Audrey Spalding
After hearing about Show-Me Institute research finding that the city of Saint Louis was turning down almost one out of every two offers to purchase vacant city property, nextSTL blogger Alex Ihnen recently asked why the city wouldn't sell a side lot in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.

The LRA side lot. Photo by Alex Ihnen of nextSTL.com
The LRA side lot. Photo by Alex Ihnen of nextSTL.com



The lot, owned by the city's largest landholder, the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), is a small one: It measures 27 feet wide, which, according to LRA policy at the time, made it just a bit too large to sell it as a side lot. Side lots are just that — lots that are combined with an adjacent building in order to create a garden or yard.

The would-be buyer, Ihnen writes, is an exceptional developer with a history of quality renovations in the neighborhood:
The possible purchaser today is Grove Properties, LLC. Grove Properties has been completing high-quality gut renovations in FPSE for several years. Some properties have sold pre-completion and sales have continued to raise the ceiling on home prices in the neighborhood.

However, under the LRA's policy at the time, the agency wouldn't sell this lot to Grove Properties because it was two feet wider than the 25-foot maximum that the LRA had imposed.

This is not uncommon. A good example of this policy in action is that of Landy Cauley. Cauley, who owned property adjacent to 4233 West Belle Pl., attempted to purchase the lot in July 2006. The LRA turned him down, according to the agency's minutes, "because the parcel does not meet the side lot policy of 25 front feet or less. The parcel is being held for infill development."

Today, the property is still vacant and owned by the LRA. The lot, to the right-hand side of the building below, looks like it would be a great addition to Cauley's current property (but I'm no city planner).

4233 West Belle Place. Image by Google Maps.
4233 West Belle Place. Image by Google Maps.



All that being said, it seems as though the LRA may be once again changing its side lot policy, slightly, for the better. Otis Williams, deputy director of the Saint Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) told Ihnen that the agency has now changed its side lot limit from 25 feet to 30 feet. This, combined with the LRA's recent vote to reduce side lot prices, certainly could free up more of Saint Louis' vacant city property for purchase.

Even better news is the possibility that the LRA will lessen its restrictions on who is allowed to purchase side lots. Under current policy, the LRA will sell side lots only to residential owner-occupants. As Ihnen reports, the LRA may vote to allow more people, such as apartment building owners and developers, to purchase side lots.

We shall see. If you are interested in seeing the LRA in action — perhaps in the process of making another policy change, in the direction of freeing up vacant city property for purchase — I encourage you to attend the agency's next public meeting on April 27.

About the Author

Audrey Spalding