Secure Vacant Buildings and Preserve Historic Buildings

Existing buildings with historic architectural features, unique design elements, or historical significance add character and charm to a neighborhood


St. Louis has many vacant buildings that are assets waiting to be tapped, but these buildings can also be a burden on their surrounding communities. Buildings with historic features or unique design elements add character and charm to a neighborhood, but if they are vacant and in disrepair, they can be unsafe and unsightly, and can encourage crime that leads to further decay, declining property values, and a decrease in neighborhood morale and vibrancy. Working with the City to board up buildings and maintaining the properties’ lawns can increase safety, preserve the structures, and reduce the negative effects that vacancy can have on the neighborhood.

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Related Tools

When paired with other tools, securing vacant buildings can contribute to a greater and more holistic, sustainable neighborhood. Think about community cohesion, public art, local prosperity, public safety, and healthy vibrant communities. Try combining this tool with:

Community Projects

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Neighborhood Benefits


  • Improved safety with more secure and structurally sound buildings Ability to recycle building materials
  • Reduced blighted buildings and possibility for enriching public art


  • Reduced crime and increased safety
  • Improved sense of place and ownership in the community
  • Preserved historic character of neighborhoods


  • Local residents are trained in construction, community preservation, and building safety
  • Stabilized property values from a decrease in blighted properties

Get Started

  1. Reach Out Engage your Neighborhood Stabilization Office and the St. Louis Problem Properties Task Force. The program targets owners of run-down properties or properties with a lot of nuisance crimes. Owners either clean up their properties or face lawsuits or jail time. Private lawyers working for free are available to represent neighborhoods that want problem properties cleaned up.
  2. Create Creating public art for abandoned buildings can beautify the neighborhood, address building safety issues, preserve buildings for later rehab, and engage the public. Murals on storefronts, boarded windows, and panels attached to building facades create a lively and energetic street. Work with your Neighborhood Stabilization Officer to have boards cut to size and delivered for use in your project. Examples of public art engaging or addressing the issues of abandoned buildings include:
    1. Paint the Ply - paint the plywood on vacant buildings with artistic designs
    2. Paint Murals on Buildings - Philly Paint, Abandoned Church, Detroit Demolition Disneyland, The Living Wall, Tacoma fight blight with art, Building Sculptures.
  3. Engage Create a public input campaign or installation that encourages the public to get input about the future of the building or neighborhood while securing or increasing safety on the vacant property. Examples include:
  4. Prevent Innovate creative ways to stop violations of building and historic codes by collaborating with the Citizens Service Bureau to alert City officials to unapproved alterations, dumping, brick theft and illegal demolition. Work with local art and community building programs such as the Affordable Housing Commission, Rebuild Foundation, Community Builders Network, UMSL Community Partnership Project, and Kresge Foundation to find resources to support community preservation and community arts. Also, see the film Brick By Chance and Fortune for more information
  5. Document Catalog vacant properties available for redevelopment - a map of assets - by engaging residents, youth, and volunteers, to document vacant and/or historic buildings and to promote the advantages available (historic tax credits, tax abatement) for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Share the information online, through social media, through your neighborhood or local business association, or as a brochure or printed report.  

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