The weekday lunch crowd at the new food hall inside Carter Commons in Pagedale is remarkable precisely because it’s so un-remarkable: workers from nearby offices swinging by on their breaks or huddled for meetings, solo individuals with earbuds plucking away at laptops, and a steady flow of take-out orders.
It’s a validation of the $6.5 million investment in the new commercial space, made possible by Beyond Housing’s extensive network of partners. And it’s proof that local residents’ calls for more dine-in eating establishments were on target back in 2019, when the Carter Commons project started to take shape.
Two restaurants—Goss’Up Pasta and Healthy Habits Smoothies—started service in the food hall in early August. They’ll be joined soon by Three Vegan Brothers, which will stock its vegan cheeses and gluten-free crackers and sweets in grab-and-go refrigerator cases.
Buildouts continue on the adjacent ground floor spaces, which will house the retail clothing store Girlfriend’s Closet and a membership-based gym, Burn 365 Fitness.
Since July, Missouri Home Health and Therapy has been operating out of its new offices on Carter Commons’ second floor. Later this fall, two more tenants will take up residence there as well: Propel Kitchen, a nonprofit community kitchen, and A Meeting Place, an event venue operated by Goss’Up Pasta.
In a reflection of local demographics—76% of the residents in the 24:1 Community where Pagedale is located are Black—six of the seven businesses are minority owned, and four are led by women.
Carter Commons is the second phase of a larger economic development initiative. Pagedale Town Center, a $55 million commercial and residential development, was completed in 2017.
“Getting to this point has been a multi-year journey, and the COVID pandemic didn’t make things any easier—so we’re extremely grateful to our partners for their commitment to this project,” Krehmeyer said.
Those partners include the Republic Services Charitable Foundation, which provided a grant of $105,000 to help the buildouts of three businesses: Three Vegan Brothers, Goss’Up Pasta, and Healthy Habits Smoothies.
“Republic Services is proud to support Beyond Housing’s Carter Commons project. Community is at the heart of what we do,” said Kevin Hinson, Republic Services general manager. “The Carter Commons project is providing amazing opportunities to small businesses and eateries in the Pagedale community.”
Another partner, U.S. Bank, invested more than $1.9 million in the project via New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) and supported Propel Kitchens with a $50,000 grant. The new nonprofit will provide workforce development in the culinary field.
“U.S. Bank is committed to advancing racial equity in the work we do and the communities we serve,” said Bill Carson, vice president with U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), the tax credit and community investment subsidiary of U.S. Bank.
“Pagedale Town Center has helped transform the community, and this latest phase continues that work,” Carson said. “It’s the ideal project for New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) investment, creating expansion opportunities for the African American-owned businesses that will call Carter Commons home. And we’re really excited about the work Propel Kitchens is doing—providing both culinary workforce development and a platform for small businesses to thrive.”
Honoring a legacy of public service
The 20,000-square-foot building at Page and Ferguson avenues is named for longtime Pagedale Mayor Mary Louise Carter, who died in 2020. She was a strong supporter of Beyond Housing’s initiatives to strengthen families and individuals, transform the physical environment, and create change at the systems level.
As a municipal leader, Carter was instrumental in many projects during her 10 years as an alderman and 28 years as mayor. Starting in 2008, the highly regarded mayor helped unify the 24 municipalities within the Normandy school district, leading to the formation of the 24:1 Collaborative.
“I am so proud of her,” said her son Danny Carter, who attended the July 31 grand opening celebration and helped Krehmeyer unveil a dedication plaque that will be mounted on the building’s exterior. “She got a lot of building projects and businesses going because she was smart about getting grants and low-cost loans. I want her legacy to live on.”
Building on a successful start
The first phase of Pagedale Town Center included a cinema, restaurant, bank, federally qualified healthcare facility, and grocery store. The choice of tenants was driven by Beyond Housing’s Ask-Align-Act model for welcoming community input—and all still operating four years after the project’s completion.
It can be a challenge to sustain successful businesses in a small St. Louis suburb where the poverty rate is nearly 40% and the median household income is just under $27,000. However, Pagedale lies within easy driving distance for thousands of higher-income households, and part of the goal of these economic development projects is to attract customers from outside the immediate area.
The six independently owned businesses in Carter Commons were all operating successfully before they signed on as tenants. For some, Pagedale is a second location—and the owners are confident that fans of their services and products will follow them from outside the 24:1 footprint.
Beyond Housing’s comprehensive model is built for complex challenges like these. Its infrastructure of staff, partners, and resources will help ensure that the transformation along Page Avenue continues.
Meet the businesses
- Burn 365 Fitness is owned by kinesiologist and former Pagedale police officer Shameka Smith. This membership-based gym—the company’s second location—offers group training and personal coaching for those looking to improve their fitness and learn healthier lifestyle habits.
- The clothing boutique Girlfriend’s Closet stocks unique, small-quantity styles. This shop is a second location for owner Brittany Wayne, following the first location at 3236 Parker Road in Florissant.
- Missouri Home Health and Therapy was founded by Dionneshae “Dionne” Forland in 2005 to provide physical, speech and occupational therapy and skilled nursing services. It also offers state-funded in-home care and consumer-directed services. The company’s office is on the second floor of Carter Commons.
- Goss’Up Pasta is a caterer and restaurant owned and operated by Qiuana “Queen” Chapple for more than 25 years. The experienced cook and entrepreneur, who grew up near the new Pagedale location, looks forward to hosting meals and building relationships in both the Carter Commons food court and “A Meeting Place,” the second-floor event space.
- Three Vegan Brothers produces artisan plant-based cheeses, gluten-free/grain-free crackers, and vegan sweet treats and desserts. The company is owned by brothers Marlon Austin, Mark Austin and Brian Austin. Their mother, Mary Austin, is the chef and creator of the plant-based products, which are available at shops throughout St. Louis.
- Healthy Habits Smoothies is dedicated to providing customers with foods and drinks that support healthier lifestyle choices. It was established in 2015 by Brittany Wayne, who also owns Girlfriend’s Closet, and has built an enthusiastic, loyal following at its original location in Florissant. The Pagedale shop will offer a similar menu of smoothies, protein shakes, smoothie bowls, salads and breakfasts.
- Propel Kitchens is a new nonprofit training, education, and social enterprise developer focused on creating health and wealth with food. Its multidimensional focus includes attacking food access and chronic disease disparities, training and equipping Black and Brown people with culinary and business skills, and supporting the growth and sustainability of Black and Brown entrepreneurs, producers, and growers. Carter Commons is the home of its community kitchen. Learn more at http://propelkitchens.org.