Is Saint Louis Now Open to All Development?
Last night, Channel 4 aired reporter Craig Cheatham’s investigation into why the city of Saint Louis was rejecting offers to purchase some of its vacant land. The station’s investigation was spurred by Show-Me Institute research.
As I’ve written previously, the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) owns more than 9,000 parcels of vacant land, and isn’t selling most of it. Cheatham investigated two properties where the LRA had turned down great offers, for no apparent reason. To my (happy) surprise, Cheatham’s investigation led to the LRA re-evaluating its rejection of one offer to buy property: Anthony Barber’s offer to purchase 1252 Academy Ave. in order to develop the property into a restaurant. You can see 1252 Academy in the photo below.
Photo by Thomas Duda
According to Cheatham’s report, the LRA met with Barber today to reconsider his offer. The agency may, facing public scrutiny, accept Barber’s offer.
This is great news! If the LRA sells 1252 Academy, that is one less vacant eyesore, and one less property the city has to spend money maintaining — and those costs can add up. Furthermore, I am sure the neighbors of 1252 Academy will prefer living next to a restaurant rather than a vacant, boarded-up city property.
But the LRA’s decision to reconsider its decision on 1252 Academy makes me wonder whether the agency is open to reconsidering other offers it has rejected. According to Show-Me Institute research, the agency has rejected offers to purchase more than 2,200 of its properties. Only about a quarter of them were rejected because the agency thought the would-be buyer didn’t have the means to complete the project. The most common reason for rejection was that the agency was holding property for “future development.”
Of course, in most cases, that future development has yet to materialize.
Is the LRA open to taking a fresh look at some of the other offers it has rejected? As part of my research into the city’s landholding policies, I’ve worked to collect the data necessary to put together a list of other offers that might be worth reconsidering. It would be wonderful if the agency would seriously consider recanting some of its past rejections.