St. Louis saves city-owned home from demolition in pilot program
The two-story brick home at 3735 California St. got a second chance.
The property, owned by the city of St. Louis' Land Reutilization Authority, was slated for demolition. Then Alderwoman Cara Spencer, 20th Ward, had an idea: take money for demolition and put it toward stabilizing the building in the heart of the Gravois Park neighborhood.
The city’s Building Commissioner, Frank Oswald, agreed. Rather than spending $10,000 to tear it down, the division spent $14,000 for roof work and tuck-pointing.
“That’s our favorite thing to do,” Oswald said, “much more so than tearing a building down and creating a vacant lot for someone to cut grass.”
Now the home is for sale. LRA is offering it for its standard price of $1,500. Spencer said they’re not looking to recoup the cost of the stabilization.
“Of course if someone comes in with an offer significantly higher they’d have a leg up, but that’s really not the purpose here,” she said. “The purpose is to add value to the community and neighborhood and stabilize the block.”
LRA, the city’s land bank, owns about 3,500 abandoned buildings, and about 500 of those are condemned. The city’s Building Division has a budget of about $1 million for demolition. Oswald said they’re able to tear down about 200 structures a year.
But there could be more help on the way.
Next Tuesday city voters will decide on Proposition NS, which asks whether the city should issue up to $40 million in bonds over six years to help stabilize more city-owned properties. It would raise property taxes by about $11 a year on a $100,000 home. Spencer said she supports that effort, although the pilot program preceded it.
“With NS we would be able to do several hundred at a time, and that would be a really, really good thing,” she said. “I think this is a model for how NS money would be administered.”
Clara Jones, who owns the home right next to 3735 California St., said she’s just happy to see the building stabilized and ready to sell.
“It’s been really nice having it taken care of and knowing it’s more secure,” she said. “We’ve had all kinds of trouble with abandoned vehicles or people trying to break into it before.”
Now she’s looking forward to getting some new neighbors.
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