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NorthSide Project Has Potential to Transform St. Louis

May 27, 2009 NorthSide Project, Politics/Policy 66 Comments

For five years now Paul McKee of McEagle Properties has been acquiring properties in a large swath of land in the near North side of St. Louis.  These were purchased through a long list of holding companies such as Blairmont Associates LLC.  The first few years this was under the radar. But people, notably Michael Allen, began to notice the properties and their common ownership.

Many are upset about how events transpired.  Quietly buying property, little to no maintenance, and so on.  These issues have been hashed out here, on other sites and in the meeting on the 21st when a guy stood and called McKee a f-ing liar.  I’m not going to rehash it all again.  Instead I’m going to jump into the proposal.

McKee wants to partner with other developers to transform about 40 percent of the land inside a 2,100-acre redevelopment area over 15 years. McKee said he owns roughly 130 acres of the 430 acres he’d like to see redeveloped. Twelve new residential areas would be created and four new business campuses,  bringing 22,000 jobs.

The plan would include about 5.5 million square feet of office, retail and warehouse space, 10,000 new homes, 250 hotel rooms and developers would welcome improved or new schools. McKee said his business does not build homes, and would work with other developers on that and other aspects.

He’ll pursue federal economic stimulus money, state tax credits and tax increment financing, where he said a portion of the increased taxes resulting from the development would be used to pay for infrastructure improvement costs.  (Source: The Associated Press via Forbes.com, see Developer has $5.4B vision for north St. Louis)

Keep in mind I will graduate in December 2009 from Saint Louis University with a Master of Arts in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development.  In our course of study we look at policies, their cause-effect and the full complexity of issues surrounding planning & development.  I think because of this academic background I’m able to step aside from my anger at the loss of the warehouse at Cass & Tucker and the many other reasons so many are angry.  Three years ago my reaction would have been quite different.   So what do I think of the plan now that I’ve had a chance to see the proposal?

I like it.  I don’t like how we got to this point (Urban Renewal trashing North St. Louis, city dropping the ball, McKee coming in).  Typically we expect government to do what the private market fails to do.  Here we turn this around, the private market is stepping in where the public sector has failed:  planning. I like what it has the long-term potential of doing for the city.

To start let’s look at the project area so we know where we are talking about:

Here is the same image cropped to give you a close up of the proposed redevelopment area:


The carefully drawn boundary line includes some property but excludes others.  Here is the boundary laid on top of an aerial image:



For at least a couple of decades now the city should have been doing some big picture planning (beyond a single ward) to figure out how to bring new life to this part of North St. Louis.  But they didn’t.  The Pruitt-Igoe site has sat vacant for 35 years.  Old North St. Louis, adjacent to the project area, has taken decades (and plenty of tax credits) to get where it is today.  Same for downtown and much of the city.

McKee’s plan calls for four job centers — large sites suitable for one or more companies to have a new campus setting.  No surprise here, this is what McEagle does in suburban areas.  This is a chance to get these jobs (and taxes) in the city.  I was not able to obtain the image with the four marked sites so I have indicated them in blue below

Starting in the upper left and going clockwise we have Jefferson @ Parnell, where the new Mississippi  bridge will land near Cass, the 22nd street interchange and finally in the middle left, the long-vacant Pruitt-Igoe site.

If we think about the process of redeveloping a large area you can do what Richmond Heights did with the Hadley Township area.  Draw a boundary and put all the properties inside up for development proposals.  Not surprisingly the residents there who’ve lived in flux while proposals came in picked not the best plan but the plan that would give them the most for their homes.  After being in play for several years the owners were told the developer couldn’t come through.  Same thing happened in Sunset Hills and elsewhere throughout the country.  Often municipalities put areas up for development not because they are distressed but because they are chasing limited sales tax dollars.  McKee has gone a different route.  One based not on Ward boundaries but on where development potential exists.

While I love the rebirth happening in Old North St. Louis, without some serious infrastructure investment we’d not see much happening in the outlined development area.

