Vacancy Portal opens door to data on abandoned parcels in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Vacancy Portal opens door to data on abandoned parcels in St. Louis

Jul 15, 2018

For the record, St. Louis is home to 20,187 vacant properties. More than half are vacant lots, totaling 1,565 acres. Over the past five years, it has cost the city more than $17 million to maintain the vacant property with services like mowing, removing dumped waste, and boarding up abandoned structures.

The total assessed value of all that property? $79,813,010.

The source for those facts and figures is a website launched by The Vacancy Collaborative, a public-private coalition of city agencies and community groups committed to reducing land vacancy and abandonment in St. Louis.

“We’re pulling 12 different data sets from four different city departments,” said Laura Ginn, one of the volunteer developers of the new website. “Seven data sets come from the city’s building division; two from the Land Reutilization Authority; and more from the assessor’s office on taxes and property values and the forestry department which maintains vacant land.”

Website allows users to zoom in on specific neighborhoods like this screen shot of Fountain Park for information on vacant lots (dark green) or vacant buildings (dark blue).
Credit screen shot

Approximately half of the vacant property is owned by the authority, the rest is owned by private citizens or entities.

Ginn emphasizes the website is still in a beta or prototype phase It's designed so that when a users clicks on a parcel of land, information pops up on the owner, status of the property, number of code violations and whether taxes are owed. There are also definitions and glossaries for all the city codes translated into plain English.

Ginn's day job is project manager for the Green City Coalition. She says the initiative for the website grew out of OpenSTL's 2017 flagship hackathon that aimed to visualize vacant properties in the city. A team from Daugherty Business Solutions, OpenSTL and other stakeholders have continued to tackle the problem and develop the website in their spare time.

Dana Malkus is a facilitator of the Vacancy Collaborative and supervisor of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at Saint Louis University School of Law. She said the new website will give neighborhood organizations access to the tools they need to deal with vacant land problems.

"The portal will enable neighborhoods to better use the vacancy tools described in the guide we released in April of this year,” Malkus said. The guide is available here

The Vacancy Collaborative’s goal is provide tools to community stakeholders in order to work together more efficiently; to keep properties on the tax roll; reduce vacancy; and get properties back into productive use faster.

The beta version is available at STL Vacant Properties Portal.

Follow Melody on Twitter @melodybird