ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - NewsChannel 5 is ready to listen to your ideas on how we can make St. Louis a better place. So we've been asking what you think are some of the biggest problems in the city.
One answer we've heard over and over is complaints about the numerous homes and commercial buildings that are still standing after being abandoned, burned and vandalized.
So what's going on? And is there anything being done about it?
We did some digging and at last count there are more than 6,100 vacant buildings in the city. More than 2,100 are structurally condemned.
Deanetta James is sick of the vacant building that collapsed into her north St. Louis yard last December.
"The roof leaked and that destroyed the building on the inside," James said. "I've been fighting for a long time to get it taken care of. The city says it doesn't have enough money, enough revenue to come clean this mess from my property."
In fact, the city spends more than $1 million every year to demolish old buildings.
"We base it on public safety," Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said.
Right now, more than 30 buildings have active demolition permits.
So why are there so many troubled properties? Oswald says at one point there were nearly a million people in St. Louis and enough homes to support them. Now the population has plummeted to around 300,000 and many of those old homes were left to rot.
"When people abandon buildings, don't pay their taxes or whatever, the city becomes the owner of last resort," Oswald said.
And Oswald says there's another wrinkle.
"We really want to do what we can to save buildings that have historical significance to our city," he said.
Which means many old buildings in historic areas like north city will stand until they're either redeveloped or declared completely unsafe.
"My dream for north city is to have a beautiful community once again," he said.
For Deanetta James, that starts with leveling the buildings she feels can never be saved, like the one that collapsed onto her property.
Frank Oswald is trying to create a fund to stabilize old buildings and keep them from collapsing. He says that will make the properties more appealing to developers looking to buy. If the property is purchased the city would recoup the money it spent to stabilize the building and put it back into the fund.