“A tax credit for one man” is often heard about the Missouri Land Assembly tax credit written by McKee’s attorney.  To be precise it is a tax credit for one company.  But many companies will be involved.  Others own land within and adjacent to the development area, including individual owners.

TIF financing will be used, no doubt, to fund massive improvements in public infrastructure, bridges, roads, sidewalks, sewers, etc.  Will McKee & company make money?  Yes, of course.  We all need to make money.  The question is if the outcome will justify the level of public investment.  I hope so.  I’m waiting to review the financing proposals. Remember that a “TIF” is tax increment financing.  As property taxes rise due to the development that increment of increase is paid by the owner — yes, they pay the higher tax.  That increment is used to pay off bonds used to build public infrastructure.  Development & infrastructure are both needed here.  The city doesn’t have the money to build the infrastructure to attract the development.  McKee’s proposal may be the only way to redevelop this section of our region.

I am excited about the potential this project brings to the city & region. A chance to get some large new employers — or to retain the ones we’ve got.  A chance to change perceptions about North St. Louis.  A chance to fill in the many gaps in our building stock.  A chance to add needed population.  A chance to get a modern streetcar/trolley line connecting the project area to downtown.  A chance to get thousands of parcels of land out of city ownership.

Before someone suggests I was bought off I can assure you I’m still a struggling grad student.  I’ve met Paul McKee twice — the 1st time 3-4 years ago at a meeting of the Dardenne Prairie Board of Aldermen.  The 2nd time was at McKee’s presentation last Thursday.  This 2nd time he knew who I was and he offered his card.  After a couple of emails I got the above images out of him, nothing else.

But while I like the big picture planning involved I have reservations about the follow through on the project.  Paul McKee promised New Urbanism at WingHaven but delivered a half-assed cartoon version.  The St. Louis Board of Aldermen, as a general rule with a few exceptions, do not get what compromises walkable urbanism.  How will they know what to require of McKee? To be sure our old 1947 zoning needs to be tossed aside for this area.  A new form-based code needs to be laid over the project area to guide future development to ensure we get what we are promised.

I want this project to succeed — financially & urbanisticly.  I want to live along the trolley line.  I want St. Louis to be a city of 500,000 people again in 20-25 years.

Selected articles for further reading:


Currently there are "66 comments" on this Article:

  1. Northsider for life says:

    I have lived in Old North St Louis my entire Life and I think this is great for someone to try and improve the area. My only regret is that onsl is being left out. This is horrible old north has always been one of the better neighborhoods on the north side and because the old north board members do not have control or input in the development they are against this great plan and onsl will become the bad part of town. They should be welcoming McKee with the key to the North side whether he succeeds are not he is going to try and improve the way of life in the area. I understand the mistrust, but he did what he had to do to get property at a low cost, at least he has a plan what about LRA what is there plan there properties are never taken care and some one should be held accountable for these as well.

  2. Why is he the only developer on the table when Marlene Davis, April Ford-Griffin, Jamilah Nasheed, Rodney Hubbard Jr., and Jennette Mott Oxford, back in 2007, all called for MORE THAN ONE DEVELOPER on this project?

    McKee has no capacity to do transit. Look at how he was unable to connect the “green” Express Scripts to UMSL’s North Metrolink Station. Also the alleged new Metrolink Station for North Park will be on the southern side of Highway 70. I’ve been told by St. Louis County officials that commuters will have a tunnel under the highway. That won’t work. Finally if you’ve ever ridden the trolley in Winghaven, perhaps one of the handful that do daily, then that’s all that needs to be said.

    Will individual owners be able to opt out of the redevelopment? Or will they be compelled to sell through extralegal coercion? Will these employment centers have seas of parking, fences, and gates? Won’t this be defensible space making Pyramid’s Sullivan Place look urban?

