As I read Eugene Robinson’s May 1 op-ed column, “Ghosts that haunt Charm City,” I found myself both nodding and shaking my head with equal vigor. I know all too well that abandoned buildings can drag down the look of a city written off for its many problems.
Once upon a time, St. Louisans looked to demolishing abandoned buildings to resolve social problems and improve appearances. The results, however, diminished the city: fewer buildings, fewer people, less tax revenue, degraded land values. In 1998, Missouri created a state historic tax credit, and ever since St. Louis has been finding that rehabilitation creates wealth in communities that assumed they had hit bottom.
St. Louis has a smaller population than Baltimore, none of the proximity to other major cities and far lower demand for real estate. Yet we harnessed the economic power of what seemed like a dead weight: vacant buildings.
Mr. Robinson might want to rethink his thesis to at least admit that rehabilitation is as viable a solution as demolition — and one with greater economic returns. Not everything can be saved, but not everything should be bulldozed either.
Michael R. Allen, St. Louis
The writer is director of the Preservation Research Office, which helps people earn tax credits for rehabilitating buildings.