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City partners with MSD to destroy dilapidated homes; build parks

by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on September 17, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Abandoned buildings that have been eyesores in many St. Louis neighborhoods are finally coming down.

The city just announced a partnership with the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).  It sounds like an unlikely pairing -- MSD footing the bill for building demolitions, but it's your money being put to work:  $3 Million to tear down derelict buildings, and in their place, put mini parks.  It's an opportunity to build for the future by reducing the amount of storm water crowding an aging system.

Dunie Roberson takes pride in his North St. Louis home, but nearly everywhere he looks, he sees dilapidated buildings crumbling brick by brick.

"You've got kids around here, and we don't want them to be around here, you know being up in one of the vacant houses," Dunie Roberson says.

"The problem is the drugs in there, the rats and roaches," Flora Grimm says.
   
Grimm has watched three decades of deterioration.

"They really do need to get those buildings down across the street.  There are about eight or nine of them," Grimm says.

"He tells me not to go near them or in them so I won't get hurt," 10-year-old Mikyla Anderson says about conversations she has with her dad about the vacant houses on her street.

The city's Land Re-utilization Authority (LRA) has more than 1,500 homes in the city that are condemned and need to be torn down.

"Money is an issue," Otis Williams, Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation says.

It costs about $10,000 per house to destroy them, and that money is not in the budget this year.  But a new pilot program by MSD is allowing the city to tear down some of the most dangerous buildings dotting neighborhoods in North St. Louis.

"It helps reduce crime, helps clean up an area and makes it more livable for neighbors," Williams says.

Because in place of the rotting homes will spring up park-like areas; rain gardens and wetlands, planter boxes and structures that will help alleviate the amount of water going into the sewers.

"It will help reduce flooding in areas," Williams says.

It's a win for the city and for neighbors.

"We need it," Michael Anderson, Mikyla's dad, says.  "We've got one big park farther away, so you can't send your kids that far away.  I welcome these park areas."

Demolition is still at least a month away.  The city will begin accepting bids to tear down the old homes.  Work will continue through 2011.

Maggie is a reporter at News 4.  To contact her, email mcrane@kmov.com

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