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Readers Favor Grove Homeowners In Dispute With Music Venue; Poor Site Selection A Contributor

August 20, 2014 Featured, Planning & Design, Real Estate, South City Comments Off on Readers Favor Grove Homeowners In Dispute With Music Venue; Poor Site Selection A Contributor

Grove homeowners Brad Fratello & Doug Moore have built a beautiful custom home for themselves.  For the background see Grove homeowners are upset about loud music from the venue behind their home. Who do you favor in this dispute?

I think the modern facade works well with the neighbors from 1916 (L) and 1904 (R)
I think the modern facade works well with the neighbors from 1916 (L) and 1904 (R)

Here is the results from the poll:

Q: Grove homeowners are upset about loud music from the venue behind their home. Who do you favor in this dispute?

  1. 50/50 41 [31.06%]
  2. The home owners 100% 34 [25.76%]
  3. The home owners 75% 25 [18.94%]
  4. The music venue 75% 14 [10.61%]
  5. The music venue 100% 13 [9.85%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 5 [3.79%]

Mathematically, the readers favor the homeowners. The venue does need to contain their noise, no doubt. The ordinance that seemed most relevant:

15.50.030 Playing of sound devices prohibited–When. A. No person shall play any radio, music player, television, audio system or musical instrument upon private property at a volume louder than is necessary for convenient, normal hearing of the person or persons who are on the property on which the device is being used or operated and who are voluntary listeners. B. Except for any lawful event occurring on a periodic basis at a venue where people assemble and that is anticipated and lawfully allowed to occur on a periodic basis and persons operating motor vehicles under Section 15.50.031 of this chapter, no person shall play any radio, music player, or audio system upon public property at a volume which is plainly audible at a distance greater than seventy-five (75) feet from the source of the sound. C. Any person participating in any lawful event as provided for in subsection B of this section may generate sound in excess of the limitations in this section only if the sound generated does not exceed reasonable sound levels in light of the nature of the event, its time, and the character of the surrounding neighborhood. (Ord. 67233 § 1, 2006: prior: Ord. 67002 § 2, 2006: Ord. 65700 § 1, 2002: Ord. 50038 § 1, 1960: 1948 C. Ch. 44 § 1 (2): 1960 C. § 760.030.)

The ordinance includes a measurement, not “plainly audible” within 75 feet. Call the police to enforce? Eventually try to get it shut down as a nuisance property? Or go after the liquor license, as they’ve done…

The Ready Room at 4195 Manchester occupies the 1930s building the new custom house backs up to
The Ready Room at 4195 Manchester occupies the 1930s building the new custom house backs up to

Their home has been published quite a bit:

Doug Moore and Brad Fratello wanted three things for their new home: a pool, privacy and a floor plan they could live with for the rest of their lives. They bought three vacant lots in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis, which gave them room for a pool. The yard backed up to a windowless commercial building, and that gave them the privacy. (Houzz)

Centered on a private courtyard and a close indoor/outdoor relationship, UIC’s design highlighted Brad and Doug’s desire for a pool while maintaining privacy. The home was custom built to fit the lot. The garage is tipped at an angle and the pool and patio mirror the trapezoid shape of the lot. With no alley behind the lots, an old factory wall — a feature Brad and Doug love — closes off the space. “Our goal was to have the home have a St. Louis feel,” says Doug. “The factory wall screams St. Louis.” Incorporating the factory wall into their space played a major role in interior as well as exterior material selections.  (St. Louis Magazine)

While I think the music likely exceeds allowable levels, I also think poor site selection by the couple contributes to the current noise problem. When I first heard they were building this house I looked for it in UIC’s project nearby, off Tower Grove. Building right up against a vacant building in a rapidly changing neighborhood is very risky. In my mind the warehouse where the Ready Room is located is undistinguished, I could see it being razed for a 4-5 story apartment/condo project with street-level retail. The now private pool would be on display to all the residents of the new building. Even rooftop dining on the existing building would destroy their coveted privacy. That brick wall they like might be replaced by cinder block. I foresee more conflicts over the years as the reality of being snugged up behind a hot commercial area sets in.

