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Steffen’s Plate Too Full?

June 30, 2006 Downtown, Local Business, Politics/Policy 14 Comments

In April the St. Louis Business Journal ran a cover story on John Steffen’s Pyramid Companies titled, $609 million in projects on John Steffen’s plate:

City of St. Louis officials say Steffen’s done everything he’s promised downtown. The city unquestionably has the most at stake with Steffen’s plans. The mostly vacant St. Louis Centre is a dark spot in the midst of downtown’s booming development activity. But Deputy Mayor of Development Barb Geisman said the city is confident about Pyramid’s ability to redevelop the mall for retail and residential use. The city set aside $8 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits for the redevelopment of St. Louis Centre. Steffen has also requested $34.3 million in tax increment financing from the city of St. Louis for St. Louis Centre and $8.75 million for the redevelopment of the Jefferson Arms building at 415 N. Tucker.

But it seems the TIF financing for St. Louis Centre (to be renamed 600 Washington) and the Jefferson Arms may have run into a bit of a delay. I received, anonymously through the mail, copies of letters sent from Ivy Neyland-Pinkston, the City’s Deputy Comptroller for Finance & Development, to John Steffen indicating a “reminder” of payments due for “administrative expenses” on both projects. The amounts, per the letters, were “due 10 days prior to the Public Hearing which was held on May 10, 2006.” The 600 Washington project has an initial installment of $51,450 while the Jefferson Arms installment is $13,125.

Both letters are dated June 20, 2006 and indicate the second installments are due for the same amounts on each project prior to the signing of the TIF Redevelopment Agreements. So on the surface this may mean very little, just a slight delay until the full financing package is pulled together. It may also mean the closing on both will be delayed.

Today I spoke with Ivy Pinkston of the Comptroller’s office who declined to speak to the “press”, directing me to instead to press liaison John Farrell. Farrell confirmed the Comptrollers office did send out the letters on June 20th but, due to the holiday, was unable to confirm if the balance has been brought current. He further indicated these letters are fairly routine.

This does raise a few questions: Is it normal to approve TIF financing for a project when the fees are not paid in advance as required? Also, does the city hold their ground and not sign the agreements until the fees are paid or are they lax on that as well. Try getting a building permit without first paying the fee.

At the very least we know part of the reason why construction has not yet begun on St. Louis Centre. But the bigger issue might be whether or not Pyramid is overextended. The city does have a lot riding on Steffen’s projects.

[UPDATE 7/1/06 @ 4:15pm – I received a call at the end of the business day yesterday from John Farrell of the Comptroller’s office to answer another of my questions — the city does collect the fees before signing the final agreements. That is good to know!]

– Steve


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Hans Gerwitz says:

    It’s been stated publicly by a partner of Pyramid’s that they expect to close on SLC in September, finalize financing in April, and move residents in by 2009. I think we’d all love to see it go faster, but a few months ago most people would’ve been ecstatic to think the Centre would be rebuilt as upscale residential before 2010.

  2. Matthew Hicks says:

    I hope Pyramid is able to deliver on all its promises, particularly the redevelopment of St. Louis Centre.

    However, I’ve noticed that little has been said about plans for the former Dillard’s/Stix Baer & Fuller store. I wonder if anyone knows whether it will be redeveloped concurrently with St. Louis Centre, or is it on a different timeline altogether?

    Also, it looks like Pyramid will take its time with plans to revamp the Jefferson Arms, and little if any mention has been made about another Pyramid property in desperate need of a makeover, the former Mercantile Library on Locust Street.

    I sincerely hope Steffen hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew.

  3. Burgle Burgle

    Maybe Pyramid should discontinue the McDonalds development on S. Grand.

    But then I would no longer be able to rob people of their property values.

    -Southside Hamburglar

  4. Matthew Hicks says:

    ^ I should probably clarify something in my previous post. When I said I hope Pyramid can “deliver on all its promises”, I certainly wasn’t referring to the proposed South Grand McDonalds. 😉

    The point is, it’s hard to believe the same company responsible for some of downtown’s nicer developments is content to defile other city neighborhoods with crap like the McDonalds proposal on South Grand and the ghastly Sullivan Place apartments in north St. Louis.

  5. Barat says:

    Pyramid’s connection to the huge BlairMont land scheme on the northside raises even more doubts about their cash flow and company direction…

  6. Steffens? The name rings a bell. I do beleive he’s a major campaign donor for the Aboussie/Slay/South Side power complex…

  7. Travis Cape says:

    If Pyramid is such a strong developer, why haven’t they completed the Keystone Place project as they originally planned in nearly 10 years time!

    Seriously, a small cluster of homes and some commercial space fronting Grand has got to be easier than a major project downtown.

