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Controversial “Blairmont” Project to be Revealed Tonight

Tonight we expect politically connected developer Paul McKee, of McEagle Development, to publicly unveil the controversial development project nicknamed “Blairmont.”

The project got this name after one of the early holding companies used to acquire properties, Blairmont Associates LLC.

Here is a video that explains Blairmont:

Another source of info on Blairmont is a January 2007 RFT article.

Out of the controversy came an August 2007 bus tour of McKee’s properties.  Here is 5th Ward Alderman April Ford Griffin:

The next month the meetings continued.  Here is 19th Ward Alderman Marlene Davis:

I got involved by asking a question of Alderman April Ford Griffin.  Griffin is the chair of the Neighborhood Development committee at the Board of Aldermen.  She has a warped view of zoning.  Rather than have excellent zoning that codifies the community vision, she likes outdated zoning so developers must come to her.  The video starts out rough but gets better:

Congressman Clay talks about a hearing held at city hall with a reference to the 1970s Team Four plan that called for reducing services in parts of the city:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsx_Ph8vEj41976

Here is a summary of the infamous Team Four plan:

This document contains the technical memorandum that was submitted to the Plan Commission by Team Four, Inc. in 1975. This memorandum proposed public policy guidelines and strategies for implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan that was prepared by others. It offered a series of considerations concerning the process of adopting, staging, budgeting and ultimately implementing the Draft Comprehensive Plan. In addition, this document contains a preface dated 1976 that attempts to clean up any inconsistencies and or controversies surrounding the proposed implementation strategies and a bibliography or annotated listing of Technical Memoranda and Appendixes. Part I of this document focused on strategies for three generic area types: conservation, redevelopment, and depletion areas; and Part II of this document discussed major urban issues and their solutions.

Today “shrinking cities” are studied and various techniques are debated.  In the 70s in St. Louis the Team Four plan was seen as a racist plot to deny services to a minority population.  We know more today about how to adjust to shrinking populations.

Tonight we will see another, a huge heavily subsidized redevelopment plan.  Many are opposed simply based on the history of the project to date.  I for one plan to go with an open mind. I have reservations about both the developer and the political leadership.  Griffin’s view on the role of zoning doesn’t give me a lot of hope for what may be presented in pretty artist renderings actually being completed as promised.  A good framework of a zoning code can help ensure the promised vision develops into reality.

Tonight’s meeting starts at  7pm at Central Baptist Church Education Building 2843 Washington Ave (Google Map).  I’ll be there and will report on the presentation next week.

 

Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    This is a very serious and consequential issue for the future of the region and the city. Remaining open minded is important but the track record to date instills minimal confidence. Expect numerous and large requests for city, state and federal subsidies. Expect MoDOT to been over backwards to insure that the region is designed for transportation infrastructure that favors mega-trucking, mega-warehouses, mega-pollution, etc. Any wonder that MoDOT is advocating “special lanes for trucks only” on 70?
    – –
    Zoning will be compromised to favor these services and residential homes will be minimal part of the total plan. No need to say more until more is revealed but the region is desperate for job growth, federal subsidies, revenues, infrastructure improvements, etc. Local leadership has shown their ineptitude and will also bend over backwards to facilitate lower standards. Therefore I expect to see mega-cheerleading, not logical debate, for whatever plan is presented.

     
  2. barbara_on_19th says:

    I wish the many mega-cheerleaders would start thinking like our newly cautious mortgage bankers and ask about the 4C’s of credit… capital, collateral, capacity and character. Yes, this type of development is exactly what everyone wants. That does not mean we should rush to give huge amount of our tax dollars without the due diligence usually applied to a 150K refi.

    We know he does not have capital or collateral on this scale. Capacity is iffy… this is a hugely ambitious project and his track record in the acquisition phase is worrisome. We already know he does not have the organizational capacity to handle maintaining 900 properties at once. I’ve heard he was angry and helpless at the incompetence of his contractor “Urban Solutions” property management, and he still has not implemented a successful plan.

    And that’s before us northsiders get started filling your ear with his character.

     
  3. Tim B says:

    Here is the STL P-D article about McKee’s plan.

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/stories.nsf/story/9630DCEBFAFF4847862575BD000FAB38?OpenDocument

    Huge in scale, small in details, especially about how it will ultimately be funded.

    [slp — note that I do not link to P-D articles because the links are short lived. It works now but a month from now the above link most likely will no longer work.]

     
  4. ceepee deecee says:

    Why does McKee have plans for the Mullanphy Emigrant Home? That’s private property!

     
  5. atorch says:

    Hold his feet to the fire Barbara, Steve, Robert and others. I wish I could be there tonight, good luck. Hopefully the hints of a new street grid and infrastructure don’t result in culdesacs and blocked off roads, we have enough of that crap!

     
  6. Adam says:

    McKee’s previous behavior suggests that he is not going to listen to St. Louis residents merely out of the goodness of his heart or because he thoughtfully decided that it’s the right thing to do. The only way he will give people a chance for input is if they can generate enough pressure that he feels like he *has* to listen (which likely means getting the support of a wide range of aldermen).

     
  7. ME says:

    Here is my thoughts on this matter:

    I seem to be the most excited out of all of the forums I’ve read on this topic (on here, on stltoday, etc). However there is something I’ve been realizing about big projects such as this.

    I’ll be the first to admit I get super excited and my expectations are huge. I don’t doubt that something will get built, just like eventually something will be built at Ballpark Village. Unfortunately, and this happens everytime, what starts out HUGE and cool turns into phases and smaller and downscaled. I want BIG BIG BIG but I’m expecting to see 1 big thing and a bunch of small things. Anyone care to bet against me?

