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City-owned lot next door? Mow to own it

Mow to Own
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio
Eltorean Hawkins, 22, has been mowing the city-owned parcel right next to his home for two years. "It's tremendous," he said of the new Mow to Own program, which will give him the deed to that property with two more years of maintenance and a $125 fee.

The parcel next to Eltorean Hawkins’ home looks like his side yard.

He’s been mowing the grass and cutting the weeds since he bought his house two years ago, even though the land belongs to the city's Land Reutilization Authority.

Now all Hawkins has to do is pay $125 and keep mowing for another two years, and the deed goes to him.

It’s called Mow to Own.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announced the program Thursday while standing on what will soon be Hawkins’ property in the Walnut Park West neighborhood.

"We know there are a lot of good neighbors like Mr. Hawkins who want to see the lots put back to productive use," Slay said. "In return they come off the city’s mowing list and back on the tax rolls."

The city spends about $1.3 million annually mowing vacant lots and land around abandoned buildings. About 4,000 parcels owned by St. Louis’ Land Reutilization Authority will likely be eligible for the program.

Alderman Chris Carter, D., 27th Ward and Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D., 20th Ward, brought the idea to the mayor. Carter estimates he’s got 400 eligible parcels just in his ward, many of which neighbors are already maintaining.

"They cut it because they don’t want it to grow 10-feet high next to them, and they want it to look decent because it’s a part of their property too, in a sense," he said.

Now with two years of sweat equity and $125, it will officially be theirs.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.