land use North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North Urbanism

The South End of Old North

by Michael R. Allen

The southern end of Old North St. Louis — which includes the National-Register-listed Mullanphy and Sts. Cyril and Methodius historic districts — has been recently cut off from the more vibrant part of the neighborhood by two unfortunate grid-busting, suburban-style housing projects and cut off from downtown by vacant lots, fast food restaurants and automobile and truck yards. Demolition has been rampant, and truck-related businesses own many buildings here. Speculators have seized some of the area, including an impressive half-block owned by Blairmont Associates LC. There is one city block — bounded by Tyler on the south, 13th on the west, Chambers on the north and Hadley on the east — where not a single building stands.

Yet the last few weeks have seen signs of life no one could have predicted: a side-gabled, two-and-a half-story house at 2111 N. 13th Street that is the last building on its block is undergoing renovation; someone purchased an LRA-owned building at 1723 N. 13th Street in March and has already made progress on rehab; the owner of a corner tavern at the southeast corner of Howard and 14th streets has taken down part of a brick wall for relaying. These rehabs are by no means historic, and in the case of 2111 N. 13th, maddening for a preservationist to observe. Yet given the economy of that end of Old North, even these projects are somehow comforting — rather than crumbling shells, we have two bad rehabs to critique. (We will need to go a long way before even contemplating local district standards on acceptable alterations.)

The strangest event lately had to be the revival that took place over the weekend on the south end of that totally-vacant city block. A church group threw up a tent, put out folding chairs and a port-a-potty, and brought in preachers and bands. The scene was almost surreal, especially amid the stormy weather of the last few days.

Hopefully, someone will make a more long-term investment in that block, which would make a great location for modern infill housing. In fact, I would love to see both the 1970s-era Murphy-Blair Apartments and the Bristol Place Townhouses developments fall to the wrecking ball for a large-scale infill project. With vacant land to the north of both projects along Monroe Street, a new project with restored street grid would meet the North Market Place redevelopment project. With rehab of the remaining historic buildings in this area, reclamation of the Blairmont land for responsible use, and the stabilization of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, this end of Old North would blossom.

It’s comforting that a few good things are happening despite the barriers of the two housing projects. Yet there’s no way much else will happen until the barriers are removed.

North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Blairmont Associates Owns 1501 Palm Street

by Michael R. Allen

Before the “accident”: April 25, 2005. Photograph by Michael R. Allen.

Demolition began in October 2005 on this rare L-shaped Mansard dwelling at 1501 Palm Street in Old North. Then-owner George Roberts started the work to tear down the building. Thankfully, concerned citizens and the Cultural Resources Office intervened to stop the work in progress. The western wall has been destabilized and sports a gaping hole at the second floor. For some reason, Blairmont Associates LC purchased the house on March 8, 2006. Suffice to say that Blairmont has not repaired the wall or even boarded over the hole. The shadow partners of Blairmont probably have never seen the building. In September 2006, the tin cornice fell off after months of being poised to fall.

The house on September 26, 2006. Photograph by Claire Nowak-Boyd.

And so goes another great building in a neighborhood that had so many only to have so few.

Blairmont Associates can be reached through their agents at Eagle Realty Company: 314-421-1111.

landbanking North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Disasters Natural and Man-Made Hit the North Side

by Michael R. Allen

Our exurban buddies at Blairmont Associates LC have another name, Path Enterprise Company LLC, chartered on February 2, 2004.

Let’s review the other names that seem wrapped up in the scheme to acquire hundreds of parcels in the city’s 5th and 19th wards on the near north side:

N & G Ventures LC, chartered on January 28, 2003;

Noble Development Company, chartered on February 4, 2003;

VHS Partners LC, chartered on June 28, 2002;

and, of course, Blairmont Associates LC, chartered on June 14, 2002.

The companies have a two-week registration spacing, with two companies created in each year. Is there another company for 2004? Yes. There is one more with an interesting connection that I will discuss in the future. I have no knowledge of any companies created last year or this year.

