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Positively St. Louis: The Land Reutilization Authority converting abandoned properties into productive use

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ST. LOUIS -The Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) of the City of St. Louis is a development board staffed by the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC). The LRA is responsible for the stewardship and sale of nearly 10,000 previously abandoned buildings and property in the City of St. Louis. 

When a property owner doesn’t pay property taxes and no one purchases it at a tax sale, the property ends up in the hands of the LRA. The LRA is the oldest and largest landbank in the country, and it required an intentional operational assessment to reform the LRA’s purchase programs, processes, and public communications. 

That process started in February 2023 with the adoption of new sales policies to enhance economic empowerment, equitable and inclusive development, and neighborhood transformation in conjunction with the SLDC’s Economic Justice Action Plan.

Shelton Anderson is the Vice President of Real Estate for SLDC/LRA who oversees the physical and financial performance, and business strategy of SLDC’s landbank.  He also leads a team of urban planners, real estate professionals, and contractors to evaluate each of the 10,000 parcels and put an action plan into place. 

Anderson says, “LRA is the owner of last resort to disposition properties sale and market them for productive redevelopment in the City of St. Louis.”

The majority of the 10,000 parcels are single-family homes, all in various conditions, which include homes that are partially demolished and homes that are structurally unstable. The largest concentration is on the north side of the city. 

Shelton says the plan deploys classic real estate practices, “the strategic plan for LRA, is essentially align all of those parcels with programs that are funded and activating and redeveloping each of those parcels into productive use. We are going through a process of inventory analysis, which is essentially getting a better understanding of what the best use is each of the parcels that LRA owns.”

Anderson says the LRA is facilitating the due diligence process on new development projects, identifying, and implementing ways to optimize use of properties and land, and working in partnership with facilities and management teams to develop strategies to maximize the value of the properties. 

The LRA team is on a mission to add value to the St. Louis region.  Anderson explains, “these matters because the redevelopment is St. Louis.  Specifically redeveloping North St. Louis, which is historically the most disinvested portion of the city . It is important in collectively developing St. Louis City in its entity which will also develop St. Louis as not just a city, but the county, and being able to take the development that will expand out into impacting the region.”

Jasmine Cannon is the real estate asset manager for the LRA who says now is the right time to transform LRA operations, policies, and practices to achieve its objectives and increase transparency for residents in the neighborhoods impacted the most. 

Cannon says, “to activate the parcels, we need to better under what’s going on in our community first . I’m always looking at the data, that is my focus. I want to know what the data is. I want to better understand a quick snapshot of what is happening within our neighborhoods and in the City of St. Louis. To be able to partner with the appropriate department and individuals we talked about the transformation. Mangers who act as our field and boots on the ground messengers, so whatever information they bring back to us, we partner that with the rest of our strategy and our method to further push those parcels in the right direction.”

Shelton is focused on a neighborhood approach and his team is moving quickly, “as we go through process conducting condition assessment for each property, that’s really determining the condition property and weather it fits the ability to be demolished the criteria for that is really assessed by issues such as being located close to schools. Issues such as homes that are not vacant next door,  which could pass destabilization issues and challenges with our next-door neighbors and the ability for that particular property to not just be demolished or stabilized, but really utilized block by block approach where we are identifying the totality of those blocks.  The number of vacant properties that can be stabilized demolished and redeveloped on a block, placing them in active programs that essentially will allow for redevelopment not in a two year three year path but able to redevelop in what we vision being as early as next year.”

This is what Positively St. Louis looks like. To learn more about the LRA, visit them online: DevelopStLouis.org/LRA

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