  8. Iconoclastium Pyramidium says:

    Despite all the great press that Pyramid has managed to drum up (from places as diverse as UrbanReviewStl, the Pest Dispatch, virtually all of the local media outlets, etc.), the truth of the matter is that Pyramid’s CUSTOMERS (lessors, renters, purchasers) are anything but pleased. Pyramid is at best a lackadaisical “partner” in the various agreements it executes in order to both grow and prosper. Not that this isn’t becoming more well known – Pyramid’s market prices have taken a terrible beating over the last 16 months, as people take time to seriously check out their properties for potential purchase or lease. It’s gotten SO bad that at least one property on Washington has dropped from a $220K “early bird” price to today’s well publicized (and I am told easily negotiated downward) $125K “please, PLEASE, just BUY something from me!!!) price.

    Pyramid employees appear to be disaffected as well: at corporate HQ, customer facing employees are replaced at a rate which would be a national emergencey were it to happen to any branch of the federal government. The persons with whom I have to interact when things break down (vital equipment such as boilers, HVAC, etc., which die due to mismanagement and non maintenance by Pyramid) has changed no less than 7 times in the past 16 months alone. And every one of the dear departed employees made clear upon their departure that they were leaving Pyramid (several to such hellholes as fast food outlets – just how bad IS Pyramid to work for that an employee would move to fast food to escape?!?!) because they simply could not suffer through another day with the company.

    Pyramid is a company in trouble. Deep, totally engulfing trouble. And this is the company that St Louis sees as it’s potential “Savior” for downtown?

    When all is said and done, I expect we will be seeing the top brass at Pyramid doing the Frog March before the gauntlet of local media.

    Of course (as we all know), Pyramid dutifully made their many political contributions – watching the imploion suck in the local political scene should be a blast!

  9. Craig says:

    For all who seem to think that Pyramid’s contributions to policians equal certain influence on their decisions I want to repeat a comment I made on another thread.

    Chris Thiemet, a local Realtor, and his employer advertise on this website. Who is his employer? The Pyramid Companies.

    This site is hardly a bastion of pro-Pyramid sentiment, yet they are generating revenue (albeit meager revenue) for it.

    So are local politicians really in the hands of Pyramid, or is this world a bit more complicated than that?

    [REPLY – I just wanted to clarify a few things. First, advertising is not sold for this site alone. Advertising (at very low rates) are sold for the STLSyndicate.com site which includes six other blogs. Advertising randomly circulates through all the site.

    Second, real estate agents operate as independent contractors with their broker and are not employees. Steffen recently acquired an office or two of Blue Ribbon Realtors and changed the name to Pyramid. – SLP]

  10. stevek says:

    Pyramid’s also supposed to be doing the Arcade-Wright as well.

  11. anon says:

    ^I find it a little troubling that the very company that most of us urbanites loathe is, through Chris Thiemet realtor, advertising on this site.

    How can this guy be for an urban city if he works for a crooked company who has screwed up some major developments? He says that he is an “urban partner”. I wish realtors would just say what they are and avoid the euphamisms – you are a realtor! George Carlin did a whole sketch on euphamisms and how they are plain dumb. I’m off on a tangent.

    For every house, condo, townhome Chris sells through this site, Pyramid gets a cut of that money. Am I right or am I right? I can’t stand Pyramid and don’t have any ill feelings with Chris, I just wish that Pyramid wouldn’t advertise on this site!


    REPLY – The discussion of an individual that has decided to advertise not with me but with the entire STL Syndicate collection of St. Louis blogs ends now. Mr. Thiemet is an independent contractor just like I am and it is most likely him personally paying to advertise on STLSyndicate.com. – SLP]

  12. margie says:

    I’m surprised at the attitude of some of the posters here. It’s one thing to criticize a development on its merits, and to call out the developer bringing that development. That’s certainly a valid and productive way to improve your city.

    But a sense of perspective would be helpful. The fact is that Pyramid is doing some very good things in St. Louis, and while I may have my own criticisms of certain aspects of a project or tactics used in getting their way, I think it’s ridiculous to paint them as a great Satan. It also lets them off the hook, because if the collective voice of criticism sounds unhinged, then valid and relevant concerns are marginalized.

    So please, people, think about why you’re here. Venting may feel good, but uninformed and radical language (see above “loathe,” “crooked,” “hate”) — well, it just alienates the people who need to be convinced to do better and to lead better.

  13. Santa Claus says:

    Can anyone shed some light on Pyramid’s so-called “Christmas in July” marketing campaign witnessed at the Tucker Blvd homes and at Keystone Place?

    Is this further dropping of sales prices as indicated above?

  14. This is the great blog, I’m reading them for a while,
    thanks for the new posts!


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