New hope in St. Louis' 'most dangerous' neighborhood

It was once called the "most dangerous neighborhood" in St. Louis but now the sound of gunshots has been replaced by the sound of new construction.

There's a new beginning in one of St. Louis' old neighborhoods.

"I think this project is a way to bring the neighborhood back," said Fred Kimbrough of a non-profit called Lutheran Housing Support.

More than a dozen new homes have been built or are being built in an area north of downtown called College Hill.

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"The house that I live in now that we built and moved into in 1969 was my dad's dream," explained Teri Rose, a fifth-generation resident. "At the time that they built it, there were six of us. Four girls and my dad and my mom."

Back then, it was the kind of neighborhood you might see on the TV show "Leave it to Beaver."

"You knew who your neighbors were and if you were baking something and you needed a cup of sugar you could call somebody run over and grab a cup of sugar," Rose said.

But as the years passed, it became a neighborhood you were more likely to see on "Law and Order."

"The neighborhood was in disrepair," explained Anna Paul.

At one point, College Hill was called the most dangerous place in the city. In 2015 it was declared a crime "hot spot" by St. Louis police who saturated the area with 80 extra officers.

Abandoned homes and long-boarded-up businesses still dot the landscape.

"The whole entire fabric of the neighborhood just dissolved," Rose said.

Many said, 'I'm a leaver not a fighter,' but others decided to stay.

"This whole project is resident-driven,100 percent. It's not our vision. It's what they want for their community," explained Paul, the project director for Lutheran Housing Support.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church has been part of College Hill since the 1800's and that connection led residents to Lutheran Housing Support, a program through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod(LCMS).

"Lutheran Housing Support is all about taking the work of the church and putting it into the communities where we are already located," explained John Albers, the director of development.

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The goal of LCMS is to work the residents of all races and religions to get grants, work with banks, develop relationships with charities and first responders and ultimately stabilize and redevelop the neighborhood.

It's not a giveaway, it's an investment.

"The houses that we first built over on College and Conde street appraised for about $85,000 to $90,000. These homes are appraising for $115,000," said Albers.

Of course, there are many other St. Louis neighborhoods in need of this kind of help.

"But I think if we can use this as a template for other organizations to follow, I think they can have the same type of success that we're starting to see here," Kimbrough said.

With houses still going up and crime going down, 45 percent in the last few years, echoes of College Hill's past are becoming present.

"Anytime you have a dream and that dream gets fulfilled, that's just an indescribable feeling," Rose said.

Residents locking arms with just the right partner has College Hill turning setback into a comeback.