by Michael R. Allen
In August, the St. Louis Preservation Board voted 4-1 to uphold staff denial of a demolition permit for the Italianate house at 2619-21 Hadley Street in Old North. Haven of Grace, the non-profit owner, had previously pledged to rehabilitate the house in exchange for Board and neighborhood support for demolition of a house at 2605 Hadley. Neighbors held up their end of the bargain, but after inaction the Haven applied for a demolition permit for 2619-21 Hadley in April 2008.
After the Preservation Board’s action in August, little has transpired on Hadley Street. The Haven of Grace apparently dismissed Executive Director Diane Berry, who made the public pledge for rehabilitation that garnered support for the compromise. Haven of Grace has not stabilized the building, boarded open windows or even so much as cut down a single one of the many over-six-feet-tall weeds growing around the site. By the fall, the weeds became a neighborhood eyesore.
The Preservation Board deemed the house at 2619-21 Hadley Street to be sound, despite some masonry damage, and found that its rehabilitation would not be cost-prohibitive. Obviously, the tall weeds challenge those findings by emphasizing the home’s vacancy. However, the weeds are an affront to the Haven’s own clients and neighborhood residents in the vicinity. At the Preservation Board meeting, Haven representatives tried to claim that the house was too unsound for a worker to travel within 20 feet. That’s a false claim, and regardless does not excuse the Haven from keeping the property up to municipal codes as the future of the house is meted out. Old North residents welcome the Haven of Grace and most of us are quite stunned by its board’s recent behavior regarding this house. One thing is clear: there will be no solution without dialogue.