    Will our historic, “legacy properties,” be rehabilitated? In reality McKee does not do residential. Winghaven was all done by Rick Sullivan’s McBride and also The Jones Company. Who will he bring in for residential and how many building will fall until then? If he does not do residential then why does he need complete control over this entire redevelopment area? Will other developers even want to work with him? Will he sell his properties to them fast enough to get them rehabilitated and this project moving? Marlene Davis said we won’t see anything happen for at least a year and this is supposed to be some 15 year plan, maybe taking 20-30 years. How many properties will fall by then and also how far could ONSL’s progress have spread during that time period absent McKee?

    My community coordinator in the workshop segment after the general meeting said there “won’t be a lot of shifting around” of employers. As if moving Mastercard from Maryland Heights to St. Charles isn’t shifting around? But wait, according to McKee, they would have came to St. Louis City if only we had the land. First of all I suppose Pruitt-Igoe wasn’t an option. Secondly, let’s posit North Park could compete also. Now we have three municipalities (actually 6 considering North Park has 3 total) competing for one employer. A real net regional gain. There will be a shifting around because the reality is that St. Louis does not attract many new businesses or residents from other cities. In fact our growth has been stagnant, around 3 percent, for decades. We have been sprawling out for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, Paul McKee’s suburban campuses will not attract new businesses. These exist in many cities.

    We do not want employment campuses in neighborhoods. Look at AG Edwards and Mill Creek Valley. The displacement of a poor yet highly functional African American neighborhood for a suburban monoculture never used after 5 PM. Why are we continuing that failed policy? Has McKee not considered North Broadway for some of his campuses along with one at Pruitt Igoe? Why must we displace existing residents to inner ring suburbs for the purpose of getting them one of these alleged 22,000 permanent jobs?

    Even if the redevelopment ordinance mandated historic preservation, prohibited eminent domain, and required form based zoning, could that excuse the damage he’s caused thus far? Can we even be sure that his outcome will occur and most importantly couldn’t neighborhood associations, community housing corporations, and restoration groups, do a better job if given 15 years and even half of McKee’s subsidized resources?

    5th Ward Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin, recipient of McKee’s campaign contributions since 2003:

    …5th Ward Plan said we would have inclusion, residents would have input, there would not be mass destruction or mass relocation or displacement. And that clearly seems to be the plan that they have.

    You should not be rewarded for neglect. You should not be rewarded for coming in and trying to re-gentrify an area and clearly that’s what it is and those of you who been around a while who have seen it happen in Mill Creek, you’ve seen it happen in McRee Town, and you’ve seen it happen in other areas and that’s what’s happening here today.

    And then look at the tract record of trying to force our people out, by buying property and letting it crumble intentionally and then go and tell the State to give you the money and reward you for doing business that way. That’s not acceptable.

  3. Ben says:

    It looks like he is taking about a third of Old North – up to Chambers or Madison, maybe? What’s up with that?

  4. civil servant says:

    Doug –

    You ask a lot of questions but offer few solutions. When you say it’s “unacceptable”, is everyone else supposed to say “yes!”.

    What is your bottom line? You hate McKee and his project. We get it.

  5. atorch says:

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised some folks will fall for this pie-in-the-sky dream. Douglas is spot-on, McKee doesn’t do residential (or transit); and what, in his stewardship of the historic properties he has bought-up makes you trust him more now than before? As mentioned previously, the properties surrounding Old NSTL would not have declined as sharply in the past 6+ years if the exsisting residents were not forced out, landlords bought off, small developers blocked and the buildings ‘helped along’ to their demise by time-honored developer/thug traditions of removing supports, removing windows, brick rustling, mysterious fires, general neglect, etc. Give me a break. Some St. Louisans must have very short memories or are blinded by the BS and catch words being bandied about! The City and current developer can’t even get TWO tennants to relocate to the development at Ballpark Village…..

  6. Bottom line: McKee should not have control over 2000 acres of our City. He should not be able to own some 1000 parcels, many of which are residential and need immediate stabilization, if he’s not a residential developer.

