North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Blairmont Site Assembly Heading to the Long Final March

by Michael R. Allen

Has Paul McKee Jr.’s Blairmont juggernaut slowed? Not likely. However, word on the street is that they various active purchasing companies — including Sheridan Place LC, MLK 3000 LLC and Dodier Investors LLC — are making contracts with close dates as far off as May. The hold-up may be due to capital flow issues, or perhaps it’s a strategic timing to avoid greater scrutiny in the wake of recent publicity.

If the hold-up is due to lack of working capital, that is not difficult to understand. A scan of their last day of recorded deeds, January 24, shows four sales totaling $333,500.00.

These purchases are a house and lot at 2219-21 Benton Street with a deed of trust for $80,500.00, a house at 2545 Warren Street ($86,250.00), a house at 2507 North Market ($92,000) and a house at 2911 James Cool Papa Bell.

These prices are very high for older homes in the St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou neighborhoods, but there’s good reason for the elevated prices: these four homes were occupied and maintained up to date of the sale. No doubt, the families that owned and occupied these homes were not about to sell out their little acre for pittance, even in the face of the usual rumor-mongering Blairmont’s agents have been caught perpetrating.

As the Blairmont machine heads onward in the later stages of site assembly for the “bulldoze the ghetto” project, the last remaining properties are owned by reluctant owners, unyielding owners and unknowing owners. Now that the machine is trying to buy hold-outs and hard-to-locate owners, we may be witnessing the greatest displacement of residents since this whole messy business started in 2002. In the first few years, when few realized the plot, Blairmont purchased properties at sheriff’s tax sales and bought vacant land and buildings. Then, the agents began soliciting sales and picked up properties owned by folks ready to sell. They also began making inroads with public agencies, including purchase of the old Benton School site at 2333 Benton from the Board of Education and a disposition from the Public Administrator’s office.

Now, all that is left are people who own property that they have intended to maintain as residences and businesses. Now, all that is left is a full-on assault against the strongest parts of near north side neighborhoods. That, and a grab for the crucial public lands.

What will our political leaders say as hundreds of north side residents are displaced and a tremendous public land-grab is planned? So far, they are mostly silent.