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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Neglect by Neglect



In August, the St. Louis Preservation Board voted 4-1 to uphold staff denial of a demolition permit for the Italianate house at 2619-21 Hadley Street in Old North. Haven of Grace, the non-profit owner, had previously pledged to rehabilitate the house in exchange for Board and neighborhood support for demolition of a house at 2605 Hadley. Neighbors held up their end of the bargain, but after inaction the Haven applied for a demolition permit for 2619-21 Hadley in April 2008.

After the Preservation Board's action in August, little has transpired on Hadley Street. The Haven of Grace apparently dismissed Executive Director Diane Berry, who made the public pledge for rehabilitation that garnered support for the compromise. Haven of Grace has not stabilized the building, boarded open windows or even so much as cut down a single one of the many over-six-feet-tall weeds growing around the site. By the fall, the weeds became a neighborhood eyesore.



The Preservation Board deemed the house at 2619-21 Hadley Street to be sound, despite some masonry damage, and found that its rehabilitation would not be cost-prohibitive. Obviously, the tall weeds challenge those findings by emphasizing the home's vacancy. However, the weeds are an affront to the Haven's own clients and neighborhood residents in the vicinity. At the Preservation Board meeting, Haven representatives tried to claim that the house was too unsound for a worker to travel within 20 feet. That's a false claim, and regardless does not excuse the Haven from keeping the property up to municipal codes as the future of the house is meted out. Old North residents welcome the Haven of Grace and most of us are quite stunned by its board's recent behavior regarding this house. One thing is clear: there will be no solution without dialogue.

5 comments:

Ben S. said...

They should come by our house on 19th and see what is possible with this house. We're not done yet, but a little bit of masonry reconstruction can be pretty striking. A downed wall need not be a death sentence.

brian said...

When I see buildings like this, I can't help but wonder if the city is on these people to clean things up.

I live in Tower Grove East. One major frustration I have is that to me it seems like the city picks on the people they know can afford to fix things, while allowing others to get away with murder.

As an example, I recieved a violation notice from the city this year. They requested repair of my rear retaining wall(which was hardly an issue and cannot be seen from the street), and that I paint my basement windows on the south alley side of my home. Although everything else is in very good repair, I'll admit those items did need attention and were on my list of things to do this past spring. But it doesn't help when two blocks away there is a house at Michigan and Sidney that looks very similar to the building in these pictures. It has broken windows, severe masonry issues and extremely overgrown trees and weeds on all four sides. Nothing has been done to the building in years...yet I'm getting a violations notice for peeling paint!? I don't understand. And if you question their notice or point out the flaws in other buildings that are much, much worse, they'll make your life hell. So you just have to smile and nod and call them names under your breath.

I know this is a bit off point, but I guess I'm indirectly trying to say that if the city would heavily fine and aggravate owners of these derelict properties like they do me for peeling paint, these people would most likely get tired of the aggravation of it all and sell or donate the property to someone who will care for it. Am I being unrealistic?

Anonymous said...

I think Ben's approach of hammering owners of derelict buildings with code enforcement would likely expedite the timeline for the demolition of some of these buildings.

He does raise a good point though. I often wonder the same thing. How is that crap vacant property A continues to languish an eyesore, while low income owner occupied property gets nickeled and dimed with code violation noticies.

I'd love to hear anonymously from a building division official or NSO as to why this is.

Which brings is to the question of the 4th Baptist Church...

Vanishing STL said...

Maybe Paul McKee has been appointed to their board!

brian said...

I think Anonymous missed the point.

I am not interested in the demolition of any building in Tower Grove or Old North or anywhere really, unless its too far gone to feasibly restore it. Ben seems to be for preservation as well if I'm reading into it correctly.

My point was to get the city to aggressively enforce code violations, which would indirectly force owners of these derelict properties to sell out to people who actually give a shit about historic preservation and cohesive neighborhoods.

I could go off on a million tangents here, but my biggest complaint about the city is that they pick more at the people who care for their buildings already, and nothing ever happens with the property owners that really should get nailed to the cross for incompliance. An inspector once told me that owners of derelict properties get heavily fined for code violations. I don't believe her. If people were really getting "heavily" fined, wouldn't they do something about it? I have yet to meet a person dumb enough to sit idle while their checking account is depleted thanks to city fines. Any nominally intelligent person would either fix the violations or they'd unload the property. Since they're doing neither, I have to believe they are suffering zero consequenses for their inaction.