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St. Louis seeing housing boom, Mayor says.

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Home building booms, mayor says

By Tim O'Neil

Of the Post-Dispatch



Tom O'Bannon (left) and Duane Schwent replace windows in the Grace Lofts at 1324 Washington Avenue downtown.

To the scream of saws and pop of nail guns, Mayor Francis Slay stood Thursday amid homes under construction on old Gaslight Square and declared St. Louis the hot new place to live.

Slay held his news conference in the 4200 block of Olive Street for two reasons - to herald what he called a record high in residential building permits and to challenge the city's dubious distinction in a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

One month ago, the Census Bureau released its annual estimates of population changes in the nation's cities of 100,000 people or more. The report projected that St. Louis had lost proportionately more residents since 2000 than did any of the cities on the list. There were 245 cities on the list.

The bureau estimated that as of July 1, 2003, St. Louis had 15,966 fewer residents since the national head count in 2000 found 348,189 souls within the city limit. It projected that Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland had lost more people, but with proportionately smaller losses than St. Louis' estimate decrease of 4.3 percent.

Slay quickly denounced those estimates as "bogus and unreliable." He said the Census Bureau should have included building permits in its calculations for St. Louis.

He said Thursday that during the 12-month period ending June 30, City Hall issued more permits for new homes and apartments, and for more major renovations of older residential units, than it ever has before.

"There is a building boom going on in St. Louis," he said. "It demonstrates a growing confidence in the city and its neighborhoods. This is good news for the entire region."

During the fiscal year ending June 30, the city issued permits for 2,967 new, rehabilitated or substantially renovated units, which include:

187 new single-family housing units.

723 new multifamily units.

1,794 for "major rehab" of existing multifamily buildings.

263 for renovations of older homes.

The city also has issued permits for improvements of at least $30,000 on each of 8,637 existing dwelling units, either homes or apartments. The latter figure would include the roughly 1,500 loft apartments that have been built into former commercial buildings in and near downtown.

City officials said they didn't know how many of the renovation projects of $30,000 or more represent new dwelling units or simply upkeep of existing ones.

Slay said the combined annual total is higher than ever for the city and 37 percent more than the 2,105 permits issued during the 2000-2001 year.

His office has asked the Census Bureau to reconsider its numbers and include building permits. But the bureau is sticking to its numbers, and a spokesman said it has an adequate system for estimating population changes for St. Louis without construction information.

The mayor chose old Gaslight Square, a few blocks west of midtown, for his announcement Thursday because of its transformation. Once a bustling entertainment district, it had fallen to crime and deterioration by the early 1970s. Only months ago, it consisted of vacant lots and derelict buildings. Today, developers are building 40 homes and 30 condominiums in the 4200 block and plan an additional 60 on the block to the east.

With all that building, Slay's administration estimates that the city would have lost no more than 8,000 residents since 2000 - half the Census Bureau's estimate - and may be able to show an increase in population within two years. That would be dramatic news for a city that has been steadily losing population since shortly after World War II.

Greg Harper, a Census Bureau demographer who helped prepare the 2003 estimates, said the bureau uses building permits in estimating population for most cities. He said it doesn't use them for the few, such as St. Louis and Baltimore, that double as their own counties.

For them, he said, the bureau can use what he called a superior system of relying upon data such as birth and death certificates, and home addresses on federal tax returns. For cities that are parts of one or more counties, he said, overlapping ZIP codes make some of that data unusable.

With the city's emphasis upon renovations, Census Bureau data isn't much help in trying to compare building activity in similar cities. Randy Mourning, of the city's building division, said the Census Bureau doesn't ask for information on most renovations.

What the census reports do show is that more homes were built in St. Louis during the past four years than in St. Paul, Minn., Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which also were listed as having lost population. But more were built in Cleveland and Minneapolis, two others also on the population-loss list.

In Kansas City, with supposedly static population, almost 10 times as many new homes were built in the past three years as there were in St. Louis. Kansas City, spread across parts of three counties, also has much more land area.

St. Louis' annual production of new homes is more than double what it was a decade ago but remains small when compared regionally. According to the Home Builders Association of Greater St. Louis, 165 new homes were built in St. Louis in 2003. In that same year, 1,479 were built in St. Louis County, 4,036 in St. Charles County and 1,552 in Jefferson County.

Reporter Tim O'Neil

E-mail: [email protected]

Phone: 314-340-8132

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Good news for St. Louis but you guys just need to occupy the units now ;)

The census estimates were total bogus. Especially when they said Chicago is losing people, haha, I went there and they have more lofts and towers being put in than KC and St. Louis combined.

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Thats awesome. I believe the Census Bureua said that they were wrong with STL's counts. Thats great. Now they need to stop the heavy crime.

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There was an interesting letter to the editor on this subject in the Post today.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Letter to the Editor

from David Pulley


"City must improve quality of life"

Mayor Francis Slay seems to be consumed with changing the image of the city by painting a picture of population growth and a building boom within the city.

While he is correct to some extent that people are returning to the city to live in certain popular areas, the neighborhoods are continuing to decline. Until he admits that there are serious quality-of-life issuies that need to be addressed, these newcomers will leave as fast as they arrived.

Car thefts, carjackings, and armed robberies occur with such frequency in the city that they are not reported in the media.

While some properties are being rehabbed at a lightning pace in many areas of the city, others are being allowed to decline to a point of condemnation in the same areas. Until recently, city properties appeared to be a bargain as the cost per square fot was much lower than in other areas. However, with franchised rehabbers now moving in to buy up the properties and inflating prices to an unsustainable level, the bargains are dissapearing quickly.

Until the mayor solves the quality-of-life issues in the city; primarily crime-ridden, unsafe neighborhoods and deteriorating properties in those neighborhoods; the city has no chance of a comeback.

And this will not be accomplished by continually reducing the number of police oficers in the city or ignoring problem properties, as is currently the case. the police force recently has been reduced by 90 officers, and problem properties are taking years to make their way through the courts.

These are the problems that need to be addressed rather than spending time arguing with the Census Bureau over 150 lost residents.

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I just read a new article stating that St. Louis police "forgot" to report 5,760 crimes from 2003. Mayor Slay has been bragging about how crime is down in the city when in reality it was up 4% from 02 to 03.

"(police chief)Mokwa said Tuesday that he "didn't feel compelled" to publicize the error because he still feels crime is generally headed down- even if it was up last year."


What a bunch of crap!!! Why do I live in this hole?

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If you don't like it then move to St. Charles County. :rolleyes:


I agree with you. But the St. Charles Hell hole is overflowing with rednecks. I don't think that they would be able to take too many more.

BTW, suburban locations coverup their crime more so than St. Louis city.

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^How about Warren County?

"BTW, suburban locations coverup their crime more so than St. Louis city."

YUP! Right now there is a flurishing drug trade going on in West County and St. Charles, but don't expect to see anything about it in the PD or the 10 o clock news. :silly:

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