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KWMU Reports on Land Assembly Tax Credit and the ‘Blairmont’ Scheme

May 25, 2007 Media, North City, Planning & Design 47 Comments

Most of you have heard the deal by now, a huge tax credit for developers doing projects of 75 acres or more in North St. Louis.  That is the plan passed by the Missouri legislature and awaiting Governor Blunt’s signature.  But 75 acres is just massive.  For comparison sake, the old Pruitt-Igoe housing site was only 57 acres (source). From KWMU:

Missouri’s historic tax credit program has done wonders for the city of St. Louis. It allowed big developers to turn old downtown warehouses into lofts. It’s also helped individual rehabbers fix up houses that have seen better days.

But a new tax credit plan that Missouri lawmakers sent to Governor Matt Blunt this spring gives developers major incentives to buy up large tracts of city land.

Someone is already doing that on the near north side, and many people there are worried about the future of their homes.

Click here for the story and link to the MP3 audio report from KWMU’s Matt Sepic.  Sepic indicates that he had scheduled to interview developer Paul McKee but that McKee canceled.  Nice huh?

I’m personally not opposed to a tax break for developers on some larger projects.  I have issues with the minimum size.  Yes, a single home lot at a time will take longer than we have to revitalize the north side.  But 75 acres at a minimum?  St. Louis is blessed with a very nice street grid of very reasonable sized blocks.  Why not have the minimum be more along the lines of 4-6 city blocks, still a decent sized project.  Why is it we must always go for the gigantic silver bullet solution in this town?

Jane Jacobs calls this “cataclysmic money.”  From Chapter 16 of the Death and Life of Great American Cities:

Money has its limitations.  It cannot buy inherent success for cities where the conditions for inherent success are lacking and where the use of the money fails to supply them.  Furthermore, money can only do ultimate harm where it destroys the conditions needed for inherent success.  On the other hand, by helping to supply the requirements needed, money can help build inherent success in cities.  Indeed, it is indispensible.

So far the state has not required anything that will ensure these 75+ acre projects have any qualities for success.  The city, with its 1947 suburban zoning code, will almost ensure failure without massive variances.  Developer McKee and Mayor Slay are remaining quite on their intentions and unfortunately will likely try to avoid public or professional input into the overall plan.  My fear is the end result will be a huge “investment” but a long-term failure.  At this point I have no edvidence to suggest otherwise.


Currently there are "47 comments" on this Article:

  1. maurice says:

    Money has its limitations…..

    In that paragraph of 5 sentences, inherent success is mentioned 4 times. Just what is meant by inherent success?

    You may not have evidence to suggest success, but neither do you have wevidence to suggest failure eitehr.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — For a better understanding of what Jacobs means by “inherent success” I really suggest you read the book — she is talking about sidewalks, diversity, building age and all sorts of factors.  In the meantime, check out the wikisummary of the book here. 

    Actually, I do have evidence to suggest otherwise.  Exhibit A is our zoning code which requires suburban scale development.  Exhibit B is McKee’s project in St. Charles called Winghaven.]

  2. You know my position. Slays smokescreen does not cloud the truth. This is a large scale urban renewal project not infill and rehabs. Why would McKee allow his property to deteriorate? Why would he allow rustlers to destroy his buildings? Paul McKee is waiting for the State to foot the bill and then he will begin his project. Slay said in the interview that block by block isn’t working and the North Side needs a big project. I suppose we are back into destroying communities then recreating them. Certainly McRee Town proved it can be done politically. This is simply the end of Team Four and the next step in the suburbanization of St. Louis. I wouldn’t be surprised if WalMart or Dierburgs signed on in order to cast the opposition as against development and sell the project to the masses! Another Winghaven along with another Loughborough Commons sounds like a dream come true in our City of low standards. I suppose the proven path of historical rehabs and infill should simply give way to the future which is widescale demolition. It certainly sounds good as a 2009 Campaign Slogan.

  3. mike says:

    Look at the bright side, the money is coming from the state, so suburbanites get to cover their fair share of the cost of improving the city.

    Not to mention, Blunt may even veto this thing.

  4. john says:

    Doug, you should realize by now that StL leadership believes that neighborhoods can only be saved by destroying them. This has been going on for five decades and has been made potentially more devastating by the underlying meaning of this legislation.

    What has changed is the availability of tax preferences and the increased use of the powers of eminent domain which creates an unholy alliance between politicians and developers. This powerful urban design trend is still in its early stages as the region is being managed by a bunch of small-town politicians with their “big” visions. These leaders believe that it is their responsibility to design our neighborhoods which in effect overrides the potentials of organic growth.

    The fallout is obvious all around us as exhibited by bigger parking lots, more strip malls, less sidewalks, bigger highways, more pollution, more noise, more preferential legislation, etc… truly an ugly trend.

