As spring approaches, people across northeast Missouri will begin looking for flowers and mushrooms to appear seemingly overnight. On Hannibal's South Side, residents will be seeing “for sale” signs starting to “pop up” this spring in front of properties renovated in conjunction with the city's Community P.R.I.D.E. Project.

As spring approaches, people across northeast Missouri will begin looking for flowers and mushrooms to appear seemingly overnight. On Hannibal’s South Side, residents will be seeing “for sale” signs starting to “pop up” this spring in front of properties renovated in conjunction with the city’s Community P.R.I.D.E. Project.

This week a “for sale” sign went up in front of 323 Fulton Ave., one of six houses that was acquired for renovation by the JT Rivers Real Estate Fund.

“We are following through on our commitment to work with the city and invest in Hannibal,” said Scott Bean of JT Rivers. “The city has been very good to work with. City officials really do want to facilitate a rejuvenation of Hannibal.”

In addition to 323 Fulton Ave., JT Rivers’ other properties that are either under renovation or slated to be redone are located at 500 Bluff St., 502 Bluff St., 308 Swan St., 907 Bluff St. and 911 Bluff St.

“(They’re) all within a stone’s toss. If you were to drive down to 323 Fulton you will hear the noise of hammers, saws, nail guns, and see dumpsters full of debris,” said Bean. “Most of them (houses) will be fully renovated and back on the market within the next 8-12 weeks.”

JT Rivers’ preliminary work on the South Side has received attention.

“We have people driving by and taking photos of the homes down on Bluff,” said Bean.

While JT Rivers is currently focused on renovating structures, that will change this spring.

“We also demolished and backfilled the home at 629 Union St., across the street from the school. This will be a new build in the spring-summer,” said Bean.

New construction

As time goes on, City Manager Jeff LaGarce looks for JT Rivers to become more involved in new construction.

“(It) is developing several new-home prototypes for the South Side that are designed to fit on smaller, narrower lots,” he said.

Thus far JT Rivers has taken the lead in home renovation and new construction in the Community P.R.I.D.E. Project’s South Side footprint.

“I am not yet aware of other developers purchasing properties for new construction or rehab,” said LaGarce. “I’ve spoken with many, but I’m not yet aware of any physically doing so yet. We hope this grows considerably as the weather warms and the construction season begins.

“I was hoping to see more reinvestment activity, but I cannot complain. We enacted this program just before winter, and we are undergoing lengthy condemnation processes on a number of dilapidated properties right now.”

Thus far only a small number of properties have been acquired by the city for use as a Community P.R.I.D.E. Project site.

“We have only acquired four sites thus far. Only one or two of them are suitable for new home construction, and none are suited for rehab. We hope to have many more moving forward to avert the lengthy forfeiture/blight process,” said LaGarce, adding that once a property starts down the tax-forfeiture path it can take years to complete.

“Once they enter that process, state law requires some three to five years to complete the process,” he said. “Reinvestment really doesn’t occur during that process because it takes three to five years for private citizens who bid these properties to obtain clear title. Nobody will invest without clear title. Who would?”

A faster approach

While the city is moving forward with its plans to acquire dilapidated structures, LaGarce recommends a faster approach.

“We have encouraged investors not to wait for us. Go ahead and purchase property for reinvestment. That’s what the program is all about,” he said. “The city will only be acquiring and conveying condemned sites largely destined for tax-forfeiture. We’ve found that most condemned sites, probably in excess of 90 percent, eventually go into tax-forfeiture.”

The city manager notes that JT Rivers purchased its seven properties from their owners, not from the city.

“We are thrilled they are doing this, and we encourage other investors to do so,” said LaGarce.

JT Rivers is not just providing renovated properties, but employment opportunities to local tradesmen.

“We are using local help for demo, drywall, framing, painting, etc.,” said Bean. “We know that we will get to a point of critical mass where we do not have to search out local help as they will find us because of the amount of work we are doing. It is already starting to happen as we have people showing up at our work site on a weekly basis handing us their resumes.”

What JT Rivers is doing in Hannibal is gaining a national audience.

“As we share our story of investing in Hannibal we are intrigued with how many people want to be involved,” said Bean. “We have a small handful of investors from Texas that will be headed out to Hannibal within the next 10 days to see the work we are performing out there. They love the back story of America’s Hometown and the rich history of Hannibal.

“We look forward to spending the next several years in Hannibal and getting to know its past and present.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com