    BPV failed with one developer and that was Downtown. The writer of this blog advocated the dividing up of that project many times. With complete control he could build a few of these campuses, decide he’s made enough money, and build no more. He didn’t finish Winghaven. Will we also see McKee’s “Future Site of ____” signs in North St. Louis that seem to proliferate in Winghaven?

    What about “Former Site of the James Clemens Mansion?” Will neighborhood residents have to place that sign on Cass Avenue? Why did McKee show renderings of Carr School rehabbed, as it’s concrete and could stand for many more years, when the Clemens Mansion isn’t and needed to be repaired in 2004 when he acquired the property?

    Why are people being memorized, selling out, for the idea of street cars, “green development,” when McKee’s actions are absolutely contrary to sustainable, green development?

    McKee said he spent only 1.3 million over 5 years on building stabilization. He says he follows the “business agenda.” He said he won’t do Eminent Domain because it’s “too expensive.” Paul McKee cares nothing for the historic, urban environment which existed when his great grandfather and grandmother lived on the North Side. He deliberately created blight, worsened the conditions as to appear a savior, meanwhile those that should be skeptical are selling out for buzzwords like “green,” when we have zero assurances that he will or can do anything even close.

    Should we receive street cars let them come through the efforts of Joe Edwards not Paul McKee.

  7. ceepee deecee says:

    The Development Strategies map came from McEagle? And Richard Ward was quoted in the Post favoring the project as an “objective” source? Ha!

  8. Realist says:

    Let’s see how he does with Segment A, the reconfiguration of the 22nd Interchange into a real neighborhood. If he does a good job, then I’m a little more open to his plans. If he fails at that, where there are no historic buildings left and residents to evict, then he should be stopped from any more development.

    The main problem with opposition to this plan is that McKee has the entire city government on his side from the looks of it. How do you plan on stopping City Hall? It’s been done, but it’s not easy; it’s going to take a lot more than blogging about it to the choir, so to speak.

  9. Thor Randelphson says:


    McKee is the only developer “on the table” because the Aldermen have done nothing to take action regarding the future of this area. In the absence of local leadership on what to do with this area, McKee has presented a vision. If it were the City taking the lead on the project, then the area would have been designated, a redevelopment plan drafted and developers designated. The power vacuum has perverted the process.

    Besides, I don’t think it is unreasonable for McKee to be deemed the “general redeveloper” for the entire area with a requirement that say 60% of the proposed subareas must be redeveloped by sub-redevelopers approved by the City of St. Louis. You can put such requirements in redevelopment agreements.

  10. Steve says:

    This project should not be allowed for the following reasons:

    The government of the City of St. Louis is far too corrupt, inept and ineffecient to properly police and administer this project.

    The track record of the city of St. Louis on large scale urban renewal projects is terrible. There has not been a single successful urban renewal project in the history of St. Louis. The list of failures includes Mill Creek Valley/Laclede Town, St. Louis Center, Union Station, Plaza Square, Mansion House, etc. These redevelopment projects now all have to be redeveloped. Even the much vaunted Stadium(s) and Arch projects have failed to stop the hemorraging of jobs and capital from downtown St. Louis. Urban renewal works best in St. Louis when it is small in scale and individual homeowners and neighborhood associations are the catalysts for change. The Central West End, Soulard , Lafayette Square and Old North St. Louis are outstanding examples of this type of urban renewal.

    In addition, the City of St. Louis is literally littered with failed projects that have never materialized. In 1973, the city launched the much heralded “New Town in Town” in an area encompassing Mill Creek, Lafayette Square and thousands of new housing units in “LaSalle Town” on the near south side. Laclede Town in Mill Creek has been torn down and the haphazard mess that is “LaSalle Town” speaks for itself.

    The track record of TIF in metropolitan St. Louis is equally dismal. One need look at the debacles in Sunset Hills, Hadley Heights and Warson Woods to know this is a scheme that only benefits very few people while the city and county taxpayers and the residents of the effected areas are left holding the bag.

