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Neighborhood dispute delays project aimed at helping veterans' families in St. Louis

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 1/24/2024

Jan. 24—ST. LOUIS — A dispute between a neighborhood association and a nonprofit has delayed a development that would house families of veterans hospitalized at the John Cochran VA Medical Center.

A city board tabled its decision on Tuesday to sell four properties to the Friends of Fisher House St. Louis for its $10 million veterans project because of the neighborhood association's opposition to the plan.

The board of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority also was confused as to whether the alderwoman for the neighborhood is in favor of the project.

The St. Louis Fisher House is seeking to buy the properties on Windsor Place, about a block and a half from the VA hospital, for $40,000 from the city's land bank.

But the Covenant Blu Neighborhood Association is against the project because the Fisher House intends to relocate a barricade on the street that blocks through traffic, said Jim Donahoe, president of the board for the Friends of Fisher House St. Louis.

The Fisher House is a nonprofit that provides free food and housing for families and caregivers of patients staying at veterans hospitals. The organization builds the facilities then deeds them to the Veterans Administration. The nonprofits operates 96 such homes nationwide.

The Friends of Fisher House St. Louis operates one location, at Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County. It has hosted over 13,000 veterans there and saved families $11 million, Donahoe said.

It is seeking to build a second near the John Cochran hospital on North Grand Boulevard.

But LCRA board members decided to hold their vote until the nonprofit talked more with the neighborhood association and got clarity on Alderwoman Laura Keys' position on the project. The Fisher House is expected to go before the LCRA again next month.

Keys said late Tuesday that she does support the project. Neighborhood association officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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