    This should be quite worrisome to all as the city and surrounding municipalities are loaded with leadership that envisions themselves as our salvation.

  5. GMichaud says:

    Every effort been made to direct the money to McKee. Even calling it a land assembly act makes it seem as if that is the only possible solution. Tax credits should be made available to all developers, including those developing single lots, and if money can’t be made at a small scale, then development will naturally occur at larger land assembly increments of 5, 10 or 70 acres. What happened to capitalism? It seems the wealthy continually have laws written for their benefit. This law excludes those at the low end of the economic ladder, and in fact any redevelopment of the Northside should create opportunities for the people already living in the area, not just for a major developer who will take the profits with him.

    This all presupposes an urban plan developed by the community and city that provides the framework for developers to plug into. Open discussions such as these are all the more important now in this era of global warming and high energy costs. To allow a major developer to sweep in and destroy the historic fabric of the city to create a la la land suburban development would be folly at its height. The time is coming where the existing suburbs will have to be reconfigured to adapt to new energy realities. The city would make a huge mistake allowing suburban development at this juncture in history. Anything less than full public debate of the future of urban planning in St. Louis would be a mockery of democracy.

  6. AWB says:

    Corporate welfare. No thought on long-term ramifications for the neighborhoods. Probably the only thought about time is how soon can McKee get his profits and how soon the campaign contributions from McKee and his minions start pouring in.

  7. ^
    So soon it’s already happened.

    McKee gave $5,000 to Jim Shrewsbury and $6,000 to Lewis Reed in the last cycle.

    $20,000 to Matt Blunt this year.

  8. Tyson says:

    Mayor Slay also has gone on record as saying he wouldn’t support any project that threatened rehabbed homes. While I see your point about lowering the minimum size to be eligible for the tax credits, I’m not ready to demonize McKee and I think this will be a valuable tool to rebuild areas like the north side. The problem in this area isn’t any cataclysm of money coming in (it should be so lucky) it’s the cataclysm of money that has left. Anything that brings development and middle-class homeowners back to the near north side, as long as it doesn’t threaten the historic core of ONSL and the houses aren’t ranches on 1 acre lots, is a positive development.

  9. toby says:

    Pruitt-Igoe is THE symbol of this Blairmont folly.

    Our WW2 generation of Money Father’s swore that wholesale demolition was the only way to rid us of a blighted, decaying city. The most shining, national symbol of “saving the city” was Pruitt-Igoe. We know how well that panned out.

    The disgusting part is that they are manipulating circumstances to REPEAT THE EXACT SAME MISTAKE in the EXACT SAME LOCATION. Only this time, it’s Baby Boomer Money Fathers. Yes, the very same generation that reviled their parents for such clueless endeavors as failed Civic Progress projects will now repeat the exact same folly… in the exact same location.

    Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said the definition of insanity is repeating the same action while expecting different results? And isn’t there another saying about those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Yeah, something like that….New generation, but the same old sack of lies and smokescreens.

  10. Adam says:

    Tyson said:

    “Anything that brings development and middle-class homeowners back to the near north side, as long as it doesn’t threaten the historic core of ONSL and the houses aren’t ranches on 1 acre lots, is a positive development.”

    i think that’s exactly the concern! what’s to stop them from building ranches on 1-acre lots in ONSL historic neighborhoods? out politicians aren’t going to stop them because they get support in the form of $$$. it’s already happened in other historic parts of the city (e.g. gaslight square).

  11. Adam says:

    toby said:
    “Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said the definition of insanity is repeating the same action while expecting different results?”
    except this time the baby-boomer money fathers are the ones making the money instead of their fathers. so the part that counts is different.

  12. Tyson says:

    Whoa whoa, Gaslight Square is an extremely successful development that has turned around an entire area of the city that had been left for dead, those homes are definately not ranches on 1 acre lots. The core of ONSL should, and I believe will, be protected, but the city should thank it’s lucky stars if it can get a Gaslight Square caliber development in the surrounding areas. Again, I think the suggestion of lowering the minimum size of the projects that qualify for this tax break might be a good idea, bringing in more diversity and different housing styles; and while several smaller developments might be preferable to one single large development, the large project is not necessarily a Bad Thing. If I see renderings for the area showing ranch houses and cul-de-sacs, I’ll gladly join the chorus against the project, but not until then.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — I generally agree with your viewpoint but I am going to take a couple of exceptions. First, the new housing along Olive has sold reasonably well. The only remaining commercial building from the old Gaslight Square days still has a vacant storefront. The new buildings are, in my view, set too far back from the street and thus seem a bit removed. I have some issues with the new buildings such as some having dark windows but white doors — the attention to detail is poor. True, it is not vacant weed-filled lots. We’ll see how it holds up over the next 10-20 years.

