Every St. Louisan Who Cares About Vacancy Should Attend LRA Board Meetings

A snapshot of LRA-owned land (red parcels) in North City St. Louis.

You cannot drive more than a couple blocks north of Delmar in the City of St. Louis without witnessing the devastating effects of mass vacancy. Wave after wave of fear and failures, cronyism and broken promises, have left blocks upon blocks of land — the majority located in North City — abandoned and neglected. The decay is a drain on the spirits of those residing in the neighborhoods affected, sites for illegal trash dumping, and most important a tangible void in the community.

The Land Reutilization Authority of St. Louis is the largest vacant landowner, and the last Wednesday of every month at 8:30 their board holds a public meeting. Every offer to purchase land is reviewed, and members from the public are allowed to attend, speak in support or against proposals and plans, even address the board.

Like me, you may have heard rumors that it is “impossible” to work with the LRA. In my own experience it is a process, requiring several meetings, deferments, and negotiations to purchase land . Though, through it all my respect for their job — arguably the most difficult in the city — has grown.

The staff researches how prospective buyers maintain the properties they already own, even inspecting them in person. Records of previous purchases and statements made by aldermen, neighborhood groups, and citizens are thoughtfully considered to make the best decisions possible. It’s been heartening to see serious discussions in response to shares from local politicians, neighbors, and applicants alike, even watching the LRA change their recommendation for the fate of parcels mid-meeting.

Because of this, it has become a priority of mine to attend LRA board meetings any time possible to support the work they do and the community members in attendance. This has proven to be one of the best practices to help keep my finger on the pulse of vacancy in our city — one of my biggest hopes is to see this trend reverse in my lifetime. It has been a promising couple of years to witness the rate of properties sold increasing, and get to know others who are passionate about revitalizing the city, builders and bureaucrats alike.

I regularly invite neighbors and friends to attend the monthly meeting, both to encourage them to actively pursue rehabilitation and to engage in planned work and policy. If you are concerned with what is happening, or isn’t happening, with land in our city — whether neighbors struggling to purchase the lots next to their homes, or derelict developers looking to bank more lots — your presence is needed. Show up, get involved, raise your voice. I’d love to pour you a cup of Ronnoco coffee from the beverage cart and show you the ropes.

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bootstrapper, daily blogger, soil farmer, urban agriculture professional, wannabe programmer || perennial.city

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Timothy Kiefer

Timothy Kiefer

bootstrapper, daily blogger, soil farmer, urban agriculture professional, wannabe programmer || perennial.city

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