What is Invest STL, and will they come in and Destigmatize the crumbling parts of the city?

Every St. Louis neighborhood is a chosen place to live, raise children, and grow old.

I have been driving around my neighborhood for months, trying to figure ou what is wrong with City Hall. St. Louis City Hall at that; where is the vision, and why did it take so long to start implementing progress?

Well not so fast, things are still not up to passage, for instance, there are crumbling buildings, paintings posted on dilapidated properties, and things are still as they are. I feel some organizations are just out to pocket their own entities.

Because North St. Louis is not as paramount as Clayton, CWE or even Cortex. In addition to building bigger and better with the right developer in tow, these places are forever thriving.

But that is a separate topic to be discussed later. Let’s talk about Invest STL, and what are they going to do for the city lately.

Shift the region’s approach to neighborhood development


We prioritize equitable community development by evolving our work in four key areas: direct investments in neighborhoods, investing in the local community and economic development system, convening thought leadership and testing innovative ideas to influence policies and decision-making, and reframing narratives to shift our collective understanding and awareness of St. Louis residents and neighborhoods.


Generate trust-based, community-driven, and place-based investments focused on nurturing neighborhood leadership, growing capacity and sustainability of neighborhood anchors, supporting resident-driven neighborhood planning, green-lighting catalytic real estate developments, and bolstering hyper local economies.


Foster the creation of sustainable systems and structures from local government through regional
intermediaries and networks.


Identify and facilitate solutions to systemic issues facing predominantly Black neighborhoods.


Replace the current prevailing narratives of predominantly Black neighborhoods with narratives that inspire pride, engagement, personal agency, collaboration, community accountability, and public will.


Invest STL facilitates investment in the power of people and their neighborhoods to develop communities of justice and opportunity in places that continue to endure the legacy of systemic anti-Black racism.

Executive Director
Who and what makes and holds community has been at the core of Dara’s personal and professional pursuits. Supporting people, especially Black and other people of color, in waking up to their own power and accountability to create communities that work for and honor their needs, desires, and brilliance is what motivates her– even in the complexity and chaos that comes with collective people endeavors. As an urban planner and architect with a focus on centering voices of communities of color in policy design, strategy development and impact measurement, Dara works to advance opportunities to build wealth and power in Black and other racially and economically marginalized communities through equitable development and investment practices.
Dara is honored to serve her incredible team and board as the first Executive Director of Invest STL since 2019. Prior to Invest STL, Dara served as St. Louis Director of Operations for national non-profit Urban Strategies; Senior Planner in the St. Louis County Executive’s Office of Strategy + Innovation; Senior Planner in St. Louis County Planning; City of St. Louis Homeless Services; the Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport, CT; and a designer in a small architecture firm.
Dara earned her graduate degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University in New York and her Bachelor of Architecture from Tuskegee University in Alabama. She is a LEED Accredited Professional for Neighborhood Development.
Dara and her two children are proud residents of Hyde Park in North St. Louis City. Her rituals and interests include reading a bazillion books, listening to a googolplex of podcasts, being a secret economist, being funny on the sly, taking forever to finish the same painting for the last four years, occasionally remembering she used to be a photographer, keeping her plants (and her kids!) healthy and growing, and rushing the net on tennis courts across St. Louis.
Phone : 314-399-8812   Ext. 103
Email : DEskridge@investstl.org
For scheduling, contact Ly Syin Lobster at llobster@investstl.


How we move is core to who we are and what we do.

  • We are motivated by the belief that every person deserves to live in a neighborhood in which they can create the life they want, and we are grounded in the conviction that anything less is unacceptable. 
  • We are committed to rigorous self-examination and transparency about our successes, failures and learning.
  • We are dedicated to untethering the past from what’s possible in the future by refusing to accept the restraints of generations of systemic anti-Black racism.
  • We act with urgency, because the unconfronted injustices of generations of anti-Black systemic racism continue to compound with time. 
  • We elevate lived experience and use evidence-based learning without being bound by it.
  • We acknowledge and address generations of harm created by systemic anti-Black racism, particularly harm created in the name of community development.
  • We measure success in multiple ways that reflect the complexity of this work. 


Blake Strode

Executive Director
Arch City Defenders

Brian Phillips

Executive Director & Assistant Vice Chancellor
Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation

Henry Webber, Board Chairperson

Principal, Urban Impact Advisors

Karishma Furtado, Secretary

Equity Scholar, Urban Institute; Director of Data and Research, Forward Through Ferguson

Karl Guenther

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Economic & Community Development

University of Missouri-Saint Louis

Loura Gilbert, Treasurer

Retired Vice President of Community Development
Commerce Bank

Nicole Hudson

Assistant Vice-Chancellor
Academy for Diversity & Inclusion, Washington University

Ryan Rippel

‎Senior Project Officer, CEO Initiatives
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Zachary Boyers

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation


On Key

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