There’s no place like home, and for Sheila Rendon that’s especially true.
The two-story brick home on Mullanphy Street has been in her home since she was born. Her parents and grandparents bought the house back in 1963, when home ownership was just a dream for many African Americans.
Now she, her husband and two teenage children are facing eminent domain, as St. Louis makes way for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency facility.
"You know for me, my home is priceless," Rendon said.
She has refused the city’s many attempts to buy it, including the last offer of about $130,000. At a hearing with three commissioners who will decide the value of Rendon’s home and others in the eminent domain suit, she asked that the city move her house to another location.
"That option was given to a woman in my neighborhood. She was the face of the opposition in the beginning," Rendon said.
Around the same time, Otis Williams, St. Louis Development Corporation executive director, indicated publicly that the city would be willing to pick up and move homes. He personally made the offer to Taylor, as you can see in this episode of KETC’s Stay Tuned.
"Ms. Taylor chose to talk to us very early and with a lawyer," Williams recently told St. Louis Public Radio. "Yes, she was the face [of the opposition] but she chose to talk."
Rendon, on the other hand, did not communicate with city officials, according to Williams. Now, he said, it’s too late in the process for engineers to check whether it’s possible. Besides, Taylor’s home is of much more historic significance.
"If we look at Rendon’s property and the significance of it and how many properties are just like it and the condition, as well, we think we can find her a place that is compatible with her needs," Williams said.
After doing some house-hunting, Rendon challenges that there’s another brick home, circa 1883, that’s in good condition and located in her St. Louis Place neighborhood or surrounding areas.
"We’re finding homes on the north side have been decimated, so to find a home comparable to ours that’s move-in ready is very difficult," she said.
There are such homes in the Central West End or near south side, but Rendon said their prices are “exorbitant.” The city’s $130,000 offer would amount to a down payment, leaving her family with a mortgage. As a result, she asked commissioners to assign replacement cost for her home, between $500,000 and $700,000.
"I want a brick home. I want what we have,” she told the commissioners.
St. Louis Circuit Judge David Dowd gave the three commissioners a May 19 deadline to file their report on how much each property owner should be paid. Either the city or the property owners can appeal those amounts, which would lead to a jury trial.
NGA director Robert Cardillo’s preliminary decision April 1st indicated the new $1.75 billion facility will be located in north St. Louis. The final decision is expected in early June.
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