The address for some of these companies is at Eagle Realty Company, 721 Olive Street Suite 900 in St. Louis. However, campaign finance disclosure reports list a different address: 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place in O’Fallon, Missouri. This happens to be the office of McEagle Development Company, developers of WingHaven and failed developers of BaratHaven.

Tornados and developers all seem to track from the west through the city. Do they both leave destruction behind?

The answer coming from the tired shells of the Clemens House and the Mullanphy Emigrant Home is yes.

North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North St. Louis Place

Valuable Historic Sites

by Michael R. Allen

Just the other day, I saw new boards on the three-story brick commercial building at 1508 St. Louis Avenue. The for-sale sign that had graced the vacant building as long as I could remember was gone. There is a new owner, I guessed.

And, I am right: VHS Partners LLC purchased the building in November. They sure know how to pick buildings to board up, I’ll tell you. From 1508, one can almost see the vacant lots at 1314, 1321 and 1414 St. Louis and the boarded two-story commercial building at 1311 St. Louis that their shared-address allies at Blairmont Associates LC own.

Their plans and identity are uncertain. The condition of these properties is pretty bad by any standards this side of St. Louis Centre.

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

James Clemens, Jr. House: Stabilization?

by Michael R. Allen

On February 10, 2006, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Lisa Van Amburg approval a motion to dismiss, without prejudice, the case of The City of St. Louis Building Division vs. Blairmont Associates LC. This case concerns Blairmont’s inability to stabilize and repair the Clemens House property, which it purchased in 2004. The reason for dismissal is that the City Counselor’s office was successful in getting Blairmont to agree to sell the house within 90 days; if the effort is unsuccessful the city may refile its suit.

While the dismissal stems more from the agreement than Blairmont’s bringing the buildings’ conditions in line with the demands of the Building Division, before the dismissal Blairmont made an attempt to stabilize the porch and cast iron on the main house. This effort was limited to removal of iron, draping of tarps and placement of temporary fencing around the porch. The massive holes in the chapel’s roof remain uncovered, and no masonry stabilization seems to have been performed.

These photographs — from February 18 — show the current state of the Clemens House.

Blairmont seems very committed to the sale, since they are trying to prevent their real identities from being revealed. What they are hiding is not known; we only know that they have done little to safeguard the cultural heritage that is in their legal possession.

Carr Square North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Pruitt Igoe

Redeveloping the Pruitt-Igoe Site

by Michael R. Allen

The Mayor’s office is talking with a pharmaceutical company about building a plant on the site of the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects.

First question: How many full-time jobs with benefits would the plant create? The article states that the plant might create up to 850 jobs, but we all know how big companies use part-time waged labor positions to keep profits high and workers from having a decent life. If these would be 850 honest-to-goodness real jobs, that would be great for the north side.

Second question: Can we please build the plant in a way that allows the street grid to be re-established and allows for other uses along Jefferson and Cass? I would prefer mixed use of the site, but I don’t necessarily think that it has to include residential components — there is ample space for that all over the near north side. Using the Pruitt-Igoe site for retail, office tenants and manufacturing would be a great for the near north side. But the site should not remain an inaccessible super-block — that’s kind of the historical problem with the site. It should be dense, urban and connected no matter what use is found. A factory may need a larger space, but it could still be build up rather than out and leave space for other new construction on the site.

James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration St. Louis Place

Blairmont Case To Be Continued

by Michael R. Allen

The hearing for the Building Division’s suit against Blairmont Associates LC over the condition of the Clemens House (known as Blairmont #054-2163) has again been continued. The next hearing has been scheduled for February 14, in Division 7 at the Civil Courts Building, at 9:30 a.m.

A tipster says that Paul McKee denies having anything to do with Blairmont or any of its allied enterprises (Noble Development, N & G Ventures, VHS Partners), as well as sharing an address with the company. Should we believe that Harvey Noble and Steve Goldman — the people who are definitely working for Blairmont — are going it alone on the “project”?

