Monday, March 31, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 28

  • 2214-2216 Sullivan Avenue (Blairmont Associates LLC, May 2006)

March 2007

This one's been vacant for a long time; it had been boarded up several years when Blairmont got it. They have another building on the north side of the block as well.

March 2007

The 2200 block of Sullivan has some empty lots, but much of it is built out -- both by turn-of-the-century buildings, and a group of 1960s cottages. Many of the buildings, older and newer, are owner occupied; now those owners have to live with a speculator in their midst.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 27

    Left to right:
  • 3511 N. 25th Street (privately owned)
  • 3513 N. 25th Street (privately owned)
  • 3517-3519 N. 25th Street (Sheridan Place LLC, February 2007)
  • 3523-3525 N. 25th Street (N & G Ventures LLC, January 2007)

March 2007

This angled block is a sort of exit chute from the northern St. Louis Place neighborhood, leading to busy Palm Street as it turns into Natural Bridge Road. Accordingly, some industrial development has nosed up to its northern end.

November 2007

Blairmont owns both of these buildings. One is a fairly ordinary twin, with the common recessed St. Louis entryway. The other is a much more elaborate building, with a lovely facade in buff colored brick with piers and Roman-arched windows, whose two residential units appear to have been combined into a single use.

The left-hand house in this photo is privately owned. What must the owner think, with the speculatory wolves prowling right next door?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 26

  • 1415 Benton Street (Dodier Investors LLC, March 2007)
In 2003, this Old North St. Louis house was full of life and activity. And windows.

May 2003 - photograph by Kevin Keiffer

Now, in 2008, Blairmont has sucked all of it away... including the windows.

November 2007

Friday, March 28, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 25

  • 1449-1451 Clinton Street (Noble Development Co LLC, May 2006)

September 2006

Blairmont owns the right-hand double house. And again, I must ask --


This is getting near the core of Old North St. Louis. Those houses in the background are historic buildings that just got re-built from the ground up. New development is going up around the corner, new houses of urban form. Still more buildings are currently being rehabbed, both by developers and homeowners.

Does Paul McKee think he's going to just bulldoze all that? He can't possibly be that out of tune with reality, so what's he sitting on this once-inhabited building for? Why did he buy it? What possible purpose could it serve?

May 2003 - Photograph by Kevin Keiffer

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 24

    Left to right:
  • 2533 W. Sullivan Street (Dodier Investors LLC, October 2006 - left edge)
  • 2531 W. Sullivan Street (Sheridan Place LLC, February 2007)
  • 2529 W. Sullivan Street (Sheridan Place LLC, March 2007)
  • 2527 W. Sullivan Street (private owner)
  • 2523 W. Sullivan Street (N & G Ventures, June 2006)
  • 2521 W. Sullivan Street (private owner)
  • 2519 W. Sullivan Street (private owner)
  • 2517 W. Sullivan Street (Dodier Investors, LLC, September 2006 - right edge)

September 2006

This photo was taken just before Blairmont came to town. The shell companies targeted three of the five inhabited houses, buildings that were someone's home. Most of the remaining privately-held buildings on the block were already vacant.

I love this block. Its tidy row of one-story cottages is so intimately St. Louis that it's hard to imagine feeling any other way.

Yet Blairmont's proprietors seem to feel apathy or worse towards these buildings. They are working to buy up the entire block, which essentially means they're trying to drive out everyone who lives there and destroy it. Two of their other holdings on this block have already been obliterated by brick rustlers, even though there are other vacant buildings -- the coincidence is too extreme to ignore.

September 2006
  • 2543 W. Sullivan Avenue (Blairmont Associates LLC, December 2004)
And this is the capper, the bookend for the block. Blairmont's got it too. How long till it gets ''accidentally'' trashed on some late Sunday afternoon?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 23

    Left to right:
  • 2521 W. Sullivan Street (private owner)
  • 2519 W. Sullivan Street (private owner)
  • 2517 W. Sullivan Street (Dodier Investors LLC, September 2006)

February 2008

Three houses. All are vacant.
Only the house on the right is owned by Blairmont.
Only the house on the right has been destroyed by brick rustlers.

That house was intact when Blairmont bought it; it's the last house on the far right edge:

September 2006

More on this wonderful block tomorrow, as Blairmont is working hard to destroy it all.

