How Demolition Happens

Who grants demolition permits in the city?

The issuing authority is the Building Division of the City of St. Louis. The Building Commissioner (Frank Oswald currently) issues the permits on the recommendation of the Demolition Supervisor.

What is a demolition permit?

The permit for demolition is an agreement between the City of St. Louis and the applicant, in which both parties agree to follow all codes and required inspections. The permit serves as a formal and legal authorization to start the demolition work.

Who can obtain a demolition permit?

Demolition permits must be obtained by a demolition contractor certified by the City of Saint Louis. However, an owner can be issued a demolition permit if the building is less than 1 1/2 stories or 15 feet in height and contains less than 10,000 cubic feet in volume and 1,000 square feet in floor area with no basement. The owner can also be issued a demolition permit for a garage or shed.

How does the process of demolition start?

When the owner applies, the first step in the demolition process is to acquire a demolition permit from City Hall. All building permits are issued from one room, 425, in City Hall. The permit must be applied for in person, preferably by the owner of the structure being demolished. If the owner is unable, then who ever applies will need a notarized letter from the owner giving permission to apply for the demolition permit. The letter should include the owner’s contact information, the name of the individual or company that will demolish the structure, and the cost of the demolition. The applicant must also bring two picture of the structure that will be demolished.

The cost of the demolition permit is based on the size of the building to be demolished. Once an application is turned in, a customer service representative will process the application. When the permit is authorized, it is good for 30 days.

What about the “LRA”? What is that, and why does it obtain so many demolition permits?

The Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) is the city’s landbank. LRA receives tax delinquent properties that do not sell at land tax auctions, and additionally sometimes purchases property at the direction of alderpersons. LRA applies to demolish buildings in its inventory routinely.

Does the Building Division demolish buildings itself?

Yes. The Building Division has funds appropriated annually to demolish buildings that the Building Commissioner determines to be public safety emergencies under city law. If the property is privately owned, the Building Division bills the owner for the cost and a fine.

What about alderpersons? Can they initiate demolition?

Yes. Alderpersons receive an allocation of demolition funds for vacant buildings in their wards, and request directly to the Building Division the demolition of buildings. These requests are not published or shared with constituents.

Are adjacent property owners notified of the demolition?

No, the Building Division does not notify adjacent property owners.

What if a building is historic? Can it be torn down?

Any application to demolish a building that meets these criteria will be sent to the Cultural Resources Office (CRO) for review:

  • Listed in the National Register of Historic Places or in a National Register of Historic Places historic district;
  • Listed as a City Landmark or located in a Local Historic District;
  • Located within a Preservation Review District (districts designated by ordinance).

CRO requires a site plan drawing indicating the location and extent of the proposed demolition as well as photographs. CRO then reviews the demolition under the protections afforded by the city’s preservation ordinance, and either approves or denies the demolition. If CRO determines a building to be of high merit historically or architecturally, the CRO Director must bring the proposed demolition to the Preservation Board for approval.

The Building Division cannot approve a demolition denied by CRO or the Preservation Board.

An applicant can appeal the decision of CRO to the Preservation Board, and the decision of the Preservation Board to the Planning Commission, and the decision of the Planning Commission to circuit court.

How many buildings are considered “historic” under city law?

About 80 percent of city buildings fall under the protections of the city’s preservation ordinance. The extent of protection exceeds that of almost every other major American city.

Can preservation protections be suspended?

Yes. If the Building Commissioner determines that the condition of a building constitutes a public safety emergency, the city’s preservation ordinance does not apply. Furthermore, the Board of Aldermen can pass redevelopment plans that limit or suspend CRO’s review authority over individual buildings or within geographic areas.

One thought on “How Demolition Happens

  1. i own a hardwood floor buisness and would like to salvage the old flooring in the houses that are being demoed. the reason for this is to repair other historic house in the st.louis area that are being rehabbed. Many of these historic houses can be brought back to life.
    Can i salvage the old flooring before the demolition?

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