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MSD to help demolish vacant buildings

File photo | St. Louis Public Radio
A vacant building owned by the city's Land Reutilization Authority in the 4200 block of St. Louis Ave.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District could spend up to $13.5 million demolishing abandoned buildings in the city.

MSD’s board approved an agreement on Thursday with the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. The move was long in the making. MSD has already demolished about 220 vacant building through a pilot program started back in 2010, and in 2015 the district announced it would do more.

MSD spokesman Lance LeComb said it’s not only helpful to the city’s effort to get rid of derelict buildings, but serves a green purpose as well. With fewer structures and less pavement, not as much water makes its way into the sewers.

"There are a lot of environmental benefits in terms of keeping storm water out of our sewer system, thereby avoiding sewer overflows and basement backups,” LeComb said.

MSD expects to be able to pull down about 1,000 vacant buildings over a five to seven year period.

That’s a big help to the city, according to Building Commissioner Frank Oswald, whose office is in charge of demolition. He estimates the city has about 6,700 abandoned buildings with about 4,000 of those structurally unsound. 

“This kind of dual purpose of being able to reduce the water that goes into the watershed for MSD and at the same time get rid of some of these problem buildings for the city of St. Louis,” he said. “It’s a great solution.”

Last year the Building Division was able to demolish just 377 structures with a budget of $1 million, far less than the $3 million that used to be allotted.

“One million dollars just doesn’t do it,” Oswald said. “We need more to keep up with it.”

LeComb said MSD does not have an exact timetable but could begin demolition of abandoned buildings this year.

MSD’s demolition program is a part of its $4.7 billion project that began in 2012 as part of a consent decreewith the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. The 23-year plan aims to address sewer discharges into the area’s waterways.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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