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Residential rehabbers push into north city: 'We broke down that Delmar Divide'

"People are starting to see home values shouldn’t change just because you cross the street."
Credit: SLBJ
Real estate investors are rehabbing and selling homes north of Delmar Boulevard, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

ST. LOUIS — Real estate investors are rehabbing and selling homes north of Delmar Boulevard in neighborhoods adjacent to the affluent Central West End and DeBaliviere, transactions that, while small in number, are bringing unheard-of sums for the area and leading to hope that the region’s long-standing dividing line for race and wealth may be starting to break down.

“People are starting to see home values shouldn’t change just because you cross the street,” said Antione Lawrence, a broker for Hybrid Real Estate who sells in the West End neighborhood.

In recent years, the value and number of building permits — mostly a reflection of residential rehab activity in the historic areas — are up significantly in the Academy neighborhood, and remain strong in the West End.

Prices in those and other north St. Louis neighborhoods abutting Delmar illustrate the turnaround: The city of St. Louis has said that appraised values for single-family homes in the 26th Ward, which includes the West End and Visitation Park, rose 8.3% from 2019 to 2021, while values in the 18th Ward, which includes Academy and Fountain Park, increased 3.7%.

ZIP codes that include those neighborhoods are seeing homes sell for larger sums, according to the St. Louis Realtors, a trade group. The 63113 and 63112 ZIP codes, for example, saw median sale prices of $73,000 and $180,000 last year, up from $45,000 and $167,000 in 2018.

Developers say the change — with buyers willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in some instances — has allowed them to embark on luxury rehab and other projects in the areas.

No one suggests that heavily Black north St. Louis – which saw a major exodus of residents last decade and still counts thousands of vacant lots and structures, many owned by the government – is experiencing a widespread renaissance. But the developers believe that in their targeted areas of the city, they may be witnessing an initial dismantling of the so-called Delmar Divide.

'URBAN PIONEERS' 

Rodney Norman, a former IT professional, lived for decades near Dallas. But after seeing how little his parents’ West End property would fetch on the market, he and his wife, Juanita, decided to move back to St. Louis to rehab and sell his childhood home.

In 2007, when they got to town, almost no one was rehabbing houses in the West End, he said.

In the past two years, he’s fixed up and sold houses along his parents’ street, Maple Avenue. Now, the market is finally developing, Norman said.

“We are urban pioneers,” he said. “And we feel that we have motivated other people to look at Maple because there’s activity on our immediate block.”

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