    The city really shouldn’t have to thank any “lucky stars” or kiss any rabbits feet to get good design. It should be implimenting a flexible yet urban zoning code to replace the ranch cul-de-sac type of zoning we’ve had for 60 years. It is this lack of good zoning that has me concerned. Who are the decision makers that will determine the housing form, variety and other design issues? Will it be McKee, Ald. April Ford-Griffin and Barb Geisman over lunch? Now is exactly the time to not stop the project but to be highly vocal about what the future needs to look & feel like. Waiting will be too late.]

  13. Maurice says:

    Gaslight square has a very nice mix of property styles. Just a block or two south and you have dense, tree shaded streets, to the north and west you have the older, larger brick and stone homes (which have skyrocketed in value due to the redevelopment).

    I think there is plenty of room (literally, in terms of open lots) to have a great variety of home styles. Not everyone wants a suburban style home, not everyone wants a townhome.

    I will agree with Steve in that now is the time to be watchful for what will come, but there have been no plans presented yet from which to judge. I would think that most of ONSL will be saved.

    What is going to be the key is will the developer, any developer, be able to convince any buyer to buy north of 40?

    Like it or not, there is still the untalked about problem of racial issues AND now that the north side has very few schools AND the school district continues its downward spiral, why would famlies want to go there?

  14. Jim Zavist says:

    Simple economics precludes 1 acre + lots here – the market won’t support home prices in excess of $300,000 or $400,000, necessary to pay for the land acquisition and infrastructure costs.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Yes, we are not going to see 1 acre lots in the city.  But we’ve seen wide but shallow lots created along Tucker/12th near Park with houses spaced way too far apart.]

  15. GMichaud says:

    The whole land assemblage act is backwards. If the state was truly interested in improving and redeveloping North St. Louis the first question might be what would be the most effective way to promote redevelopment?
    There are hundreds and thousands of possibilities. Some of the goals could encourage small business development, to create energy efficient neighborhoods, to supply a range of housing for all incomes, to build upon development that is already occurring. Essentially how do you create a planning process that includes the community? Many other goals could be added.
    A few key questions might include:
    1. What is the role of mass transit, now and in the future?
    2. How should commercial enterprises be integrated with neighborhoods?
    3. What is the role of row housing given high energy costs which will continue to rise for the foreseeable future?

    The point is that the state, Mckee and the city have joined up to support a law without thought and a philosophy behind it. It does not have community support. It has a main goal of enriching all of those involved. Concerns about the community and the city are nonexistent. It is a prescription for failure; it represents a dictatorial government run for the benefit of insiders. The proper decisions for a sustainable future cannot be made in this manner. These people are not leaders.

  16. Eric says:

    Has Paul McKee actually agreed to any interview request aside from the Business Journal? It seems like every single time an article comes up mentioning the act or Blairmont, it’s “McKee has not responded to requests for an interview” or “McKee declined to be interviewed.”

  17. Kevin says:

    Am I reading this Bill right? Seems to me it is written to encourage
    (allow) HOLDING of property more so than development of anything.
    The Tax credits are 50% of purchase price and 100% of interest. I
    see a TIF & eminent domain holdout w/ the wait time on the State Dime.
    AND they have to buy these properties from themselves… at what
    price? Looks like 50% could be 100% w/ some slight of hand. I’m all
    for extra development on the Northside…. the more the merrier. But
    How many people can actually qualify for a 35 city block project…
    How do any of us work in the next block and try to compete…
    How does this benefit the State of Missouri…
    How does this (re)use our resources in a responsible manner…
    Who is to review these credits/spending…
    Really… Am I reading it right?

    Is this the exact way it lays on the govenors desk?

  18. Maurice says:

    My last comment on this. Today in the mail I recieved the Aquinas Institute of Theology’s Signature magazine. This is the school right off of SLU’s campus.

    The focus this month: New Town, Our Town, Anytown
    An essay on new urbaniam and what community means in the catholic context.

    Upon reading, yes there is focus on the catholic context, but the gist of the article is about the failure of NewTown to build the spiritual side of community, though the bricks and mortar of a commnity are there. A community of souls interactive, with the positive and negatives of life. Not just the sunny, fluffy stuff of sales brouchers


    [UrbanReviewSTL — Interesting article, thanks for the link.  It seems the conclusions were based on one visit to only one new urbanist community, if only the writer had studied urbanism (of all forms) as much as she has Catholicism.  Any new area is apt to lack real community — that comes with time and people.  The question is does the form help or hurt the chances of community forming naturally.  Porches close to the street are one little example, missing from other new forms of housing in St. Charles County, that will help community build over time.

