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Monday, July 20, 2009

Forestry Division Hard at Work in St. Louis Place

A worker from the city Forestry Division was out today cutting weeds in front of the house locates at 2004 North Market Street in St. Louis Place. That vacant historic house and the lot to the west are owned by N & G Ventures LC, a holding company controlled by McEagle Properties.

Last summer, McEagle hired Marvin Steele to coordinate maintenance on its inventory of around 1,000 vacant properties in north St. Louis. Steele set up a new company, Urban Solutions, to handle the maintenance work, placed signs around JeffVanderLou and St. Louis Place with his company's hot-line number (946-7333) and promised to handle citizen complaints within 48 hours. After a big initial push to get work done last summer and fall, Urban Solutions seems to have withered like a weed doused with RoundUp.

McEagle and Steele's actions came after intense complaints from north side residents about McEagle's inaction on maintenance and reliance on city government services to handle citizen complaints. Also, in August 2007, the Missouri General Assembly revised the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act before passage to forbid use of the credit to cover payments to municipal government for remediation of code violations like high weeds and unboarded windows.

At a public meeting on May 21, McEagle disclosed that the company has spent $1.4 million to date on maintenance of north side holdings. At the same meeting, McEagle revealed that some sections of its proposed "NorthSide" project may not be developed until after 2016 or later, sparking renewed concerns about long-term maintenance problems.

Meanwhile, residents continue to deal with the high weeds and unboarded boards the way that they always have: by calling the Citizens' Service Bureau, which dispatches the resources of city government. City government fronts the bill, and McEagle pays the city. The city collects a mark-up fee, sure. Yet the cycle is not comforting to residents who have to wait for city codes to be broken and their blocks to look bad before they can get action. These people have every right to be skeptical that McEagle deserves a $400 million tax increment financing package with city backing as well as development rights to an area the developer can't seem to keep under control.

If the developer and City Hall want to make the deal look better to residents, making the properties look better is a great step. If Urban Solutions cannot handle the job, McEagle should hire a company that can do the job with diligence. Look at the house in the photograph above. Here's the needed work:

- cut down the trees and woody growth along the side wall
- board up the third floor (at least) and second floor windows
- install temporary plastic cutter trough and elbow on front elevation

Perhaps McEagle considers the installation of temporary guttering to be more than maintenance, but it is needed to keep the house standing. The other items are basic, and would take less than a half-day. (Really, cutting overgrowth and boarding windows are among the first skills a rehabber learns.)

Since maintenance costs incurred privately are covered by the DALATC, then there is no reason at all for McEagle not to spend the necessary money to address maintenance needs. With a project timeline extending to 2030, good maintenance will be needed for a long time -- and the sooner it starts, the better. Forestry can't do it all.


fallingdamps said...

I thought McKee's properties were better maintained than anybody's. That's what he keeps saying, anyway.

Sheila R. said...

Here Here! There is a home for sale on that block. It makes it very hard for the realtor to show the building with the overgrown weeds in the backgroud.

barbara_on_19th said...

Since state auditor Susan Montee pointed out that LRA has not been keeping records of where or for whom the money is spent to maintain buildings, I wonder if Forestry even keeps track. I know when they mow LRA lots on our street, I go out and ask them to mow McKee's. They do it, and I don't see anyone making a note of it to bill him. They don't ask for the lot number or anything. Last year we did a sunshine law request asking for how much money the city has spent on his properties and they just blew us off. First they asked for a list of parcel IDs, which we sent, then it just went nowhere. I doubt they know.

Anonymous said...

McKee: From what I've been told there are major crimes centered around my real estate holdings, mainly drug distribution. You have heard form Senator Bond on these matters?

FBI: Yes and we'll get the Violent Offenders Unit involved to make the arrests.

McKee: Good.

Michael R. Allen said...

Anonymous, that is a cryptic comment. Typically I would remove a comment suggesting impersonation, but you seem to have a legitimate point to make. Care to elaborate?

barbara_on_19th said...

I believe that Anon is suggesting that Paul McKee was the directing force behind the arrest in JVL of 14 alleged drug dealers, somewhat to the west of McKee's holdings (unless he *is* Urban Assets after all). I'm quite sure the St Louis Police Department and the FBI are not under the control of Mr McKee as a private security force for his properties. If Mr McKee did have this kind of personal power over our police, it would be against everything American democracy stands for. I think we can safely credit the police force with police work, and Mr McKee with same-old failure to mow.

Anonymous said...

Barbara, according to published maps, McKee and his shell companies have acquired much ground between Jefferson and Grand, all in the JVL area.