Brian Kelly (@brpkelly)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – With a large backhoe tearing into a small wood-framed house on Greer at Belt in north St. Louis, the Metropolitan Sewer District kicked off a program that will see nearly 1,000 condemned buildings demolished in coming years.

The $13.5 million “Urban Greening Program” is part of the $100 million MSD Rainscaping Plan approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year.

MSD CEO Brian Hoelscher says it will allow the district to meet a requirement to reduce sewer overflows into the Mississippi River.

“The way we do that is to keep storm water from entering our combined sewer system. By eliminating impervious area and allowing the ground to stay green, the water will soak in, not run off, and help us meet our regulatory need,” he says.

And Hoelscher says that will benefit MSD customers.

“Naturally, by reducing storm water runoff, (we) can reduce the chance of having localized stormwater issues … (including) flooding when we have heavy storms.”

The district is teaming up on the project with the city, which will benefit from the demolition of the derelict buildings.

In the initial phase, which will be completed by the end of the year, 200 structures will be removed with MSD’s funding. That’s nearly double the number that would demolished by the city itself over that time.

The first houses demolished sit in Alderman Jeffrey Boyd’s ward. He’s glad to see them and others in his ward go.

“It means eliminating some slum and blight and making the neighborhood a little safer. Bringing hope. Creating green space. It’s a win-win,” Boyd says.

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