— Steve Patterson

 

Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

August 19, 2014 Environment, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Travel Comments Off on Urban Land Banking Prairie In Chicago

Yesterday’s post was about an interesting parking garage in Chicago, today is the story of why I went up to the top of the garage.

A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed.
A long block was a prairie with native grades & flowers, it looked well kept because a wide border was mowed. A concrete curb separates the natives from the tidy lawn.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie.
From the top of the adjacent parking garage you can see fenced-in prairie. Click image for map link. 

My assumption is this is a way of land banking until Northwestern decides to build on the land. The block held a large zig-zag 1940s/50s building, razed sometime within the last decade. The block is fenced, it isn’t used as a park. Land here, between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, is much too valuable to sit vacant. The campus map doesn’t identify it.

The result is a very neat looking, but easy to maintain, block.

— Steve Patterson

 

‘Spanish Lake’ Documentary Overly Simplifies North St. Louis County In/Out Migration

Last week I finally saw the documentary ‘Spanish Lake’. Director Phillip Andrew Morton grew up in Spanish Lake, an unincorporated area of northeast St. Louis County. I suggest you see the film, showing at the Tivoli through July 3rd, but do so with a few grain of salt.

First, what the film got right:

  • St. Louis County leadership guided federal low-income housing to the area
  • St. Louis County has many municipalities
  • Nearby Blackjack was incorporated in an attempt to keep out low-income public housing
  • Real estate interests actively engaged in “blockbusting” and “steering”

If you take the film at face value you’ll walk away falsely thinking:

  • All residents from Pruitt-Igoe moved to brand new apartments in Spanish Lake
  • Spanish Lake would be perfect today if not for poor blacks moving in and quickly ruining things

The Spanish Lake area has a very long history, famed explorers Lewis & Clark camped here at the start and end of their trip (1804-1806), residents have lived in the area since. This was a rural farming community for many years, but in the 1920s new housing subdivisions were platted. Northdale, the subdivision where filmmaker Morton first lived, was among the first tract housing planned for Spanish Lake, it was platted in March 1929. The depression and World War II meant the subdivision were nothing more than a drawing on file with St. Louis County. . Northdale was platted for a parcel on the east side of a freight railroad line, Northdale 2 was platted just two weeks later, in March 1929, for the west side of the railroad line.

Before farmers began platting home sites on their property, in the City of St. Louis property owners were busy placing deed restrictions to keep non-whites from buying. One example from 1911 went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1940s:

On February 16, 1911, thirty out of a total of thirty-nine owners of property fronting both sides of Labadie Avenue between Taylor Avenue and Cora Avenue in the city of St. Louis, signed an agreement, which was subsequently recorded, providing in part:
“. . . the said property is hereby restricted to the use and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date, so that it shall be a condition all the time and whether recited and referred to as [sic] not in subsequent conveyances and shall attach to the land as a condition precedent to the sale of the same, that hereafter no part of said property or any
Page 334 U. S. 5
portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mongolian Race.”
The entire district described in the agreement included fifty-seven parcels of land. The thirty owners who signed the agreement held title to forty-seven parcels, including the particular parcel involved in this case. At the time the agreement was signed, five of the parcels in the district were owned by Negroes. One of those had been occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on the south side of Labadie Avenue, within the restricted district and “in the immediate vicinity” of the premises in question, had failed to sign the restrictive agreement in 1911. At the time this action was brought, four of the premises were occupied by Negroes, and had been so occupied for periods ranging from twenty-three to sixty-three years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes until a year before this suit was instituted. (Shelly v. Kraemer, 1948)

The 1948 decision meant the government courts couldn’t be used to enforce private restrictive covenants.  Real estate interests pounced on neighborhoods, playing up fears of whites that they’d better sell while they could. Go back up and reread the quote — black families had lived on that block for years. The big fear was going over a “tipping point” where all white neighborhoods would gain just enough non-whites to make the remaining whites leave; roughly 10%.  This has been the case for more than a century now.

1951
This is the house ‘Spanish Lake’ filmmaker Philip Andrew Morton lived in during the 80s, it was built in 1951

Presumably because of the Great Depression and WWII, the homes in Northdale weren’t built until 1951; each virtually identical 864 square foot slab on grade boxes (no basement). A decade later Northdale 2 homes were built on the lots platted the other side of the tracks. These homes were built in brick, with a full basement, and 3 bedrooms instead of just 2. Those early Northdale homes were the very cheapest new housing available, and with government loans cheaper than renting in the then-overcrowded city.

