Restaurant owner calls out city for rundown buildings

Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

The owner of StLouisianaQ in Wright City called on city leaders last week to crack down on rundown buildings and derelict vehicles in the downtown area.

Thomas White, better known as “Chef T,” addressed the Wright City Board of Aldermen Oct. 8. White said he’s been making an effort to help improve the streets and appearance around his restaurant, but nearby neighbors allow their properties to look like “a slum.”

“I’ve got a junk yard behind me. Cars just stacked there. Then I got a building across from me that needs painting real bad. And it’s a business,” White told the aldermen. “I’m here to improve the city. Everybody in this room should want to do that, to make Wright City ... a better city.”

White added that in addition to beautifying his own building at the corner of North Locust and North First Street, he donated more than 20 parking blocks to install on the street and asked the city to paint new parking stripes.

But when it comes to fellow property owners, White said he can’t do anything more than ask them to clean up their buildings and remove unlicensed vehicles.

“The city’s got to do their part by getting on these businesses that are derelicts. They want to make the money, but they don’t want to upkeep their places. It’s up to the city to make sure they do that,” White said.

Members of the board of aldermen asked White about the conversations he’s already had with surrounding property owners, including an auto shop, apartment building and grocery store. White said he’s also spoken to police about derelict vehicles on the lot behind his building.

Police Chief Matt Eskew said his officers have had trouble contacting the owner of the lot where the cars are parked, but will pursue the issue.

As for rundown buildings, city officials said they’re interested in working with business owners to get properties improved.

“I will do all that I can to make it happen,” said Mayor Dan Rowden. He pledged to contact Mayor Sandy Lucy of Washington, Mo., a city with much success revitalizing their own downtown area.

Kelly Hill, a Shelter Insurance agent whose office is downtown, said several business owners agree that there needs to be improvements.

“We love our little downtown area, but it does need some love. We need some new sidewalks, some new lighting, we need new roads. We would love to see the buildings updated, but we know the businesses need to play a role in that,” Hill said.

Several business owners are going to form a specialized group to pursue grants for downtown revitalization, Hill said. They will spend the next year gathering information about potential improvements and their cost, and eventually work with city officials to apply for a funding program.

“If we’re going to apply for a grant program, we need to know how much we’re going to need and what we’re going to do with it,” Hill said.


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