Thursday, November 30, 2006

City Snow

When snow hits a city, it's beautiful. The picture above is of Annapolis, Maryland.

In St. Louis, snow does wonderful things with our historic buildings too. And it's magic when coating Christmas decorations.

Snow even makes our LRA buildings look good!


Anonymous said...

OK, I'll bite. What's an LRA building?

Anonymous said...

LRA stands for "Land Reutilization Authority". In the City of St. Louis, the LRA is the landowner of last resort. Sadly, LRA has a large inventory of these tax foreclosed properties.

LRA and City do not want to own these properties; they only acquire them when all other private ownership avenues have disappeared. A property winds up in the LRA inventory at the end of a long and depressing trail of disinvesment.

For a property to be added to the LRA inventory means that no one was even willing to purchase it at a Sheriff's real estate tax foreclosure sale. Talk about the bottom of the barrel!

By the time the LRA gets a property, it has been passed over by bottom fishers of every stripe:

"Foreclosure artists"
"All-cash, as-is buyers"
"No-down payment specialists" name it.

When a once private property has been thus so totally abandoned that it winds up on the dry prairie of public ownership of the City of St. Louis, it has typically deteriorated to the point where rehab costs are exorbitant.

Most private individuals lack the time, expertise, or financial resources to return these properties to productive use. The buildings often are boarded up with overgrown yards.

With new fallen snow, much of the years' of neglect is temporarily masked, and like a short lived mirage, the graceful lines of these once proud structures is brought back into focus.

Michael Allen said...

"Most private individuals lack the time, expertise, or financial resources to return these properties to productive use."

And many private individuals who do have the time, expertise and financial resources to make a difference are rebuffed by callous aldermen. For some reason, anyone buying an LRA buidling has to get a letter of support from an alderman -- even though your average alderman has no authority to determine whether or not a proposed rehab plan is feasible or not. (They are likely, however, to know who has made donations to the local Democratic ward organization.) City development specialists do have the education to make such judgments, but it's not their call under our outdated political system.

Anonymous said...


Under our current system, aldermen are publicly responsible for the total condition of their wards. Indeed, many people hold alderman accountable for things over which they have no control

It makes sense then, that if alderman are to be held responsible, they should be able to manage the affairs they ca control.

If a would-be developer wants to purchase a city-owned owned property, getting the support of the local alderman is not asking a lot.

Under this system, neighborhood residents then have someone publicly accountable if bad decisions are made.

Better an elected official than a civil service protected bureaucrat.

Joe said...

"Better an elected official than a civil service protected bureaucrat."

Huh? LRA staff are part of the quasi-governmental SLDC -- and those jobs are "at-will"... as Percy Green and his staff found out the hard way, a few years back.

Now building inspectors are a different story... don't even get me started on that.

Yes, the LRA property acquisition process is political. Part of the reason aldermanic support is required is to simplify the job of the citizen commission (the "authority" part) that meets almost every month to make the final decisions on sales, after staff review.