Preservationist Warns of Southside Slide
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A neighborhood preservationist is warning the city’s southside may be sliding toward the same fate as north St. Louis.
“The city’s already struggling with a huge vacant land problem on the northside,” said Michael Allen, Director of the Preservation Research Office, “I don’t think people realize that we’re potentially at risk of having the same problem on the southside through vacancy.”
Driving down southside “state” streets — Michigan, Louisiana, California and others — Allen says he’s noticed a growing number of older buildings, mostly multi-family, are empty and boarded up.
“They’re now sitting empty with broken windows, weeds in the front lawn,” Allen said, “In some cases the buildings are being demolished.”
Allen blames the foreclosure crisis, as waves of investors abandoned underwater multi-family buildings and vacancy rates went up.
Applauding this week’s decision by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to increase police funding for hot spots, Allen says many of the struggling southside streets are having crime problems.
“The area I’m talking about right now has some of the highest crime in the city” Allen said, “A lot of the gangs have actually relocated from parts of the northside like O’Fallon Park that are improving down to Dutchtown and Gravois Park area.”
The good news– Allen says — is south St. Louis has not reached a tipping point. But he’s calling on City Hall to help reverse the trend with more money for community development organizations. Allen says the city needs to use federal housing dollars to purchase, stabilize and redevelop more of these properties and get people interested in buying them.
“Investors are scared to invest,” Allen said, “We’re on the path in the wrong direction, but we can pull out of it.”
Mayor Slay’s office released a statement saying in part:
“The Mayor is seeking legislation to establish a mediation program for homeowners facing foreclosure (similar to what recently passed in St. Louis County.)
“We are working to alleviate the foreclosure problem as much as possible – and we hope to continue to receive federal funds (which are becoming scarce) to do so. There are some bright spots in the neighborhood – revitalization taking place on the commercial streets, like Cherokee, and pockets of private residential activity.”