Union's plan to revitalize a blighted city block moved forward last week.

Crews finished knocking down the remaining city-owned house at the corner of Oak Street and Central Avenue Thursday, Aug. 30.

With the demolition of the house, all city-owned properties on the block have been razed. City crews began working on removing trees to clear the site to prepare it for redevelopment.

The razing started a week after the board of aldermen approved a contract with Abatement Specialists, Inc. Aug. 13. to abate asbestos and lead paint at the properties. Once that work was done, the buildings could come down.

The city purchased two houses and an apartment building earlier this year with the intention of removing them. The homes were located at 1009 and 1019 N. Oak St. and the Central Avenue apartments were located at 208 Central Ave.

All of the properties were purchased from the lenders, Robert and Pamela Ashcraft, Des Peres, in early February for $57,999.28 — one-fourth of the assessed valuation listed by the county assessor.

“We got the property at a significant discount,” City Administrator Russell Rost said. “It’s just something that made sense to do. It will help revitalize that block and remove some blighted buildings. It will make the property values better and offer some opportunities up to people who may need affordable housing.

The city became interested in purchasing the properties last fall to address several issues. The property at 1009 N. Oak had been heavily damaged by fire while the home at 1019 N. Oak had numerous complaints because of its condition and was no longer habitable, Rost said.

Last fall volunteers helped clean up the exteriors as part of a volunteer mission. Members cut brush and removed debris to help get the property in compliance with city codes.

Eight truckloads of vegetation and debris were removed. During that cleanup, the property owners notified the city that they could not maintain the property and were going to allow it to go into foreclosure.

Rost then began working to acquire the properties. Rost said the purchase was the most economical and certainly the fastest way to address the issues with the site.

With the asbestos abatement, demolition costs and building purchases, Rost said the city looks like it will be able to clear the site for under $100,000.

Once everything is removed from the site, redevelopment can begin. Rost said he’s still in talks with Habitat for Humanity about possibly taking over the block.

“They’re kind of anxious about the site,” Rost said earlier this summer. “They have identified one person who would be interested in a home. They had issues with another home. It’s a disabled veteran.”