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'This is the beginning': Nonprofit breaks ground on new subdivision in East St. Louis

The nonprofit, 'Lansdowne UP', says the whole goal of the new 20-home subdivision is to build an economic revival in East St. Louis.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — The construction of a subdivision in East St. Louis is the start of what city leaders are calling a "new beginning."

A faith-based nonprofit, Lansdowne UP, broke ground Monday for a 20-home subdivision called, Lansdowne Park.

The whole goal of this new subdivision is to build an economic revival in East St. Louis. 

The homes are being built in an area that is currently overgrown and rundown. 

That's why city leaders, like East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III, believe this project could be the first step in rewriting the narrative of East St. Louis. 

"We're changing the cultivation, the way people view the City of East St. Louis. We're rewriting our school, we're changing the narrative of what they say. They say, 'Nothing good can come from East St. Louis,'" he said.

Shaneal Clayborne, Economic and Community Development Director for the City of East St. Louis said she couldn't describe the feeling in just one word.

"I think excited really is an understatement at this point, because this means so much to us, about what is available and what's happening in the city," she said. 

Clayborne said the new 20-home subdivision in East St. Louis is helping the area turn a "blight into a bright."

"It just means so much to a community who has not really seen a lot of wins lately, but this really does speak to the fact that we are entering a rebirth, so to speak for the city, right?" she said.

For Clayborne, the Lansdowne Park subdivision brings hope for future developments in the place she's called home all of her life.

"This is the beginning, and we invite anybody who's thinking of it to come and grow with us, reach out to us. We'd be happy to answer any questions and just show you what's available in the great city of East St. Louis," she said.

Mark Mestemacher, Lansdowne UP President, is one of the many people responsible for that growth and it all started with a vision.

"What we are trying to do, and what we're striving to do, is to make this neighborhood into a thriving neighborhood, by transforming one property, one person at a time," he said.

Through affordable housing prices, nicely structured homes and proximity to just about everything, Mestemacher said, the goal is to provide something that is rare in the city: market-rate housing.

"We wanted to provide some of that, that actually would generate a tax base for this community to have even a better tax base, so that is the goal," he said.

Even though construction is just beginning, the dirt and wood are already making a difference in the lives of the people who call East St. Louis home.

"We're providing jobs for people in the community, to do things in the community, and to improve their life and their career," Mestemacher said.

Kevin Green, Director of Administration for Lansdowne UP said the first home will be ready in early 2023.

He said the full development is slated to be finished by the spring of 2024.

According to Green, the three-bedroom homes range from 1,600 to 1,800 sq. ft. He said the houses are priced up to the mid $300,000s and there are five exterior designs for the homes.

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