The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The now-dated Belle Parke Plaza strip mall was built in 1963 to serve the new residents
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 336-unit Spanish Gardens Apts/Colonial Meadows condos on Parker Rd were built in 1964, a decade before Morton says the blacks were moved from Pruitt-Igoe.
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966
The 40-unit Kathleen Apts, shown in the film, were built in 1966

At the same time as the strip mall and initial apartment buildings were going up so were nicer homes, such as those in the Hidden Lake Subdivision behind the Spanish Gardens Apts and the Belle Parke Plaza strip mall. These houses face a private lake, are 1,500-2,000 sq ft  with 2-car garages.

Meanwhile…

The county had adopted a master plan in 1965 which embraced the 1,700 acres which were later to become the City of Black Jack. That plan designated sixty-seven acres for multiple-family construction. In 1970, 15.2 of those acres were occupied by 321 apartments, 483.1 acres were occupied by single-family dwellings, and the rest of the land was undeveloped. (source)

Apartments were planned before Congress changed the Urban Renewal program into Model Cities (1966).   Many many factors play into people’s decisions about where to live, when to move, etc… Yes, race may be a part of the decision; humans like to self-select to be with like individuals. Economics is another. For years General Motors had a factory in north city (Natural Bridge & Union), the Corvette was assembled there until 1981 when “production shifted from St. Louis, Missouri to Bowling Green, Kentucky” (Wikipedia). The entire plant was closed in 1987, but in 1983 a new plant opened in the St. Charles County town of Wentzville. The movement of blue collar jobs meant blue collar workers would follow.

Why keep living in a 30+ year old 2-bedroom 1-bath house without a basement or garage when you can get a newer & nicer home closer to work?   I’ll have more on the Spanish Lake area in the coming weeks, but I do suggest you get to the Tivoli to see it.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rehabbed Corner Storefront Now A Bright Spot In Fox Park Neighborhood

In November 2011 I posted about a Saturday in Fox Park, the city park in the neighborhood of the same name. At that time a storefront building just across California Ave from the park (map) was vacant, boarded up, and for sale. Neighborhood resident and blogger Mark Groth and I discussed that cold morning how nice it would be to have a restaurant across from the park.

The vacant commercial building in the background on November, 2011
The vacant commercial building in the background on November, 2011 as neighbors work in the park
The building at 2800 Shenandoah on January 24, 2012. Source: Geo St. Louis
The building at 2800 Shenandoah on January 24, 2012. Source: Geo St. Louis

I know what you’re thinking, two bloggers dreaming again.  Show me the money, right? The demographics aren’t right, or some other negative viewpoint. To the rest of us, we look at the above and see potential. We may not have the ability to rehab the building but there are rehabbers that share our vision. One such rehabber bought the building and renovated it. Michelle Veremakis, originally from upstate New York, came to St. Louis in 2008 after five years in California.  I asked Veremakis how she decided to buy and restore this building:

It was listed on the MLS. I had looked at it and was a worried that it would be more work than it was worth, considering the condition of the building and the immediate neighborhood. Instead, I put an offer in on a ‘safer’ building in McKinley Heights… But I just couldn’t shake the feeling I got standing inside 2800 Shenandoah. So, I followed my gut, ended the contract on the other building and began negotiations with DeSales.

For many who buy & rehab buildings it is about that “gut” feeling they get. Veremakis rehabs property in the city and county, preferring the “worst of the worst.” She closed on the property in December 2011 and completed the rehab by October 2012.

Long-time Fox Park resident Brooke Roseberry had been thinking about opening a neighborhood restaurant. Brooke and her husband Tony considered the former Tanner B’s space, but in 2013 decided to lease the newly-renovated storefront space at California & Shenandoah. After a delayed build out of the interior, The Purple Martin opened a few months ago.

The same building today
The same building today
At night the interior lights illuminate the life the building now contains. Source: The Purple Martin
At night the interior lights illuminate the life the building now contains. Source: The Purple Martin
Inside looking out. Source: The Purple Martin
Inside looking out. Source: The Purple Martin

My last question to Michelle Veremakis, the owner of the building: When you first looked at the building did you have a vision for what would go into the first floor?