    True community does not yet exist, no doubt.  New Town is in year two or three with another 12-15 to go before fully built out. How much community existed in say Tower Grove South when only a portion of homes were built and only two years old?   Physical form is important but so is the passing of time.]

  19. GMichaud says:

    Kevin, what’s worse is McKee can out bid anyone on any piece of property knowing he is going to get refunded by the state. He can also offer absurd amounts to chase people away from the community. No one else has a chance in this scenario. I hate to say it because these legislators and McKee like to portray themselves as upstanding citizens, but it is a law written by crooks for the benefit of crooks, with the public getting it in the ass.
    If they really were concerned with the welfare of the people, a process that examined many options as I outlined above would have taken place.

  20. Jim Zavist says:

    The reason for no community-based planning process? It’s a whole lot easier for the local aldermen to figure out a financial deal for the developer! Those pesky constituents and neighborhood activists just want too much stuff that doesn’t create instant profits!

    But seriously, a lot of it gets back to our too-small wards – when your “world view” is dozens of blocks, not hundreds, or even thousands, you grasp at whatever little comes your way . . . you want to get re-elected or leave a legacy, but you have few chances to gain experience/learn from your mistakes, especially when the “culture” of your organization is to ignore your professional planning and public works staffs anyways . . .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Oh come on now, I’m sure our 28 aldermen have a bigger view of things.  After all, I bet many of them have been out to the Galleria and maybe the Bluffs in Fenton.  Remember too, the secret to gaining a bigger physical ward every 10 years is to make sure the population has dropped — your ward automatically grows in physical size!] 

  21. Kevin says:

    This isn’t part of the distressed area portion but I found something interesting during this 130 page read.

    99.820. 1. A municipality may:
    (1) approve redevelopment plans and redevelopment projects, and designate redevelopment project areas.

    (3) Pursuant to a redevelopment plan, acquire by purchase eminent domain land and other property, real or personal, or rights or interests therein, at such price the municipality or the commission determines is reasonably necessary to achieve the objectives of the redevelopment plan.
    (4) Within a redevelopment area, clear any area by demolition or removal of existing buildings and structures;
    (5) Within a redevelopment area, renovate, rehabilitate, or construct ANY structure or building;
    (13) If any member of the governing body of the municipality, involved in the planning and preparation of a redevelopment plan, owns an interest, direct or indirect, in any property included in any redevelopment area, which property is designated to be acquired or improved pursuant to a redevelopment project, he or she shall refrain from any further official involvement in regard to such redevelopment plan, from voting on any matter pertaining to such redevelopment plan, or communicating with other members concerning any matter pertaining to that redevelopment plan.

    2.The municipality shall create a commission of NINE persons
    (1) two members shall be appointed by the school boards whose districts are included within the redevelopment plan or redevelopment area. Such members shall be appointed in any manner agreed upon by the affected districts;
    (2) one member shall be appointed, in any manner agreed upon by the affected districts
    (3) SIX members shall be appointed by the CHIEF ELECTED OFFICER of the municipality.
    (9) At the option of the members appointed by the municipality, the members who are appointed by the school boards and other taxing districts may serve on the commission for a term to coincide with the length of time a redevelopment project, redevelopment plan or designation of a redevelopment area is considered for approval by the commission, or for a definite term pursuant to this subdivision

    99.1200. 1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the “Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act”.
    (1) “Acquisition costs”, the purchase price for the eligible parcel, costs of environmental assessments, closing costs, real estate brokerage fees, demolition costs of vacant structures, and maintenance costs incurred to maintain an acquired eligible parcel for a period of five years after the acquisition of such eligible parcel. Acquisition costs shall not include costs for title insurance and survey, attorney’s fees, or relocation costs;
    (8) “Eligible project area”, an area which shall have satisfied the following requirements:
    (a) The eligible project area shall consist of at least one hundred acres and may include parcels within its boundaries that do not constitute an eligible parcel;
    (c) The eligible parcels acquired by the applicant within the eligible project area shall total at least seventy-five acres, which may consist of contiguous and noncontiguous parcels;
    (d) The average number of parcels per acre in an eligible project area shall be four;
    (e) Less than five percent of the acreage within the boundaries of the eligible project area shall consist of owner-occupied residences which the applicant has identified for acquisition under the urban renewal plan or the redevelopment plan pursuant to which the applicant was appointed or selected as the redeveloper or by which the person or entity was qualified as an applicant under this section on the date of the approval or adoption of such plan;
    (9) “Interest costs”, interest, loan fees, and closing costs. Interest costs shall not include attorney’s fees;
    (10) “Municipal authority”, any city authorized to own land within the state;
    (11) “Municipality”, any city, town, village, or county;
    (14) Redevelopment agreement”, the redevelopment agreement or similar agreement into which the applicant entered with a municipal authority and which is the agreement for the implementation of the urban renewal plan or redevelopment plan pursuant to which the applicant was appointed or selected as the redeveloper or by which the person or entity was qualified as an applicant under this section.
    3. Any applicant shall be entitled to a tax in an amount equal to fifty percent of the acquisition costs, and one hundred percent of the interest costs incurred for a period of FIVE YEARS after the acquisition of an eligible parcel. Tax credits shall be issued under this section after January 1, 2008.

