Monday, November 09, 2009

Solving that vacant building problem

There's a saying in some old neighborhoods "a vacant building never hurt anyone, it's the occupied ones that you have to watch out for!" It's true that a building can't do much by itself. Unfortunately, vacant buildings do cause problems, and the longer they remain vacant, the more expensive it is to save them. So what can neighbors do to help get vacant buildings back on line?

Vacant buildings come in lots of shapes and sizes. For years, downtown St. Louis had scores of (mostly) empty, 19th century warehouses. With passage of the state historic tax credit, most of these buildings are seeing new life as office buildings, market rate and affordable housing developments, restaurants, and retail shops.

Some newer neighborhoods are seeing a wave of vacant buildings as a result of the foreclosure crisis hitting the country. In some places, as a result of softening prices, foreclosures breed more foreclosures. A correction is underway in the residential real estate market with the air coming out of the mid-2000's housing bubble.

Some neighborhoods have a specific vacant building they are concerned about. The Avalon Theater on South Kingshighway is an example. Carter Carburetor on North Grand is another. Around town there are others. Years of vacancy and neglect may lead to the ultimate loss of the Avalon to the wrecking ball. Carter Carburetor appears to be a solid building, but's it's still a high cost, environmentally challenging redevelopment situation.

And what can neighbors do to try to bring about the reutilization of these properties? If you're concerned about vacant buildings in your neighborhood, what are some of the things you see happening, and what are some of the things your neighborhood is doing?


Anonymous said...

In my neighborhood, there are three vacant residential structures owned by Adam Strauss, son of Leon Strauss. Two of them are boarded up, and one has been "For Rent" for two years now. It is obviously falling into disrepair, and the neighborhood rumor is that he wants $1500/month for it, well over the market rate for the area. All three buildings were lovely buildings at one point and could be quite lovely again, but Mr. Strauss isn't doing anything to help them. I know some of my neighbors have made complaints to the City and Alderman Joe Roddy, but no (visible) action has been taken.

samizdat said...

I'm a firm believer in the old maxim: There are no bad buildings, just bad owners. I understand the difficulties of long-vacant buildings. There are numerous examples in my nabe, Dutchtown. But to pull down a structure because the owner chooses to let it deteriorate on the chance the City will conveniently demolish it seems extraordinarily shortsighted.