Edit, 7 May 2008: The vacant house at 2519 was destroyed by fire in the first weekend of May 2008.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 22

  • 2336-2336H North Market Street (N & G Ventures LLC, July 2006)

November 2007

"Isolated" is an understatement. This house is a true survivor, a rare structure left in the astonishing blocks around N. 23nd Street, an urban prairie where nearly everything has been swept away.

Yet this house remained, occupied as recently as 2005 or so, as can be seen clearly on the aerial view linked below.

Then came Blairmont.

Where did the windows go? Did the departing residents pack them up and take them with them? Or were they just living without any windows? Is that it? Or did the new owner deliberately remove them? Why would they do such a thing?

What's most frustrating is that there's no need for this sort of tactic. There are acres of vacant land around this site, block after block of nothing. Grass fields. Empty land. There's no need to even tear this house down to create more land. The open land is already there.

And so, there's definitely no need to be buying up lots and houses in thriving areas like Old North St. Louis -- areas that quite simply are not going to go away -- and then sitting on them or destroying them. As a development tactic, it won't work. It cannot work. There's no need for it to work! And it's criminally negligent and hostile toward the people who still live there.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 21

  • 1507 Monroe Street (VHS Partners LLC, January 2006)

September 2006

Blairmont's not the only entity responsible for the decay of this magnificent street view off of Florissant Avenue. They own the single house in the center, with the dormer and the striped asphalt shingles. It's a key house in the lineup; if it falls, the whole row will be diminished, a tooth knocked out.

The grand row on the right has belonged to a company called KGA Properties LLC since April 2005, and, well, they certainly haven't done much to improve the situtation.

The amazing church in the background, once St. Liborious Catholic Church, now belongs to "Hogan Street Partners LLC" (April 2004). Not much seems to be going on to save it, but that's hardly a change from the preceding decade.

Only that humble little house below the church steeple appears to have any real care and love and hope put into it, and y'know what? It's owner occupied. Whodathunkit?

January 2003

September 2006

February 2008

I hope these KGA people get their act together. This block is too stupendous to lose.

As for Blairmont, well... uh...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 20

    Left and right:
  • 2540-2542 Hebert Street (VHS Partners, January 2007)
  • 2546-2548 Hebert Street (Sheridan Place LLC, January 2007)

September 2006: the right-hand house is very clearly occupied, and in pretty good shape.

November 2007: less than a year after its purchase by Blairmont, all that has changed. It's vacant, and brick rustlers -- or maybe just vandals -- have destroyed the east wall and left the house a ruin.

Boy, what an amazing coincidence that is!

Update: Both houses have been attacked a second time. 2540 is completely destroyed; 2546 is reduced by about 1/3rd.

May 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 19

  • 1602 N. 14th Street (Blairmont Associates LLC, May 2001)

November 2007

Here is where fear and despair butt heads with hope.

1602 N. 14th Street faces the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, a building of enormous historical value to the city, at the south end of Old North St. Louis. The former Emigrant Home suffered a partial wall collapse in 2006.

If Blairmont or a sister company owned the Mullanphy, it would have been rubble long ago. Blairmont would have let it sit for months unsecured, unprotected, and unsupported, a hazard to local residents. The City of St. Louis would have had to condemn the building, then front the money and labor to demolish it, and send Paul McKee the bill.

Fortunately, Blairmont does not own the Mullanphy Emigrant Home. It was purchased by a neighborhood renovation group, who are campaigning hard to raise money, labor and material for its repair and eventual restoration. It may take time, and it definitely will take much help, but the building has a fighting chance.

Across the street, however, is another story. Purchased by Blairmont in 2001 or earlier (one of their earliest buys), the little red house at 1602 N. 14th Street is now vacant, boarded, tagged by graffiti artists, and deteriorating.

What will its future be? Under Paul McKee's ownership, it has no future. Is this what the hard work of ordinary locals deserves in response?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 18

  • 2933 Montgomery Street (Sheridan Place LC, January 2007)

February 2008

Call it the heartbreaker house.

Purchased by Blairmont and promptly emptied, this charming little cottage was decorated with signatures and a message of farewell by its former residents: "The Walker family would like to thank you for 51 years."

Claire Nowak-Boyd captured the painful reality of it far more intimately and passionately than I can convey. There is little I can add, besides photographs.

Update: The memorial to the house's long life has been painted over.