    7. The total aggregate amount of tax credits authorized under this section is one hundred million dollars.

  22. barbara_on_19th says:

    There’s a big blind spot in this thread. People are ALREADY willing to pay 200K and higher to rehab and live in ONSL. The remaining LRA buildings are selling like hotcakes. Single family homes have appraised near the 300K mark. People are also willing to pay $600/mo for a nice one-bedroom apartment. AND there are no vacant apartments in the neighborhood.

    The market is already there, we don’t need a single super-huge development to “rescue” us. St Louis Place also had many thriving pockets of strong neighbors until McKee’s blockbusting began.

    Note that we have this rate of growth in Old North *despite* the fact that McKee has been buying, blighting, block-busting and holding with complete contempt for the quality of life of the existing residents.

    Barbara Manzara

  23. Carmella Kranz says:

    I live at 19th and Hebert not even a block from you and all I have been seeing is that Crime is getting worse then it was and Blairmount had nothing to do with that . It has just been in the last two months since all those low in come apartment have been rehab and rented out again . I feel for the poor and I don’t care to help those that are trying to better their self and at least trying to have something out of life . But for the most part I’m not seeing that out of alot of these people It won’t be long before these apartment will look like crap again . Blairmount did not twist anyones arm to sale their property to them I would sale them mine if the money was right and they wanted it . If they want to tear down what they own then thats their right . NOBODY not even the courts would stop me from tearing down what I owned if I wanted that building down it would come down . I think Blairmount has a bigger and better plan for this neighborhood then ONLSRG.

  24. john says:

    Funny Steve, alderman incentivized to create depopulation? No doubt this would be a perverse incentive and would explain the correlation between political power and the level of redevelopment, TIFs issued, etc. I think there’re smart enough to understand the correlation between campaign funding and TIFs but the next step requires a long term perspective which is clearly not evident. Keep up the dry humor as it may help offset the many tears.

    Oh and by the way, the power lunch in St Lou was replaced with cheerleading efforts held in private suites at Busch years ago. It’s all part of having the the right spirit if you know what I mean.

  25. Kevin says:

    I’m sure Old North Restoration group be doing fantastic w/ 100 million of free spending added to thier budget. They mostly have to beg for thier money from banks and donations. And they / we are supposed to do this next door to McKees givaway projects that are either gonna sell VERY cheap or be insanely profitable for an already wealthy company w/ the ONLY access to the Tax Credits. Other developers will not follow McKee for many years. Can’t afford too. Not to mention there’s a free 5 years of interest built in so who knows when his crap is going to start, been sitting and falling apart for 2-3, whats another 5?… It’s your neighborhood. Oh, but he can get his Tax Credits 1st of the year. I see nothing in this bill to promote development… just purchase and demolition, read it.
    Your home is in there too if the mayor and his appointed panel says eminent domain Carmella. I truly wish I was in favor of the Northsides (secret) plan as soon as it was announced, when was that? What is the plan? I can only assume the plan based on thier lawyers language in the giveaway bill, which states nothing about not taking owner occupied homes by eminent domain. It presumes the opposite, and definitely makes it legal.
    Usually an optomist, Kevin

  26. GMichaud says:

    Barbara, while you are no doubt correct, it is also clear a well crafted law that encourages redevelopment through tax credits would be a tremendous help. The problem is that because of the corruption of the government and Paul McKee the first question asked should have been: do we really need a credit to assemble large tracts of land?, or would it the public be better served to have a credit that reaches all citizens, whether through the purchase price, or through rehab, or some other mechanism. Imagine if individuals, not just developers received a tax credit for buying and rehabbing or building a house. That would certainly create interest and spur revitalization. It is a much different solution than a mega project, by a mega developer, who makes donations, better known as bribes to various government officials. It would be a one dimensional solution, based own how much money McKee can pocket and pay out to his friends in government.
    As Kevin rightly points out, the control of McKee will also lead to a lack of interest by other developers.
    Perhaps it is time for the citizens to create their own city plan, invite government officials to participate (more than they do for the citizens), but controlled by the community, with input from Universities, and professionals. Essentially create a new government on top of the old. Leaving garbage collection to the Aldermen and the Mayor.