North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Blairmont, VHS Partners Share Address with McKee’s Companies

by Michael R. Allen

The July 15 Quarterly Report of the Jordan W. Chambers 19th Ward Regular Democratic Organization reveals some interesting information about its contributors. Namely, that the following contributors, all real estate holding companies, share the same address:

N & G Ventures LC
Noble Development Company
VHS Partners LLC
McEagle Properties LLC
West Alton Holding Company LLC
Oakland Properties, Inc.
Blairmont Associates Limited Company

That address is 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place in O’Fallon, Missouri .  1001 Boardwalk Springs Place is the address of the largest office building in the sprawling WingHaven development. This also happens to be the mailing address for Paric Corporation and McEagle Development, the well-known companies founded by wealthy developer Paul McKee, Jr. (Paric is now led by McKee‘s son Joe.)

Readers know that we have detailed the adventurous purchases of rogue real estate companies Blairmont Associates LC and VHS Partners LLC, and that we along with other northsiders have been wondering what the hell these silent speculators have been trying to do in our neighborhoods. But few people would have known that Blairmont and VHS shared an address with these other companies, because both Blairmont and VHS were registered anonymously and their only known agents were Harvey Noble and Steve Goldman of Eagle Realty Company and Roberta M. Defiore. Even fewer would have known the links between Blairmont, VHS, Noble Development Company and N & G Ventures. Without seeing this report, I would have never learned of this additional entity or of the definite link with McKee’s enterprises. Campaign finance disclosure again proves to be a valuable democratic tool. Together, these four companies own 244 north side properties and hold an option to buy one city-owned parcel:

Blairmont: 82
VHS Partners: 101
N & G Ventures: 58 plus one option
Noble Development Company: 3

The holdings of these companies are geographically confined: most are in the 63106 zip code and the a well-defined southern part of the 63107 zip code; all are in either Ward 5 or Ward 19; nearly every property is a vacant lot, with only a handful of vacant buildings in the inventory. (Although we know that they did attempt to trick a legally-blind woman into selling her own house to them.)

The question remains: What exactly is the tie with McKee? And what is the plan for such a large area of the city?

The alternating silence and aggressive pursuit of properties by the entities at 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place is disturbing no matter how good their plan could be. These companies need to talk to their neighbors, who are very worried about the intentions and methods behind these companies. Consensus is built through communication; suspicion grows through silence.

North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Over on Hadley Street

<strong>by Michael R. Allen</strong>

The lot at 2805 Hadley Street in Old North St. Louis may be fenced but sports an incredible amount of debris. One can find broken PVC pipes, old furniture, solid fill and scraps of wood lying around its confines. That is, during the winter. In the warm months, the grass grows so tall on this lot that passers-by would not be startled if someone told them that a house was on the lot.

Next door, a lovely late 1870’s townhouse is undergoing and ambitious rehab from an owner who is rehabbing other buildings in the neighborhood. Across Hadley Street is Ames School, one of the city’s finest elementary schools.

The owner of the lot?

Blairmont Associates LC, one of the near north side’s most active collectors of vacant lots and buildings. Where the owner of the house next door sees a need to restore his building, Blairmont sees nothing but the future value of the land and is willing to hurt its neighbors today so that its owners can profit tomorrow.

Historic Preservation James Clemens House North St. Louis Northside Regeneration Old North

Blairmont: Rook to QB4

by Michael R. Allen

Word on the snow-covered street is that Blairmont Associates LC was not pleased with the attention it received from a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on its abusive ownership of the Clemens House and the resulting speculation on the identity of the deep pockets behind Blairmont. Sources say that Blairmont had no idea that the property at 1849 Clemens was a historic mansion; they were only interested in the large lot the home and chapel sit on. Thus, to avoid more publicity they will sell the house by January 6 (not sure why this date is being floated).

Of course, if they want to avoid attention they will need to do more than sell the Clemens House. We will continue to monitor their abuse of other historic buildings (such as the Brecht Butcher Supply Company buildings at 1201 Cass, if Blairmont is reading) and many northsiders are actively working to uncover the identity of Blairmont. People who are investing their time, labor and money in rehabbing homes on the near north side have a right to know who is behind Blairmont Associates LC and VHS Partners LLC. Some people think that they know, as the comments section on this blog shows.

For the record, we have no evidence that isn’t already public record. Our guess is as good as yours — probably worse, since we have neighbors who know a lot more than we do about them.