Homeless encampment threatens safety, growth along Laclede’s Landing, developers say

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Smashed windows and dumpsters lit on fire, are just some of the ongoing issues taking place along the riverfront at Laclede’s Landing.

“I have witnessed [drug] deals go down, I have witnessed nudity, we have seen people defecating on our properties. Tts just a constant struggle,” said Gretchen Minges. “We’re getting exhausted to be honest.”

Minges and her husband, Brian, are co-owners of Advantes Group, the main developer at Laclede’s Landing. They own six buildings on the landing, one of which is occupied by residents, another set to start leasing soon, and four more in the process of construction. In all, they expect to create more than 250 residential units, along with restaurant and retail space.

However, Minges says an existing homeless population along the riverfront has exacerbated crime throughout the landing.

“It’s probably been within the last year that it’s really increased, and it continues to increase. And what we’ve been told a lot, is a lot of the other encampments [in the city] have closed,” said Minges. “So, a lot of the unhoused are going directly down to the [riverfront] to live, and we’ve had some of them directly tell our security guard, ‘Because they can do whatever they want’.”

Minges says it is putting residents at risk, and could discourage future residents and visitors from coming.

“They’re seeing stuff that they don’t want to see, and they don’t want to be a part of and we’ve heard tourist say that they don’t want to come back to St. Louis,” she said.

Advantes Group has hired security to monitor the landing to maintain safety, but Minges says that is not enough.

“We have been in communication with the folks at Laclede’s as well as our social service providers,” said Nick Dunne, Public Information Officer for the City of St. Louis.

Dunne says the Department of Human Services engages with the homeless community on a weekly basis on the riverfront, and based on their engagement, they estimate and average of 15 people live at the encampment site.

“We are looking for shelter or housing if they’re willing to accept it,” said Dunne, stating that around five people living there have already been moved to more permanent shelter or housing.

When asked if this encampment along the riverfront will ever be removed, as has taken place in other parts of the city, Dunne echoed a similar response.

“If the folks who are at the riverfront are willing to accept housing and we are able to connect them with those or other social services, then we will be successful in that way,” he said.

Minges says that is not enough to address the immediate concern.

“Something is going to happen to a tenant, or something is going to happen to an employee, and I don’t want to see that happen,” she said. “We don’t want to keep getting pushed under the rug. So really this is almost a cry to help to city hall that we need your help.”