  27. Anthony Coffin says:

    ^Well put! It IS time for citizenst to create thier own city plan with the help of professionals and the academic community. YES, leave garbage collection and stop sign replacement to the aldermen.

    Though I do take issue with the need for tax credits to rebuild old north. Old North is growing organically, the way a neighborhood needs to grow if it wants to be succesful. In fact it might be growing a little bit faster if so much vacant property wasn’t being held under the steel grip of RHCDA and Paul McKee. I would however support more tax credits to spur “good” small scale development in places like Hyde Park, St Louis Place, JeffVanderLou, The Ville, and many another north side neighborhood.

  28. Anthony Coffin says:

    ^What I meant to say was I do not see the need for additional tax credits to spur development in Old North, we already have state and federal historic tax credits that are available to everyone. Price points and demand both seem to be at levels ideal for continuing devlopment at a healthy pace.

  29. LisaS says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. This will encourage the continued banking of property and systematic flauting of property maintenance ordinances (and deliberate lack of enforcement by the City) that degrades the quality of life and financial value of neighboring properties. After all, why maintain a building that will be torn down anyway?

    2. It ignores the lessons of the last 20 years of redevelopment in the City. The most successful work has been done one painstaking piece at a time, by individuals and small developers, in the areas with the most intact historic context–Lafayette Square, the CWE, Tower Grove. The most dismal failures–St. Louis Center, the Marketplace on Manchester, the first Kmart/Shopnsave center on Gravois–were large interventions given large amounts of public funding that destroyed fabric. As has been noted before, 75 acres is a huge amount of land. We’re really talking about entire neighborhoods in scale.

    3. Since when should our state legislature and City government work together to give so much monetary gain to one entity?

  30. ballots says:

    “Steel grip of RHCDA”? I thought they did their projects in partnership with the neighborhood group? Does the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group have a “steel grip” on ONSL? Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

  31. Silence says:

    You sure don’t hear RHCDA complaining about McKee’s project, even though it negatively impacts the quality of life for resients of ONSL.

  32. Carmella Kranz says:

    RHCDA are ONSLR don’t need a steel grip on this neighborhood either cause their not reallly trying to bring in anything that the people in this neighborhood really need we don’t need another hardware store we have two already and art studio . Guess their trying to run out the two hardware stores that have been here for years . ONSLR. group also thought this Places For People would be a good thing for are neighborhood well that has been one big joke since the day it opened . I loved this neighborhood and most of the people in it well most of the people I know has moved out are planning on moving out real soon cause their not liking what their seeing from ONSLR group I guess their plan was to come in here and chase out the people that tried to stick it out through the hard times . And most of the new people that has been moving into the neighborhood well their not really worth sticking around and getting to know either don’t like a bunch of whinners . You don’t move into a neighborhood and pass judgement on your neighbor and call them a drug dealer with out even knowing them . So see there is nothing that Blairmount can do to hurt this neighborhood no more then what the ONSLR. group has done to it . Always thought I would live and die here thought I would have my ashing spread through out the neighborhood well gave up on that Ideal 2 years ago .

  33. change says:

    ONSLRG and RHCDA have brought more investment to the ONSL neighborhood in the past five years than the neighborhood has seen in over fifty years.

    Their plan to redevelop the N. 14th Street Mall is the most transformational neighborhood historic rehab effort in the entire city of St. Louis.

  34. little bird says:

    “And most of the new people that has been moving into the neighborhood well their not really worth sticking around and getting to know either don’t like a bunch of whinners . You don’t move into a neighborhood and pass judgement on your neighbor and call them a drug dealer with out even knowing them .”

    Sounds like this cuts both ways. Here you complain about people not getting to know old timers, but then you generalize about new residents without really knowing them.

    No matter what, everyone that lives in a neighborhood is an equal stakeholder. No one owns the neighborhood — not the old residents, and not the newcomers. Of course, that’s the problem with McKee’s plan — he does want to own the neighborhood and decide who gets to live there.

    By the way, McKee’s plans include a lot of “affordable” apartments — not much different than ONSLRG/RHCDA.

  35. LisaS says:

    Hey, little bird, can you share a link or something to McKee’s plans for the rest of us to see? I think one of the PR problems with this is that communications from the City and the developer about the proposal has been sketchy at best. All we have to go on is the Business Journal article (http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2007/02/19/story2.html?page=1&b=1171861200^1418093), in which the descriptions are almost contradictory.

    “His idea, he said, was to develop small pockets of commercial real estate to spur economic development in an economically distressed area. He said those plans may now be unattainable.”

    “McKee is now trying to set the record straight, including the claim that he plans a second WingHaven in the city of St. Louis. WingHaven, developed by McEagle in St. Charles County, covers 1,200 acres with new homes, offices and retail space.”

