased vacancy rates and crime, leaving the complex uninhabitable just 20 years later. Once demolished in 1976, the site remained vacant until the 1990s when it became a demolition landfill.

For years, the site served as a constant reminder to city residents of a failed experiment in providing safe, affordable housing to underserved citizens.

In 2015, that began to change when City Planner Eddie Roth championed the site as a targeted location for EPA’s support. The site was full of untapped potential for the community. It was the largest underdeveloped property near downtown St. Louis, close to major transportation corridors and civic assets.

image of Ponce Health Sciences UuniversityA rendering of the proposed $80 million Ponce Health Sciences University expected to break ground in 2020 at the former Pruitt Igoe siteWorking with city and state staff, EPA helped complete a risk assessment and accompanying soil management plan that were submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for review, clearing the way for non-residential redevelopment opportunities. EPA also developed a detailed topographic survey for the site. This all led to the site being purchased from the city land bank by a local developer.

Now, the new medical campus is expected to break ground in late 2020 or early 2021. Once complete, the development will help address a shortage of primary care physicians in the region, while improving the quality of health for the North St. Louis community. The new school is expected to employ 120 faculty and staff members and serve up to 1,200 medical students with recruitment beginning in 2021.