The City of St. Louis and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) have started on their $13.5 million program to demolish hundreds of abandoned structures.

There are more than 7,000 abandoned, dilapidated homes in St. Louis City, many of which create health and safety hazards. The city can only afford to demolish 200 of these buildings each year.

Now, the Metropolitan Sewer District is stepping in to help.

This all started 10 years ago when the EPA sued MSD over too much sewage flowing into area waterways.  One way to solve that problem is by reducing storm water runoff from rooftops and pavement. More soil and grass absorbs more rain, which is why MSD is whole-heartedly behind this effort, transforming abandoned houses into green space.

Generations of St. Louisans once called this block of Labadie home. But now, the residents are outnumbered by boarded up windows, which shield crumbling walls from the light of day. Residents say these abandoned houses are more than just an eyesore.

Jerome Wright explains, "The nuisance with the vacant houses is that people can burn them up, you've got animals running in and out, people running in and out doing stuff, it's just a hazard because like this house here, most of them are falling down."

Alderman Jeffrey Boyd said the vacant homes directly contribute to crime in his ward: “We just don't need another situation where a young kid, 10, 11, 12-year-old is snatched up and put into an abandoned building."

MSD's Urban Greening Program is budgeting up to $13.5 million for the demolitions. 

Together, MSD & city officials are identifying the abandoned structures to be torn down, based on the green space their properties would offer, and the danger and health risk they pose.

Within an hour Thursday morning, three of the abandoned homes slated for demolition were already torn down.  Over the next several years, nearly 1,000 of these structures will be knocked to the ground.

The program will produce 50 acres of permeable ground, reducing rainwater runoff into the combined sewer system, thereby reducing sewer overflows into the Mississippi River, which is a key objective of MSD. It will also remove vacant buildings and create properly maintained green space to make adjacent development easier, which is a strategic priority for the City of St. Louis.

Mayor Francis Slay said, "It will address a central concern for so many St. Louis residents.”

Boyd added, "This is important to me, I grew up on this block, so I'm hopefully as the alderman that one day in the future we can see it be a great strong neighborhood like it was years ago."

In this first phase of the program, 11 buildings will be demolished.