There are 7,000 vacant buildings and more than 10,000 vacant lots in St. Louis. Many of the structures are beyond repair, so the demolition of 30 vacant structures will only put a small dent in the blight problem.
The St. Louis Blight Authority is the organization behind a project to clear a four-block area in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood. The organizers believe the initiative could be just the beginning of a more far-reaching program.
St. Louis native Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square, and Bill Pulte, a Detroit real estate heir, joined Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, and local residents in front of a vacant house on Burd Avenue in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood on Friday afternoon to launch the effort.
Dorsey and Pulte described the plan to demolish the vacant structures and clean up 130 vacant properties over the next 20 days on four blocks that are bounded by Clara, Maffitt, Belt and Cote Brilliante Avenues.
“I’ve always looked for opportunities to give back to the city that gave so much to me and formed so much of my life,” Dorsey said. “I stand here to commit to the Blight Authority, to Bill and to the team to make sure we don’t just celebrate this one day of demolition but we use this as an opportunity to follow through, and to build.”
The St. Louis Blight Authority is an outgrowth of the Blight Authority, a Detroit-based organization founded by Pulte.
“One of the reasons that we’ve had success in Detroit is we partner with the community,” Pulte said. “And what we’ve done here is we’ve partnered with the community.”
Pulte predicts St. Louis can be a blight-free city by 2035, “with the proper support from the private sector and leadership in government.”
“We can potentially take this to many other neighborhoods across the city,” Pulte said.
For now, St. Louis Blight Authority has no plans for developing the land.
“I’ve largely left that up to the mayor’s office, but I think it’s both Jack’s and my opinion that the community needs to make the decision,” Pulte said.
Boyd would like to see new housing.
“It is my hope and my vision that 10 years from now, that we can come back and tour this block and see homes," he said.
Follow Nicolas Telep on Twitter @NDTelep.
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