Everything in reference to that building was motivated by vision.  Having purchased one of the most prominent buildings in Fox Park, we felt that we were in the unique position to benefit and inspire the neighborhood; first by revitalizing the neglected building and secondly by choosing a business (and business owners) that had the energy, intention, and vision to create something great.  After completing construction we advertised the space to the public, specifically targeting eating establishments, feeling that food creates community, and that community could bring this corner to greatness.  But money talks, right?  Unfortunately, it does which made deciding to turn away paying commercial tenants because their business type failed to meet our vision, particularly painful.   However, my genetically inherited stubbornness paid off, and V2 properties could not be more proud or excited to have The Purple Martin at 2800 Shenandoah.   Brooke and Tony are exactly what this neighborhood needs and deserves… they share in the vision, but more importantly, they are all heart.

I think Fox Park and St. Louis are lucky to have these two businesswomen! Here’s information on The Purple Martin:

Try the lablabi!

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Stocks & Mutual Funds Better Long-Term Investments Than Real Estate

Readers who voted in the non-scientific poll last week differ from  those who took a recent Gallop poll, their summary:

This year, the housing market has been improving across the U.S., and home prices have recently been rising after a steep drop in 2007 during the subprime mortgage crisis. This current improvement in prices may be why more Americans now consider real estate the best option for long-term investments. In 2002, during the real estate boom that preceded the mortgage crisis and before gold was offered as an option in the question, half of Americans said real estate was the best investment choice.

Stock values have also been improving in recent years, aided particularly by the bull market in 2013. The 24% of Americans who regard stocks as the best long-term investment is also higher now, up from 19% in 2012. Still, Americans are modestly more likely to say real estate is the better investment today, perhaps because of the recent volatility in the stock market.

So right now Americans think real estate in the best long-term investment.  Here are the results from readers:.

Q: Which of the following do you think is the best long-term investment?

  1. Stocks 27 [35.06%]
  2. Mutual funds 26 [33.77%]
  3. Real estate 15 [19.48%]
  4. Savings accounts/CDs 4 [5.19%]
  5. Gold 3 [3.9%]
  6. Bonds 2 [2.6%]

Real estate trailed in third.  History isn’t on the side of home ownership as a means of long-term investing:

From 1890 — just three decades after the Civil War — through 2012, home prices adjusted for inflation literally went nowhere. Not a single dime of real growth. For comparison, the S&P 500 increased more than 2,000-fold during that period, adjusted for inflation. And from 1890 to through 1980, real home prices actually declined by about 10%. (USA Today: Why your home is not a good investment)

 

There are plenty of reasons to buy a home, but a long-term investment isn’t one of them, especially if you’re black:

Home ownership has been an important vehicle in creating a solid white middle class, but it has not done the same for most black homeowners, because blacks and whites buy homes in very different neighborhoods. Research shows that homes in majority black neighborhoods do not appreciate as much as homes in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. This appreciation gap begins whenever a neighborhood is more than 10% black, and it increases right along with the percentage of black homeowners. Yet most blacks decide to live in majority minority neighborhoods, while most whites live in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. (Forbes: How Home Ownership Keeps Blacks Poorer Than Whites)

The young are cautious about buying:

Young people have delayed life decisions, including moving for jobs, forming households, getting married and having children, said Peter Francese, an independent demographer and consultant in Exeter, New Hampshire.

“There is a lack of belief that there is something better in another state,” he said.

Slower household formation is lowering home ownership. Just 36.2% of Americans under 35 owned a home in the first quarter, compared with 41.3% in 2008’s first quarter, the Census Bureau reported April 29. (Financial Post: Young and unwilling to relocate: How Millennials may be holding back the U.S. labour and housing recovery)

Many in St. Louis still push for owner-occupied redevelopment, even though rental housing appears to be in greater demand for the foreseeable future.  Besides the young, Baby Boomers entering retirement are faced with being home owners or renters:

Hopefully in the coming years those who rent housing won’t have the negative stigma expressed by home owners. I know many renters who are active in their neighborhoods.

 

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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