LOCAL News :: Housing and Development

Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Condos on south grand destroyed by arsonist, asshole developers, hipsters and yuppies delayed in their quest to gentrify the area.
I caught this in the paper the other day. I don't know much about the housing situation in the South Grand but I do know the area is becoming gentrified. It looks like someone got sick of all of the hipsters and empty nesters moving in to these $200,000-$300,000 condos and jacking up the property tax. Good for them.

Anyone know more?

(Repost from KSDK)

(KSDK) - Arson has not been ruled out in Thursday's early morning fire that destroyed two condominium complexes that were still under construction on South Grand Avenue.

St. Louis City bomb and arson crews returned to the scene Friday morning, along with officers from St. Louis County and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives.

They say a gasoline can was recovered from the debris and such an accelerant is suspected, since the fire burned so fast. Evidence was taken to the scene and sent off to a lab for testing. Results should be back next week.

It's estimated that the fire caused $3 million in damage at the St. Louis project.

The Compton Gate development had 30 condominiums and six multistory townhouses and was set to be finished this fall. None of the units were sold, but eight were reserved.

The developer is promising to rebuild.


Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

It is my understanding that there is still plenty of cheap housing in St. Louis. However, the prices for properties in the South Grand area (Tower Grove East, TGSouth, Shaw) are crazy. My wife and I bought our house five years ago in TGE but couldn't afford the same house now. I met a guy rehabbing a SMALL house on the 2700 block of Compton and he said he couldn't afford to buy it. That's a shame when you can't afford a necessity that you re-created (especially a reasonably-sized house).

As far as the area being culturally yuppified, that's true. As long as Jay International stays cheap and where it's at, though, I'll still love South Grand. Not to diss Erato, Sekusui, Qdoba and the new high-end homewares store going into the old Isn't It Grand space, but if every store becomes like those, I'll walk the backstreets to work.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Yeah, great for them! Stop those construction jobs! Keep unemployment up! Spread the fire to a historic house next door!

Viva la revolution!

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Sure, this is a crime involving property destruction, loss of work for the contractors, and some minor damage to adjacent buildings, but I do really wonder how sad the neighbors were to see this thing burn down. Developers build their piles to make a quick buck, typically with no regard whatsoever to the impact their housing projects have on the existing neighborhoods (e.g. inflating property tax, congesting traffic). Plus, their construction tends to be hurried and shoddy, such that the buildings will be falling apart in 20-30years.

Re: Arsonist (probably the owner) burns down overpriced condo's

I thought it was arson as soon as I heard about the fire in the corporate media. The excessive heat of the fire suggests they used unnatural combustables to start the fire. A natural cause fire probably wouldn't have melted nearby signs and other objects the way this fire did.

I'm more likely to believe the arson was by the developers themselves than by an anti-gentrification([search]) activist. The drawings of the proposed condos suggest there isn't enough demand for the owner to sell a high percentage of the units at the high prices. The easiest way for a developer to make a profit as this housing bubble bursts is to destroy her own building and pocket a fat insurance check.

For example, a woman from Ladue owned absentee an old building in U City, couldn't make a profit rehabbing, so she had someone set the building on fire, then pretended to be surprised when she was told the building was on fire. Unfortunately the idiot insurance company won't deny the claim.

Another example of arson by the owner: Lauren Grossman burned down his Subway store in the Loop in 1995. He was about to open a deli in Wash U. Again, he probably wasn't formally charged with arson and the idiot insurance company probably paid him a fat check (raising rates on honest people to make up for the payouts to arsonists).

As the actual values of housing in STL continue to plumment with the housing bubble burst the vast majority of the lofts, new housing gotten from kickback deals with Slay([search]) and his cronies, rehabs, etc, are NOT affordable), owners will continue to destroy their investments for insurance money.

Sorry to take joy away from anyone who cheered the fire hoping it was started by real residents to take back the community.

When I lived near South Grand in the 1990s, I enjoyed the area. It was like the Loop was before the Loop was destroyed by gentrification. Ideally South Grand won't become another Loop, forcing out the Vietnamese and other mom & pop stores in favor of Starbucks and fondue bistros.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

YEAH! I love it when we get rid of people who actually can afford to pay taxes!!! The lower the property taxes the worse our schools are. The worse our schools are the higher the unemployment. The higher the unemployment the higher the crime. Yeah!!! Last thing we want in St. Louis are for the people who owns homes to actually benefit from rising prices. Those people need to have their houses burned down!!!