May 2008

Is it just good old-fashioned neighborly maintenance? No, I don't think so. If it was, they could have found time to paint over the gang/memorial graffiti just around the corner on Bacon Street, but it's still hanging around:

No, it looks a lot more like an attempt to hide the fact that real people lived here, that this was somebody's home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 17

    Left to right:
  • 3224 Magazine Street (Dodier Investors LLC, July 2007)
  • 3226 Magazine Street (VHS Partners, October 2003)
  • 3228 Magazine Street (privately owned)

Blairmont's been sitting on the center unit for over four years now. Even if the private owners wanted to sell or renovate, what's the incentive when an enigmatic corporation owns the rest of your building, and is letting it fall to ruin?

February 2008

But look at the building! What a city to have lived in, where such a density of housing was worth building, and with such fine masonry detailing. What a place it must have been in its prime, what a neighborhood!

People still pay a premium to live in such neighborhoods -- in New York, in Boston, in San Francisco. St. Louis would do well to watch their examples.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Elsewhere in the demolition world...

Need a break from Blairmont decay?

Have a look at 56 Houses Left, whose author is lovingly and meticulously tracking the demolition of the early-1960s Carrolton subdivision, bought out by Lambert airport for runway expansion. The author is a former resident of the subdivision.

Daily Dose of Blairmont 16

  • 2407 Coleman Avenue

Well! I guess maybe "VHS Partners LLC" does board up its properties properly sometimes!

Or... um... uh....

...maybe not.

The swiftness and devastating extent of the damage points toward brick rustling as the culprit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 15

  • 2309 University Avenue (Blairmont Associates LLC, November 2005)

January 2003

March 2007

The Blairmont house is the stone-clad one in the background. Time has been rather spectacularly unkind to its neighbor at 2313.

If you pan around the aerial view linked below, you'll noticed several other previously-featured Blairmont properties in close proximity to this one, including the ruins of a totally destroyed house. The remaining residents of this area might well fear for the future of their neighborhood.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 14

  • 2202 Hebert Street (vacant lot - Blairmont Associates LLC, March 2005)
  • 2204 Hebert Street (alley house - MLK 3000, LLC - October 2006)
  • 2206-2208 Hebert Street (front houses - N & G Ventures, LLC - June 2006)

March 2007

What a strange amalgam! The back-of-the-lot house is 2204; the taller house in front is 2006; and the shorter house up front is... 2206-1/2 and 2208. Very odd. Stranger still, the back house is not listed at all in the city's records, with the lot noted as vacant. It's a database error unless it's been demolished since November, which, hey, I guess is a likely possibility.

Blairmont's ownership of the structures is equally convoluted, with three different shell companies hiding the fact that it all belongs to one entity.

The alley house is unusual in itself, as most have been demolished; it's rarer still in that it doesn't directly abut the alley -- instead it has its own little back yard.

The street houses show the evolution of the area's architectural tastes. It would appear the whole unit went up at once, three conjoined townhouses. But the owner of one got a taste for more space and stylish mansard roofs, and built out the attic story into a full third floor.

All look to have been occupied right up until Blairmont purchased them. And that vacant lot? In 2003, it still had a house on it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 13

  • 2506 University Street

February 2008

What's the story here?

What happened to the last residents of this sharply painted little cottage, purchased by "MLK 3000 LLC" in September 2006? Were they rushed out in such a hurry that there was no time to take down the Christmas decorations?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Daily Dose of Blairmont 12

  • 2341-2343 University Street

June 2002. Photograph by Kevin Keiffer.

Sometimes, a house is more than just a house.

March 2007. 2341 is on the right.

Sometimes, a house is part of a streetscape, part of a cohesive sequence of buildings that relate to one another and reinforce each other's designs. In the densely built environment of a historic city neighborhood, this is particularly true. Just as a full set of teeth forms a beautiful smile, so too does a complete set of buildings create a pleasing streetscape.

It is a terrible thing when a building is lost from such a sequence -- the equivalent of punching out a tooth.

What, then will become of this row if 2341 University is allowed to continue sitting vacant, as it has for many years? Blairmont Assoociates Ltd. purchased it in May 2006, and have done nothing to improve the building's condition or help guarantee its survival.

March 2007. 2341 is in the center.

Will this row, like so much around it, become nothing more than a memory, leaving no trace of what this neighborhood once was?

Update, July 23, 2008: The worst has come to be; the tooth is being punched out. Michael Allen reports on the demolition of this lovely building.