Regarding the chain of events in Richmond Heights concerning eminent domain in the historic minority Hadley neighborhood, it’s a curious twist that the City Council now blames the blighting on its own citizens.
As reported last month, those long time property owners went to the city council for help improving their neighborhood over a decade ago. What they got was a council who took advantage of the opportunity by doing an open-ended Request for Proposals inviting speculators and developers to harvest the neighborhood.
The response included major redevelopments casting out the residential community, costing millions of public dollars, and building another big box. These are the proposals the council courted for ten long years, leaving the neighborhood in limbo and neglect.
As one who has been in real estate and development for 25 years, I’m mystified. I lived through the blight blitz in Rock Hill that eventually fizzled. I have worked with homeowners confronted with development abuse, and we fought for and won eminent domain protections in Jefferson City.
But Richmond Heights even sued to remove those protections intended for its own historic homeowners. I know these council people expected to attract some new revenue in the trade-off, but did they think through the “de facto” discrimination set in motion by cherry picking its neighborhoods? So the weakest in this community could not get what people expect from government most – public service protecting their homes and improving their neighborhood.
I know this travesty cannot be undone and I hope the remaining few homeowners are made whole, but this looks like a series of bad bets gambling human stakes way too high.