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

When property tax gets jack to the point where it drives people out, no one's going to be around to reap the rich benefits of having such great public schools (I don't think people who can afford $200,000-$300,000 apartments send their kids to public school) and philanthropic neighbors.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

The majority of these developers sell their properties with a tax abatement so new construction and rehab construction does nothing to help the public schools.
S. Grand is indeed being gentrified. Just ask the family that owns Lemon Grass about the response they received when they decided to move a few hundred feet down Grand. They heard something like, "We don't want to create a 'Vietnamese Town'."

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Where did you form the opinion that property taxes in the city are more than anywhere else in the region? From what I have seen, we are lucky in that it is far cheaper here than the 'burbs.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

If gentrification([search]) is new development, why is it so wrong? If it's rehabbing a house you live in, why is that wrong? Can someone explain why this is such a negative to a neighborhood?

Purchasers of new development will bring earnings tax revenue to the City, though their properties may be tax abated. If they don't have kids in schools, they're funding that resource but not draining it. That's a net benefit.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Good Grief, I agree that development is not bad for a neighborhood. Gentrification([search]), however, involves displacement of the new residents of the neighborhood.

This is my understanding of what happens when a neighborhood gets hip and very expensive condo's or other housing starts getting built.

The City Assessor evaluates properties every three years (I think), and assigns a property value to the property based on approximate value of the building, housing supply and demand, location, structure, the age of the building etc.

I think that when a neighborhood becomes desirable

(for example: because of factors such as desirable architecture, proximity to cultural attractions such as theaters, or a nearby booming restaurant strip. These factors are probably combined with other factors such as the migration patterns of suburban baby boomers children, people from the middle or upper class moving from one part of the city to another, or empty nester suburbanites moving out of high matainence suburban homes whose size they no longer can justify)

it starts getting eyed by developers. Someone takes a chance and builds an expensive condo. Other developers follow their lead. The presence of nearby condominium developments drive up the property value of the surrounding homes. A rising property value is directly correlated to higher property taxes. Renters of housing units in the area have their rents raised by landlords who need or want to pass off the burden of the higher taxes. Some landlords may also decide to take their building "condo," and residents who cannot afford to purchase condominium units must move out of the building after a period of time. Eventually rent and property taxes in the area gets so high in a neighborhood that the original residents must move out as new wealthier residents move in, or families and individuals must pay well over their means for housing.

Development could be a positive thing in a neighborhood if steps are taken to ensure that it does not spawn a wave of gentrification, like creating a permanent stock of affordable housing to ensure that the original residents are not displaced and creating a planned development process that all resident of the neighborhood are a part of.

I guess, "Develop, Not Displace!" could be a good slogan for that mess of writing up there. I hope that helps, and if I am completely wrong someone let me know.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Ya' know, I just gotta wonder about the significance of the taxes issue. We paid three times what the previous owner of our house, who essentially did a gut rehab, did, yet our taxes have risen from $900 to only $1300. We've been here more than five years so any reassessment had to have caught that sales price. That increase of $400 translates to $33.33/month, for a huge price increase. It's just not that big a deal.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

I guess I'm having a hard time envisioning this problem in St. Louis. I live in what's probably considered a "gentrifying" area, but since most properties around me are owner-occupied, no one's being displaced, that I can see. There's lots of rehabbing, but it's primarily people rehabbing their own homes.

Also, there's a ton of affordable housing within two miles of my home, judging by the real estate sales pages for this zip code and an adjacent one. The sales prices are quite varied, which I think is desirable.

Also, the Compton Gate condo development didn't directly displace anyone; it was sited on a vacant lot, so I have a hard time lauding anyone for its destruction.

FTR, I'm neither a hipster nor an empty nester, and those in my neighborhood aren't either.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

I think it is difficult to jump to conclusions that this is an act in response to gentrification([search]). I think developers need to be considered, as well as groups who oppose or wish to see the historic tax credit program eliminated. Finally, if it is related to gentrification, is anyone aware of a larger national movement that is occuring in other cities similar to St. Louis? If it is gentrification related, I would believe that what we are seeing is part of a larger network.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

Gentrification into what? The neighborhoods that tax payers support through public housing? Gentrifying a city that has no diversity? Bringing people and tax money into a city with too little of both? Chicago schools are funded at a much higher rate than they were 20 years ago, before large-scale gentrification([search]) on the northside, and black and mexican neighborhoods still maintain the largest geographical area of the city. So, do something productive if you care so much. Rents aren't changing, the northside is still cheap. Laf. Sq. is still expensive. Grow the fuck up.

Re: Arsonist burns down overpriced condo's

"I don't know much about the housing situation in the South Grand" No shit Mr. Decker. You should think before you blog.

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