The Homes Jack Destroyed

In the 'hood from hell, they're not urban pioneers -- they're survivors

"We're stuck in a 30-year mortgage," says Jayne, who plans to stay. "We just try to get along with our neighbors: Fight it out when you have to, make friends when you can. We got to fight gangsters on both ends -- we got the little Bloods on one end and we also got Wash. U. on the other."

Most of the redevelopment of Forest Park Southeast is focused east of Kingshighway and north of Manchester, with the significant exception of the $15 million transformation of the empty Adams Elementary School, at Tower Grove and Vista avenues, into a renovated school and a new community center. Some new housing has been built on Norfolk near the school, but, for the most part, the blocks west of the school remain untouched.

Because Krause bought up his properties on the cheap -- snapping up one for as little as $6,000 -- critics suspect he has been land-banking, waiting to be cashed out by redevelopers. By neglecting his properties, they say, he's helped drive down property values, thereby making it easier for him to collect more land.

A view to a kill: 4485 Vista Ave.
Jennifer Silveerberg
A view to a kill: 4485 Vista Ave.
Residents of the beleaguered Forest Park Southeast neighborhood trace many of the neighborhood's problems to one property owner. "They feel overwhelmed," says Brian Wilson, a city neighborhood-stabilization officer.
Residents of the beleaguered Forest Park Southeast neighborhood trace many of the neighborhood's problems to one property owner. "They feel overwhelmed," says Brian Wilson, a city neighborhood-stabilization officer.

When Short Cuts finally caught up with Krause, the landlord volunteered that he'd be more than happy to unload his properties -- for the right price: "I'll sell to anybody. I'd love to get rid of them."

Then Krause complained that dealing with his tenants has been "a nightmare, an absolute nightmare" and that buying all that real estate "is the biggest mistake I ever made in my life." He says he's spent $1.5 million for the purchase and upkeep of the 36 properties, never making a profit on his investment and actually losing $296,000 over the last two years.

He claims he bought the land to "improve the neighborhood" around his business but admits the venture didn't turn out as he wanted. Finally, following Roddy's advice, Krause a few months ago hired a property-management firm to screen his tenants.

Of course, that's after 10 years of unscreened tenants' wreaking all manner of havoc throughout the neighborhood. Around Vista, some residents blame their alderman for not doing enough to control Krause and his tenants, but Roddy says the city's nuisance ordinance is "slow and somewhat cumbersome." Roddy says he's "no big fan" of Krause's.

"We whack him every chance we can to try to hold him and his tenants to a standard that benefits the neighborhood. What that standard is is very difficult to establish legislatively," says Roddy. "You end up having to jump through a whole lot of hoops, and then when you've done all this work, you go ahead and slap this guy a little bit on the hand and it's not enough to stop him from doing what he's doing already."

Clearly, the city's nuisance ordinance, revamped in July 1999, is no match for someone who owns 18 properties on one city block and 36 in one neighborhood. The ordinance kicks in when sufficient complaints are lodged on a property to the Citizens Service Bureau, which triggers a "cease and desist" letter to the owner. If the letter doesn't do the trick, a meeting is arranged with police and city officials, at which a settlement is sought. If that fails, a hearing is held at which tenants -- or owners -- can be evicted, and the building can be shut down for up to a year.

Two Krause properties reached that final stage last December. At 4454 Vista, tenants were evicted and the house was closed for 60 days. With regard to 4459 Vista, Krause, facing a hearing, evicted the tenants and boarded up the house.

"We're continuing to whack the guy. We're attempting to make his mistakes expensive for him," Roddy says about Krause, who lives in half-million-dollar house in Webster Groves.

"If this was going on in his neighborhood, he wouldn't tolerate it."

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