    There’s a lot of difference between developing small pockets and building a new WignHaven. One involves working with the community and enhancing existing fabric–laudable and needed. McKee would be the hero of the Urbanist movement in the City. The other necessitates destroying the existing fabric, removing the existing residents, and starting over–this is what people fear.

  36. Kevin says:

    Developers build what is profitable. There may be some love in it for some, but the bottom line is the bottom line. Therefore most projects are based on the incentives designed to promote certain projects. Low income housing is a whole other issue (encouraging the perpetual renter through government funds) but yes there are added incentives (more 50% off stickers) in this bill to develop low income housing. Looks like ‘not to exceed 30%’ be owner occupied.

    I hope the silence isnt coming from a tax credit of 55% to contributions to a neighborhood orginization… also in this bill but oddly unpublicized. (Which sounds great to me, as long as its not hush $)

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Good catch on the hush money!  And don’t be so sure about developers doing what is profitable.  St. Louis had been negotiating with Lawless Homes to build new housing on the old public schools greenhouse site when they ran into major financial issues last year (biz journal 5/06). I’m actually glad they ran into trouble because their plans for the large site were horrible — the new layout from Rowles Homes & Vatterott is much much better.]

  37. How many neighborhood organizations know about that tax credit? I know I hadn’t heard anything about it yet. I doubt that would play any role.

  38. Carmella Kranz says:

    Sounds like this cuts both ways. Here you complain about people not getting to know old timers, but then you generalize about new residents without really knowing them.

    If it is people like these three that ONSTLR. Group thinks is good for this neighborhood then I say bring on Blairmount cause they can’t do any worse I really don’t care about getting to know these people .

    likes to send nasty e-mails calling me racist cause I did’t really feel like taking on another vacant lot to mow hell I was mowing 23 lots at the time . Then my Work For Peace people quess she thought they were slaves she sure tried to work them like one .

    2. Barb.
    Who wants to Rehab but in the same time trashes the neighborhood and dumpesters out while doing so . I had a nephew that would help her out in her rehabbing and twice I had to make him clean up behide this house after Barb told him and another kid just take her junk and put it there . Then she had the guy that took her old windows out pile them on top of a already filled dumpester when I said something to him about it he told me that Barb told him to put them there and he walked off you think she cleaned up that mess NOT. me my husband and nephew did it .

    Then there is Michael
    Who thought he knew just who the drug dealer in the neighborhood was sent a post on ONSTL . Yahoo group telling everyone how that the Drug Dealer Over Dosed maybe the neighborhood would clam down now that he is gone

    Well anytime Michael would like to see the corners report about Rob’s Drug Use I would be glad to get a copy and show it to him . Says Rob was not a long time drug user and that he had just started using a day are so before he died . No other drugs found in his body are blood .

    Michael how well did you know Rob .
    How much do you know about the Volunteers For Peace program that I use to host and helped Sister Diana with it when she was doing it . Rob was a big help with that when I was doing it and even helped out a few time when Sister Diana hosted it .

    I’ll Never forget what Rob said to me one time . He said it’s a sad day when you have to bring people in from another country to help you clean your neighborhood cause you can’t get these lazy A?? people to get out and help clean their own neighborhood . Its like unless Volunteers come in to help them then their not cleaning anything .

    Rob did what ever he could to show those people that he cared about what they was doing for his Neighborhood I can’t count the days that he would take them out after working all day cleaning up around the neighborhood he would drive them where ever they wanted to go and most of the time stayed with them til they was ready to come home . He even got them into the clubs they wanted to go to for free . He drove a few of them a couple of time out to Six Flags and stayed there with them til they was ready to leave . He was a big help to me in getting them to the places that they wanted to go he never ask for gas money to get them there either . Never had one to tell me that they did’t want to be around Rob are they never had a bad word to say about Rob . And yes they would tell me if they did’t like someone .

    I talk to one of Michael’s neighbors all the time I ask her how many times has he stop to talk with you she said never she said he’s not a very friendly person . And I know that Michael has said things about what is going on at their house that is just not true .

    [UrbanReviewSTL — Let’s not get into specific personalities of private individuals — this is not the place to do that.]

  39. Anthony Coffin says:

    ““Steel grip of RHCDA”? I thought they did their projects in partnership with the neighborhood group? Does the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group have a “steel grip” on ONSL? Well, maybe that’s a good thing.”

    ^What is this, Father Knows Best? Yeah, ONSLRG and RHCDA have done a LOT of good for the neighborhood. However there are always things to be critical of. Landbanking is not really a good thing, even when it is backed by quasi neighborhood organizastions. There are a lot of things one could criticize about the 14th street mall project as well, but this is not really the place for that.

