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Vacant St. Louis building to become apartments for homeless vets

Vacant St. Louis building to become apartments for homeless vets

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ST. LOUIS • Homeless veterans needing help for drug addiction and other problems will soon supplant taggers and late-night trespassers at an abandoned St. Louis apartment building.

A housing developer from Springfield, Mo., has embarked on a $12.7 million project to renovate the building as 68 affordable apartments for homeless vets. The five-story building, at 4011 Delmar Boulevard, is in the city’s Vandeventer neighborhood, about three blocks from the John Cochran VA Medical Center.

Plans call for the building, named Freedom Place by the developer, to be redone as 20 studio apartments, 24 one-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units. Monthly rents are scheduled to range from $369 to $640.

Construction should begin by the end of this month with a goal of opening Freedom Place to no-longer-homeless vets by July 4, 2014, said the developer, the Vecino Group.

Freedom Place is the first St. Louis project for Vecino, whose focus is on affordable housing and historic rehabilitation in its home territory of southwestern Missouri. Stacy Jurado-Miller, a Vecino partner, said the company chose St. Louis for Freedom Place because of the availability of help for homeless vets’ dealing with various problems and “a great stock” of buildings suitable for rehab.

The project is in line for 15-year tax abatement from the city.

Sources of funding include state and federal low-income housing tax credits, plus state and federal historic preservation tax credits. On June 25, the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority designated Vecino as the developer of 4011 Delmar.

St. Patrick Center will lead the effort to refer vets to Freedom Place and is working with Vecino on details of the agreement, said Kelly Peach, the center’s spokeswoman. She said her organization will provide a social worker who will work in the building. The center operates a housing program for veterans at the Washington Avenue Apartments downtown. Unlike that program in which formerly homeless vets live for two years, Freedom Place is meant as a long-term residence.

“We hope this is the residents’ permanent home,” said Jurado-Miller, adding that Freedom Place is “100 percent” for vets with special needs.

Officials have said that about 12 percent of the city’s 1,300 homeless are veterans.

When completed in 1928, 4011 Delmar was — and remains — the only high-rise intruder on a long block of primarily single-family homes. Today, newer houses and vacant lots mingle with the few remaining century-old homes.

Eighty-five years ago, “elegant storefronts” and terra cotta details helped make 4011 Delmar a swank new addition to a thriving neighborhood west of Grand Boulevard, according to the building’s nomination in 2008 to the National Register of Historic Places.

By 1950, the area was in decline. Vecino is taking over the building a decade after a condo conversion fizzled. Regardless, Jurado-Miller said the structure retains many “beautiful elements.”

“There is marble wainscoting,” she said. “There are terrazzo floors.”

Buxton Kubik Dodd Creative of Springfield is the project’s architect. HBD Construction of St. Louis is the general contractor. Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services of Overland Park, Kan., will manage Freedom Place.

In recent months, taggers have sprayed graffiti on parts of the building. Anthony Doss, who moved to the street in 2000, said young people sometimes roam the vacant structure at night. He said redoing the building for homeless vets will be fine as long as they are properly screened and supervised, adding its proximity to the VA med center is a benefit.

Doss said the building was a rough place to be around before all the apartments were vacated shortly after he and his family arrived on Delmar 13 years ago.

“It had pretty much slipped into being a crack house,” he said.

Weekday updates on the latest news in the St. Louis business community.

Tim Bryant is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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