How Mardi Gras helps the Soulard neighborhood year-round

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The Soulard neighborhood is known for its annual Mardi Gras celebration. But did you know proceeds from the event help reshape the neighborhood?

The latest grant from the Mardi Gras Foundation takes neighborhood safety to new heights. Funding public safety and community improvements projects makes the foundation unique, because it focuses on neighborhood scale projects that others might fail to see.

“What the Mardi Gras Foundation looks for with the grants that we give, is for an opportunity for our money to leverage other money,” said Mack Bradley, president of the Mardi Gras Foundation.

Proceeds from the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball were used as seed money for 16 new security cameras in the Soulard neighborhood. That $23,000, combined with money from local business owners, and the 7th Ward capital fund, will pay for the $200,000 camera project.

“So you have a neighborhood that draws a lot of visitors and is also densely populated. So we think the camera program makes a lot of sense here,” Bradley said.

Foundation grants also provided much needed improvements to Pontiac Square Park in the heart of the neighborhood.

“I lived across the street from this park for 12 years and it had a rusting chain link fence around it, which didn’t exactly fit with the historic district that Soulard is,” Bradley said.

The new fencing looks more like it belongs in the neighborhood. A foundation grant also paid for new lights. Only one of the old cobra head lights remains. Collective effort transformed this park.

“The city has done the bench and the bike racks behind me,” Bradley said. “The neighborhood association has done a lot of the greenery and planting around this area.”

The foundation’s support is visible throughout Soulard, from the Soulard School, to neighborhood markers, to a dog park.

“We did seed funding for and also expansion funding for Old Frenchtown Dog Park. So there’s a dog park in the neighborhood,” Bradley said. “We put permanent electric power in Soulard Market Park.”

It’s a gift for being good neighbors.

“Soulard, and to a lesser extent, downtown, have been gracious enough to host Mardi Gras for 38 years now,” Bradley said. “There ought to be a way for Mardi Gras to give something tangible back to them.”

The Soulard security cameras go online this fall.

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