    What needs to happen is for an organization to be created in order to engage the city in creating higher standards for “smarter” development for the entire northern region of our city (all regions for that matter). As far as urban areas are concerned large scale development is a tool of the past and it is time our government to realized it.

  40. independent says:

    “There are a lot of things one could criticize about the 14th street mall project as well, but this is not really the place for that.”

    Why not? Isn’t that what most blog comments are? Snarky sideline comments?

  41. What about you? says:

    “What needs to happen is for an organization to be created in order to engage the city in creating higher standards for “smarter” development for the entire northern region of our city (all regions for that matter). As far as urban areas are concerned large scale development is a tool of the past and it is time our government to realized it.”

    I hear comments like the above quite often: “What needs to happen is…”, “What someone needs to do is…”, “When is someone going to do something about…”. Anthony, why not let that person be you?

    As for the “steel grip of RHCDA” comment…I don’t get it. ONSLRG is a partner in the project and I’m pretty sure most board members walk to the board meetings in the neighborhood. I have been aware of at least 2-3 public meetings that allowed for resident comments and suggestions. I’m sure there will be more. I would like to see that kind of community engagement on other developments throughout the City. Furthermore, when you have two decades of studies and plans for redevelopment of the mall, in the form of a 5-foot tall stack of paperwork…the vision is undeniable.

  42. Anthony Coffin says:

    Point taken. The exciting theing about Old North is so many people have a vision of its future. I would love to see that kind of energy geared towards other parts of the city. Yes, there is a well thought out vision for the mall project. My fear is that it will turn out to be not very distinguishable from other older commercial districts, and that is fine, I just think an opportunity was missed to do something far more exciting and unique for Old North.

    As far as bringing together a coalition or forming a new organization I don’t think I am your man. It will take someone more intelligent and well connected than I am. Though I will help bring it together in whatever way I can.

  43. What about you? says:

    I understand your frustration and the desire to see and exciting and organic transformation of the mall, similar to the Delmar Loop or some of what’s happening on Cherokee Street (between grand and Jefferson). The situation with the mall is much more complicated than those areas, where there existed sufficient infrastructure to support say, a small coffee shop or a bakery. I don’t know too many small business owners who can afford to invest $250 sq/ft on a rehab. I can’t imagine a bank loaning someone that kind of money to invest in a building that sits next to two blocks of vacant, burned out, crumbling shells. And when you have hostile owners who are all waiting on the big payout, they aren’t willing to fix up their property enough to rent it out.

    There is a different type of organic growth in Old North though, so I don’t think an opportunity was missed at all. In fact, this Saturday is the first weekend for the North City Farmer’s Market. Come check it out.

  44. GMichaud says:

    Paul McKee and Mayor Slay could have been the hero’s in all of this. They are intelligent men. I don’t know who helps them with strategy and PR, but they need help.
    I have pointed out before how San Francisco has an inclusive planning process. http://www.sfgov.org/site/planning_index.asp?id=25164
    St. Louis could have the same process, but instead, deceit, back room deals and shoving legislation through without comment seems to be the order of business in St. Louis.
    I don’t expect San Francisco is perfect, but they clearly try to tap the creative spirit and energy of their citizens. San Francisco is a world class city and St. Louis struggles to avoid losing any more population.
    St. Louis should be a Paris on the Mississippi, instead corporate headquarters leave for greener pastures, citizens flee and the ones who remain are frustrated talking to themselves.
    The situation is as if a General or Major ignores his mass of troops and attempts to fight a war on their own.
    Yes these men are intelligent, but they are not smart. They do not know how to harness the magnificent energy of the citizens to accomplish the rebuilding of St. Louis.
    They are failures as leaders.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — PR for Mayor Slay is via Richard Callow aka Public Eye, the partner of Deputy Mayor Barb Geisman.]

  45. john says:

    It’s all about accountability which is unfortunately not part of the StL culture. Our local government structure is greatly divided and this condition weakens the ability of citizens to organize a critical mass for a common goal. However, these numerous governmental entities are preferred by the elected leaders as it increases their proportional power and influence.

    As well documented by the Brookings Institution: First and foremost, cities need to fix the basics. Good schools, safe streets and the efficient delivery of municipal services are the fundamentals that guide the location decisions of businesses and families. Getting the basics right must begin by creating responsive and accountable local regional government.

  46. foreignoil says:

    If John is right, then we are doomed, because as Terry Jones writes in his book “Fractured By Design”, (that was his, right?), we like our politics local and our government neighborhood-based.

    However, maybe things really aren’t so bad? We do have many regional systems already (Zoo-Museum District, MSD, Metro, the regional greenway parks something).

    Rather than getting bogged down in how we’d like things to be, we actually progress faster working within the system we already have.

  47. recall says:

    That’s “Fragmented By Design” buddy…


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