St. Louis pilot program aims to save vacant homes from demolitio - KMOV.com

St. Louis pilot program aims to save vacant homes from demolition

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A pilot program that saves vacant city-owned buildings from demolition could be expanded if voters approve Proposition NS next week. (Credit: KMOV) A pilot program that saves vacant city-owned buildings from demolition could be expanded if voters approve Proposition NS next week. (Credit: KMOV)
SOUTH ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -

A pilot program that saves vacant city-owned buildings from demolition could be expanded if voters approve Proposition NS on April 4.

Alderwoman Cara Spencer says instead of tearing down a home on California in the Gravois Park neighborhood, they put the demolition money towards fixing the roof and tuck-pointing.

“By putting in a little infrastructure we believe we have created a valuable asset,” said Spencer.

Now the house will be sold for $1,500 by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (or LRA).

Clara Jones, who lives next door, is excited.

“Anything that can bring stabilization to the neighborhood is great because no one wants to live next to a building that’s collapsing every day when they come outside,” said Jones who moved into the South City neighborhood in 2010.

The city tore down the vacant building on the other side of Jones’ home, but this time, they’re hoping someone will choose to develop the other house.

Developer Berto Garcia with Garcia Properties knows firsthand the challenges and rewards that come along with rehabbing dilapidated city buildings.

They purchased one home on Shenandoah Avenue a few years ago from the city.

“The whole backside was missing, you could see through the building from the alley,” said Garcia. “It’s hard work but it’s worth it.”

But he said because of the risk, saving vacant buildings from demolition doesn’t always make sense.

“In order for the to be redeveloped, it has to make financial sense, who’s going to buy them, how much can they be sold for, so that’s the challenge. You have to have a neighborhood that supports the sales price that supports the redevelopment, “ Garcia explained.

Alderwoman Spencer says upcoming commercial development on Chippewa is exactly why they chose the house on California for the pilot program.

“Stabilizing neighborhoods and blocks is a balancing act between demo and rehab, there are some that are just too far gone,” said Spencer.

Right now the city has $1 million to spend on the demolition of city-owned vacant buildings. Demolition costs between $10,000-$15,000.  But St. Louis’ LRA owns thousands, and that money barely scratches the surface.

Proposition NS is the same concept as Spencer’s pilot program, but would it allow the work on a much larger scale. The bond issue could raise up to $40 million over a six-year period. The money would be used to fix roofs and stabilize buildings, making them more viable for developers.

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