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Wrecking Crews Target Problem Properties In Vandeventer Neighborhood

(Parth Shah/St. Louis Public Radio)

Over the next several months, the city of St. Louis will spend $276,000 to tear down 26 vacant, crumbling buildings in the Vandeventer neighborhood. 

"We have two goals," said Mayor Francis Slay as he stood Monday at the first two demolition sites in the 4300 block of Evans Ave. "First, we want to reduce crime and improve the quality of life for the people and families who live here. Second, we want to prepare the neighborhood for new private sector development."

The neighborhood is well-situated for a rebound, Slay said. It's just two miles from the growing Cortex innovation district, and two miles from downtown.  A new mixed-income housing project, North Sarah Apartments, is around the corner. Students at Ranken Technical College will build new houses on the cleared lots.

The mayor credited state Senator Jamilah Nasheed with bringing the Vandeventer neighborhood to his attention.

"Among many of her many qualities, she is a squeaky wheel, and I'm glad for that, and the people of this neighborhood ought to be glad for that," Slay said.

Nasheed said the planned demolition and new construction will help battle the "mental decay" that can set in when children walk past crumbling buildings every day.

"Vacant buildings are crime attractors," she said. "Vacant buildings are crime enablers.  Vacant and abandoned buildings are the breeding grounds for drug dealing, gang activity, prostitution and illegal dumping, which poses a very serious public health problem."

Walter Lakes was watching the demolition of the property at 4331 Evans Ave., across the street from where he's lived for 35 years. He was grateful for the attention his neighborhood is getting.

"It'll provide a better place for our children, and provide a sense of security, really," he said. "And not only do we look forward to it being taken down, but to come back, better."

A proposed city bond issue that will go in front of the voters this November includes an additional $15 million for demolition and board-up.  Lakes said he'd like the city to provide funds for residents to be able to keep up with maintenance on their homes to prevent the decay in the first place.

The neighborhood will also get a little more attention from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The commander for the neighborhood, Capt. John Hayden, has assigned some of his officers to patrol the area extensively for the next month.

Demolition By The Numbers:

  • 26 total buildings. 
  • $276,000 for demolition and clean-up
  • 17 owned by the city. Nine have private owners.
  • None are historic or in a historic district.
  • 13 contracts already signed.
  • 100 percent of companies with signed contracts are minority-owned.

City records list Urban Assets LLC as the owner of five of the nine privately-held buildings. It's not clear who controls Urban Assets, which owns about 210 properties scattered across the city.

Properties tagged in red are owned by the Land Reutilization Authority, a city agency. Properties tagged in blue have private owners whose names were found using city records.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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