RICHMOND HEIGHTS (KTVI) - Chris Cooper looked over the pile of rubble and dirt on Jones Avenue and Stockard Avenue.
“It was a nice neighborhood everyone knew each other,” the 21-year-old remembered moving to the area when he was only seven.
The neighborhood stood near Hanley Road just south of Interstate 64 in Richmond Heights and had homes that stood for over half a century. But, Cooper said it took only about a week to demolish every home in the area. Workers started making room for a new Menards Home Improvement Store.
“It will bring an estimated $1.7-million in sales-tax revue and 200 jobs, half of them full-time,” said Hayley Kappes, spokesperson for the City of Richmond Heights.
She added Menards bought each home privately for undisclosed amounts.
“What we do know is that each owner was paid at least twice the fair market value for their homes.”
Over the years, owners sold to speculators promising redevelopment. One by one, those plans fell through.
“Everybody moved out of the neighborhood,” Cooper remembered. “It got real quiet. They started boarding up all the homes.”
Some wondered if the area needed redevelopment so badly, why not rehab the houses?
“It is what the market was calling for at the time. After years of failed redevelopment projects,” Kappes explained. “A retail project was the one that really took momentum and took a stronghold here.”
Cooper's lives in his mother’s apartment. The landlord chose not to sell the family's apartment, which sits right on the edge of the construction site where workers are also carving out space for a new public works building.
“It’s convenient for my mom,” he said. “She works right here and everything is just close. You can get to the city and everything.”
“For a neighborhood to be leveled like this to make way for a new development, it’s just not something that would happen overnight,” Kappes also looked over the pile of rubble and dirt. “This is not something that the city takes lightly.”