     
  8. See you tonight, Steve. Bring your camera.

     
  9. Turd Ferguson says:

    Can anyone report anything from the meeting?

     
  10. Turd Ferguson says:

    I’m open minded on this, but not hopeful or expecting anything good at all. With McKee’s sly, underhanded actions, coupled with inept and bought off local and state “leadership”, I can only see more worry coming for people on the North Side.

    I remember a great quote someone had to say on this subject: “That damn Slay’s goal is gentrification with ethnic elimination!”

     
  11. GMichaud says:

    The failure of government is a large reason St. Louisians are in this situation. I mentioned in a post on St. Louis Rising that London (and other cities) state principles, goals and objectives of development. In London they have a Unitary Plan that does this. It is too long to post by itself, here is how you get to it.
    http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/
    then Environment and planning. then next window Planning, then next window Planning Policy and then you are there.

    It is a written platform of planning goals that give citizens, developers and politicians an understanding of what is expected and creates an avenue for debate.

    It is much different than zoning and is an ongoing planning process.

    The fact Paul McKee is able to come in and walk all over St. Louisians is a result of the lack of political leadership in St. Louis.

    The proof of the lack of leadership should be obvious. St. Louis has had serious decline for 50 years, almost unchecked. There are a few successes, but overall failures dominate. To be flaying around with the urban planning of North St. Louis at this juncture in history is yet just another failure.

    No matter how many jobs are promised, or key words such as trolleys and walkability are used, it does not make the project successful. The citizens should already know what is expected of the developer, that is not the case. Leadership is absent.

    Millions of dollars are being thrown at one man. Does the leadership assume the people of St. Louis are incapable? Why is McKee so important over the citizens? Why are not citizens offered incentives to rebuild their own city?

    It’s the same bullshit that is going on at all levels of government and Wall Street, who, along with their corporate buddies funnel all funds into a few pockets.

    Until leadership emerges that supports the interests of the citizens over those of Paul McKee, it will be screw St. Louisians in the name of progress.

     
  12. Joe says:

    Who was the d-bag that used all the profanity in the beginning of the workshop Thursday night?

    {slp — not sure who that was. In his 2 minute exit from the building he may have used the f-word more times than “green” was said during the presentation.]

     
  13. Joe says:

    Steve, I think you may have given me an idea for a new drinking game. Attend a public workshop and take two drinks for every time you hear the word ‘green’, do a shot if you hear people ‘intersecting.’

     
  14. theotherguy says:

    I have a feeling that, as with a lot of government projects, the price comes in low, and goes up during the process(gee, we didn’t think it would be this much work to get this done), and since the process was started, it has to be completed no matter what the cost.

    Also, the contribution of private capital will remain low as a percentage of the cost of the project. Private money wouldn’t allow for such over-runs, but since it isn’t anyone in particular’s money (the generic taxpayer, who doesn’t watch the public finances closely enough), let the costs skyrocket and be powerless to stop it.

     
  15. scott o. says:

    I was the screaming jerk. Screaming is not very effective, and I’m sure I just looked like a ranting lunatic, which I guess I was for a minute. All I can say is that the anger was sincere. Paul Mckee is a criminal, plain as day. Northside neighborhoods have been victimized over and over again by the ‘leadership’ of St. Louis – not by accident but by design. Seeing it happen again is just disgusting. And just to add insult to injury, he’s about to ask us to pay for it. Watching his faux apology ‘sorry I destroyed your neighborhood, but it saved me a bunch of money’ literally sent me over the edge.

     
  16. Webby says:

    theotherguy said:
    “I have a feeling that, as with a lot of government projects, the price comes in low, and goes up during the process(gee, we didn’t think it would be this much work to get this done), and since the process was started, it has to be completed no matter what the cost.”

    The process was started when McKee bought all the property, with all the buldings that he has since let deteriorate. If this development doesn’t go through, what happens to all those properties? Fire sale?

     
  17. theotherguy says:

    I would say the process of the deterioration of the North Side, for a multitude of reasons, started a long time ago. What should we, the taxpayers, be willing to pay to right the ship, if the ship can indeed be righted in a responsible way?

    McKee bought properties and is, in a sense, holding them hostage. We could pay the ransom in at least a couple of ways. Eminent domain them away from him and go back to square one, a little less than square one with the further deterioration. Taking property away from people is not my favorite remedy, but it is not being used for its intended purpose. Eminent domain is probably the most cost effective, but it doesn’t advance the North Side in any meaningful way.

    Pay his ransom by going through with the project in some form or other. He gets his return on investment. I don’t think the costs are worth it. If the public has to put in 1.1 billion(for now), that is more than $400 per person of the region’s 2.6 million people. I just don’t think that it is money wisely spent.

    Aside from the cost, the figure I saw was 20,000 homes to be built. Where are the 40,000 people going to come from? I don’t see a big influx of people coming into the area. As a city resident/regionalist, the new North Side area would be taking from Fairview Heights, Overland, Florissant, South St. Louis etc., giving them a tax break to leave their present residences. It is a lot like subsidizing Schnucks, but not City Grocers. That is a serious problem that is not sustainable.

    What to do? Eminent domain/fine him to give up the properties. He’s got deep pockets, so it may take a while. If this is the best he can come up with, let’s move on to something else, ASAP.

     
  18. ceepee deecee says:

    theotherguy: how about no tif, no stimulus money, no eminent domain of mckee — get him to bundle his holdings with larger areas of city land to build employment centers but leave the neighborhoods out of the redevelopment area.

     
  19. theotherguy says:

    I would take that in a second. McKee using his own money, and I truly hope that he makes a king’s ransom off of it. Private capital, private gain. Hopefully a lot of it.

     

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