Friday, March 26, 2010

"Open floor plan with lots of light"

Clever marketing can make the most bland product sound appealing. Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything words can say to convince a would be homebuyer to take a second look at a place like this:

When it comes to demolition, clearing away urban debris like the building shown above can't happen fast enough. Bring on the bulldozers and dumpsters. Today maybe?

While the crews are out there, why not make it a two-fer and take down the one next door too?


Matt M. said...

Funding permitting, I say bring on an architect to sketch and document the buildings. If possible, preserve the facade! Then take them down. :D

Rick Bonasch said...

For that same money you could tear the thing down and have a much safer environment for area residents.

Rather than spend money documenting ghost buildings like these, I say clear two at one time.

If this building has stood like this for two years, it's just as likely it's been abandoned for twenty.

What are young people to think growing up around something like this? It's no wonder they don't care much about historic preservation.

What they see is a history of abandonment and decay.

Anonymous said...

I used to really enjoy this blog. it was one that I checked at least once a week if not more. There were usually well-thought out posts, and interesting points raised. However, ever since you discovered your ability to post photos, for some inexplicable reason the quality of your posts have gone down, and are now becoming increasingly mindless. It's almost like a different person all together took over writing (or not). Anyway, I hope you reevaluate where you are going with this blog, so that you can return it to the previously high level of quality which you started.

Rick Bonasch said...

In reply to the anonymous commenter at 7:26 am, it is the policy of STL Rising to permit anonymous comments unless they are spam.

Thank you for sharing your views. With respect to the information in this post, are you disagreeing with the information here?

You may not get out much, but scenes like the one shown in this thread are all too common in some neighborhoods.

You may not like to be reminded of it, but it's true. As a community, we need to do something about it. Buildings like these hold us back as a community.

Matt M. said...

I get it, Rick. For the most part, I agree with you.

Plus, what I mentioned will not be done anyway, so that's just wishful thinking.

All I ask for is a bit of debate over how we treat the resources of downtrodden neighborhoods--because that's what historic buildings are. They communicate a sense of history and character. They lend the neighborhood identity. Greenfields and poorly designed new construction just can't do the same.

That said, there is indeed a point where safety does become an issue. If you can see the building's innards, it's probably time for it to come down.

samizdat said...

"Buildings like these hold us back as a community." I would argue, rather, that the attitudes, social and governmental policies which bring a neighborhood and buildings such as these to this state hold us back as a community. Your description of this situation is such that one would have thought that these structures arrived at this state in a vacuum, without human intervention. It's obvious that this building is suffering from the ravages of brick thieves. Pick apart the corner and work inward, and hope to hell that the damn thing doesn't come down on you. As for the previous 60+ years, the misguided policies promoted by the City and the federal government, both urban renewal and industrial divestment, caused as much damage to this building and neighborhood, and ironically enough, the City itself. I have made this statement before, but I'll say it again: I find it ironic that we as a Nation spent billions upon billions of our dollars saving Europe during WWII, and billions more helping the various governments rebuild their destroyed Cities and ecomonies, yet we have spent the last 60 years doing the exact opposite, by policy and action. This building, and its' neighbors, extant or gone, are, to a great extent, a result of the divestment policies of industry, and local, state and federal governments. To paraphrase a popular saying among the animal lovers out there: there are no bad buildings, just bad humans. Please, quit blaming an inanimate object for the actions of our fellow people.

Rick Bonasch said...


It's hard to disagree with anything you are saying. The question is, where do we go from here?

Taking buildings like these down asap is a start. They will never be rehabbed.

We need to raise more money for this purpose among others.

Ben said...

"They will never be rehabbed."

How do you know?

What about the third house down on this page:

Will it ever be rehabbed? How about the house at the bottom of the page?

Rick Bonasch said...


I tried to view the property in your comment, but the link didn't work. Please post again.

As far how I know the future of some of these massively derelict buildings, my comments are based on an analysis of real estate markets and construction costs.

In most of the areas where you find buildings in this condition, the market is severely depressed.

Meanwhile, development costs are very high and growing. When development costs far exceed the finished value of the rehabbed property, no developers are interested. The projects make no economic sense.

That's why so many LRA properties wind up being demolished. We need to focus on preventing buildings from getting to this state or in the LRA inventory.

I was just driving around in an old city neighborhood. Most of the buildings were in stable shape. A lot of them needed work.

One vacant building had a front door wide open. Trespassers could easily walk right in and vandalize or torch the structure. Things like that add up to buildings that will never be rehabbed.

Is it a lot of work to drive around with crews securing these buildings on a daily basis? Yes.

Who is supposed to do it? It will take committed volunteers from the neighborhood along with a whole network committed to the same goal of securing vacant buildings.

Doug Duckworth said...

"What they see is a history of abandonment and decay."

Crown Square, Dick Gregory Place.

Rick Bonasch said...


The projects you identify are highly leveraged community driven development projects. For most of us, we work at a much more basic level of rehab scope and finance.

Let's hope the highly leveraged developments encourage regular Ma and Pa homeowners and property owners to pay their taxes and maintain their properties.

Then we won't see so many buildings ending up in the back end of a brick rustler's pick up or a sheriffs tax sale.

Ben said...

That's weird - just copy and paste the link into your browser's navigation thingy and it should work. I just tried it, and it worked. Just in case, here it is again:

And, just to be clear, by third house down I mean the house in the third row of pictures. And yes, the back wall has fallen off in these images.

An analysis of real estate markets and construction costs? By a present day analysis, almost nothing would be worth saving - or building, for that matter. This sort of short-term, now is all that matters thinking, it seems to me, is what got this town where it is today.

Anyway, look at the link and let me know what you think.

Rick Bonasch said...

Thanks Ben,

I couldn't tell for sure which photo you were describing, but all of those buildings are in much better shape than the one at the top of this post.

Another important distinction is that Old North has a local group putting in funds to stabilize buildings. Unfortunately, most neighborhoods aren't in a position to do that. A good example is the Avalon Theater in South City. It is vacant, abandoned, privately owned, and on its present trajectory a likely demolition candidate.

Re. high development costs exceeding market values, this isn't a short term situation. The building at the top of this thread has likely been abandoned all through the Bush and Clinton presidencies. Most of the land around it is all vacant. There is no historic context left.

Yet with these ghosts of old buildings still standing, who would want to build anything new on this block?

Does it make more sense to spend many tens of thousands of dollars stabilizing a building like this for a financially dubious possible future project, or to spend much less money to clear it away to create a clean site that might attract new green development someday?

Matt said...

Another thing that Rick doesn't mention is the opportunity costs.

There are hundreds (thousands?) of similarly vacant structures in NSTL that are probably in a better condition or have some characteristic that might make them better candidates for a rehab.

By the time rehabbers work their way down the list of these structures more conducive to small scale rehabs this building will be a pile of bricks anyway. Why not bring it down in a safe way and remove the blight from the neighborhood.

Doug Duckworth said...

"Does it make more sense to spend many tens of thousands of dollars stabilizing a building like this for a financially dubious possible future project, or to spend much less money to clear it away to create a clean site that might attract new green development someday?"

Urban Renewal didn't work when we had much higher density. Now that density has decreased yet dereliction increased, meanwhile with decades of negative perception drilled into the minds of many in our Region, why would it deliver today?

The Avalon is Gregali's failure. But the neighborhood association could have joined with others forming a larger southwest city community development organization.

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