by Michael R. Allen
Pub Def reports that Alderman Troupe is talking about reforming the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), the city’s largest real estate arm. LRA mainly owns vacant properties whose owners have failed to pay taxes or otherwise abandoned the properties. Some say that the LRA hoards vacant buildings and makes it difficult for individual rehabbers to buy their properties, which are ostensibly for sale to the public. Others talk about the LRA’s giving low-income people the chance to buy a building for $1 (plus the cost of rehabbing one of their derelict buildings); those days seem to have passed.
Two things are clear:
1. The LRA does not do much to stabilize and maintain the buildings it owns, and frequently ends up demolishing them. LRA has often torn down buildings that are contributing resources to local and national historic districts — often against the recommendation of the city’s Cultural Resources Office.
2. Despite the LRA being a citywide agency under the auspices of the St. Louis Development Corporation, LRA properties in each of the city’s wards are virtually controlled by the aldermen. In fact, as part of the official process for purchasing an LRA building, the LRA asks the alderman for the ward for approval of the sale. If the local leader says “no,” the sale is almost always dead, and the property could sit vacant for another decade before a better-connected buyer comes along.
These are two things that could stand to be changed.