Laura M. Hughes, CEO & President

St. Louis Missouri, May 2021Fleur De Lis Development Corporation is leading an innovative reformation effort to restore the Ville neighborhood in St. Louis to the majestic grandeur and grace it held in the early 1900s.

“Fleur De Lis redevelops communities,” Laura M, Hughes, the CEO & President of Fleur De Lis Development Corporation said. “My project begins in the Ville, a historically significant predominately African American community, which is culturally enriched with opportunity for redevelopment.”

The Ville is a historic African American neighborhood in St. Louis that is bounded by St. Louis Avenue on the north, Martin Luther King drive on the south, Sarah on the east and Taylor on the West.  The neighborhood was home to many famous African American figures.

“There is a list of notables as I call them, that were important in growing that area and making it significant to African Americans because, it was the one place where we could actually own homes,” Hughes said.  “Most notably everyone recognizes Tina Turner, Arthur Ash and Grace Bumbry.”

In addition to being home to so many notable figures in St. Louis history, the Ville has been home to a number of important black institutions, including the first high school for black students west of the Mississippi (Sumner High School) and the first black teaching hospital west of the Mississippi (Homer G. Phillips Hospital).

In February, Fleur De Lis Development Corporation broke ground on a restoration project  that will include the rehabilitation of 30 historic homes and building several new homes. 

“On one block I’m aggressively working on 15 parcels,” Hughes said.  “Those 15 parcels are multifamily units resulting in 30 homes.”

Hughes emphasized that they are doing more than just building homes, they are bringing back an entire neighborhood one parcel at a time.

“The Ville was an area where you could grow up and attend your local elementary school, church, work and graduate from university all within walking distance of your home,” Hughes said about the vision driving her company’s work.

“My business grows neighborhoods,” Hughes said. “I am passionate about rehabbing and redevelopment.”

“What makes my business unique is me,” Hughes said.  “I was born and raised in the area, so I know the area and recall and lived as it was before”

“I recall walking the sidewalks and going back and forth to school, to church,” Hughes said. “I remember the crossing guards, the little neighborhood laundromats and different businesses.”

Hughes made a career change in forming Fleur De Lis Development. 

“It was an opportunity for me to not sit on the sidelines, but to be a part of redeveloping an area where truthfully there wasn’t a lot of interest,” Hughes said.  “There wasn’t interest in area because it wasn’t quote un quote valuable.”

“I create the value,” Hughes says of her company’s work.  “I make it such that I educate the world on the value of this culturally significant area not just an economic development.”

When Hughes says educating the world, she isn’t kidding.  Hughes is using an innovative investment mechanism to fund her work – bringing investment literally from other parts of the world such as west Africa to work here in St. Louis.  

“I’m headed to Dakar Senegal in June to educate potential investors about the opportunity we have for them here in St. Louis to be part of something special,” Hughes said. “It is Kevin Costner, if I build it, they will come.”

Hughes is using the Federal Government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program to provide a way to get a permanent resident card through an investment in a U.S. business, a benefit that extends to an investor’s spouse and children under 21.  

“Those investors can invest here locally and take advantage of permanent residence in the United States,” Hughes said.  “They can move here and start their own businesses in the Ville.”

By using the program, Hughes will be able to not only get funding to restore a historic neighborhood, but she will also be able to raise the population with wealthy West-African immigrants. 

Hughes is encouraging others to join Fleur De Lis by investing the Ville.

“Be a part of this.  That means become a homeowner, a tenant, a contractor that wants to help grow this area,” Hughes said.  “This isn’t my company – it is company for St. Louis.”

“(Our company) is named Fleur De Lis for a reason,” Hughes said. “It is a tree of life that creates regeneration.  I welcome anyone to be a part of this.”

Ron Watermon, SVN, reporting for Fleur De Lis Development Corporation SPECIAL NOTE:  Images used in the video are courtesy of Fleur De Lis Development, the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis American, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Paul Sableman.

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