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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Callow Urges Urbanists to Buy Houses on Blair

Preservation Board Chairman Richard Callow made an interesting post to Urban St. Louis yesterday. The post, entitled "Why Not?", urged readers to consider purchasing one of the two LRA-owned houses on the 3900 block of Blair Avenue in Hyde Park whose demolitions were denied by the Board on Monday.

Writes Callow: "Drive by 3961, in particular. Wouldn't it be more interesting living there than in a former warehouse with something called Shoppes in the ground floor?"

While it takes more than a forum post to sell an LRA building, at least Callow is trying.

Some readers may recall that Mayor Slay seemed appreciative of two frame houses on 19th Street in Hyde Park also threatened with demolition last year. Hmmm.


Anonymous said...

The comment by the fourth poster in the thread is totally assanine.

"I wonder what condition the property was in before the city (LRA) acquired them".


The properties were abandoned by their former owners, and left for dead at the tax sale.

The city does not have $$$ to properly maintain and care for these abandoned properties.

There are higher priorities.

Here's a thought:

How about instituting an "Adopt a Vacant and Abandoned Building" program?

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

3953 Blair was actually occupied before the LRA acquired it in 2001, so it may not have been in such bad shape.

The City definitely isn't doing well with maintaining these buildings, and doesn't have the money to do so.

I think that the abandoned building adoption program would be a great idea. Unfortunately, a acquaintance of mine who's asked permission to adopt an LRA building in Hyde Park (or even just put a downspout elbow on it, to make it stop destroying itself every time it rained) was told that he can't. Maybe he didn't talk to the right person. But regardless, that'd be a great program. Perhaps dedicated adoptive care of a building could be considered in one's favor if one decides to try to buy the building that he or she has adopted.

Also, even better than getting people to adopt the buildings would be if the LRA actually honestly tried to sell them!

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute! You actually want the LRA to sell buildings they own? But if they sold these buildings, how would they justify their staffing levels? No, no, no -- that is not how things [don't] get done in St. Louis.

We have to sit on these properties and let them fall ino disrepair all the while making sure nobody actually buys one. To ensure they don't actually buy a property we send them over to talk to the alderman. If the alderman received sufficient contributions, then they will approve the sale. But, it is far easier to let the buildings fall down and then say we need more money to raze them. Then the alderman can say he/she is helping to clean up the neighborhood by clearing out "problem properties."

Anonymous said...

3953 and 3961 Blair are not listed on the LRA site. Not listed as residential, vacant lot, or mixed use in Hyde Park. Do you have to know a secret password or did someone ask them not to be listed?

Joe said...

If they're not listed, that means they are not "Class A Available". They're probably "Class C" which means the alderman requested them to be put aside -- essentially land-banked, though nobody likes to say that.

And just because a building is occupied... doesn't necessarily mean it's habitable! ;-(

Still, the majority of LRA properties were indeed already in pretty crummy condition before LRA acquired them. Sure, a few are purchased at the sheriff's sale because CDA, SLDC, or an alderman has some plans for redevelopment; and a few are donated outright; but most are properties that NOBODY wanted at the Sheriff's sale, and the owner didn't pay taxes for 3 years, nor did they pay them at the last minute before the Sheriff's sale. In short, they're pretty cruddy properties. That's even true of Gatewood Gardens Cemetery; LRA didn't go out looking to acquire a cemetery!

LRA's staff is far from huge these days. It's 8-9 people in the offices, and 8-9 people in the field crew. Not huge at all.

Laura Costello, formerly of DeSales, has been heading up LRA (SLDC Real Estate, that is) for less than a year. Perhaps changing are coming?

I detest the condition of many LRA properties in my neighborhood, and sometimes their policies don't make a whole lot of sense. But a lot of that is dictated by aldermen.

Anonymous said...

If lofts, according to Callow, are now losing thier luster, why not spend more tax dollars on neighborhood housing development?

Why does the mayor and his development folks continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars in these "ccokie cutter" lofts and condos downtown?

Neighborhoods are the cornerstone of a city. Think how these neighborhoods could benefit from all that TIF money. Better yet, it would actually be a blighted area, unlike the prime downtown real estate of proposed Ballpark Village.