    Metropolitan St. Louis is a no growth area. Had it not for adding outlying counties to the SMSA, metro St. Louis population would have shown little growth or even population loss. Because of this, any huge influx of new housing construction will only hasten the demise of already shaky areas, particularly inner ring suburbs like Jennings, Pine Lawn, Wellston, etc, much like all the new construction in in St. Charles County has siphoned off and has been at the expense of North and Northwest St. Louis County.

  11. Ex-Steve says:

    While I disagree with most of your post, I don’t really have a dog in this fight anymore so I’m only going to address a few items.

    While I agree that the lack of public planning allowed McKee to step in and fill that vacuum, replacement of the public by the private should be neither celebrated nor encouraged. The fact that St. Louis’ local government has essentially abdicated its responsibility to plan for the past 60 years does not relieve it of that responsibility in the future. You suggestion that private developers should step in to plan because the city has failed simply encourages this to continue. St. Louis has been pretty lucky with the Loop. Perhaps you will get lucky with McKee, too. On the flip side, there are examples throughout the City of hideous projects that were allowed to happen for the most part because the real estate developer was also the planner, with no guidance from the City. That McKee’s project is so big magnifies the potential for poor implementation. I wouldn’t lay good odds on the Board of Aldermen passing an adequate form-based zoning overlay.

    Planning without public engagement is so much freakin’ easier – I know because I have a couple masters degrees myself! Believe me, it doesn’t actually take a whole lot of vision to put some amorphous dots on a piece of paper and draw some arrows between them, perhaps a few colored dotted lines. Demo this, renovate that, build a sustainable corporate campus here, run a trolley line there – the unicorns will come dancing down a big rainbow and frolic in the clover. That is second-year graduate level stuff.

    The hard part is dealing with people. That’s why for-profit real estate developers don’t do it until they HAVE to – and by the time they have to, the decisions have been made and the politicians brought on board. In this approach the bigger the deal, the more people have to be marginalized in the process. I know because I’ve been on that side as well. I recognized an element of pride/hubris in my bosses as they walked in to public hearings already knowing the eventual outcome. I always felt a little slimy, but I guess that’s one of the many reasons I do small-scale neighborhood work and will never do a billion dollar deal.

    I see a disconnect in the way you focus throughout your work on doing things “right” in the physical space (urban environments and accessibility) and yet give McKee a pass on doing things “right” when it comes to community development (engagement, public planning, and capacity building). Honest community engagement can’t happen after a plan has been created, it must be an integral part of the planning process. For-profit real estate developers don’t like it at all. Planners tend to give it some lip service.

    As much as I advocate for urban environments, preservation, and sustainability, I do recognize that ultimately, what we are trying to do is foster community – defined as the web of positive personal connections between people with a common cause or location. And community can occur even in the most unlikely of circumstances. Whether intentional or not, the ongoing result of McKee’s acquisitions has been to marginalize and reduce the existing community, with the end goal of rebuilding the physical place. A student of planning will recognize the antecedents of this strategy as urban renewal, couched in new language.

    SLU has a graduate school of Social Work – if you have taken classes in organizing and community development as part of your planning and real-estate development course of study, I would be sincerely interested in how you reconcile those ideas into the real estate development approach you advocate here.

    My reading of your post is that you think the ends justify the means.

  12. Fluffer says:

    Just curious. Does anyone have any idea what present and future economic trends support the proposal of four business centers and 22,000 jobs?

    China hub is not a complete answer, by the way.

  13. scott o. says:

    As far as jobs go – Its just totally unreasonable to quote figures for how many “jobs” will be created – Especailly on a 15 year time frame. Also – there is just no such thing as, “permanent, good jobs” or whatever he’s saying. He just doesn’t know, and no job is ever permanent. Sure – people could certainly be working in the new buildings, but how many, when, and what kinds of jobs they are doing is really out of McKee’s control. Its just another smokescreen. Also – there’s no way for him to say that they are “new” jobs, or even new jobs for the city, at this point. If he had tenets for the buildings lined up, maybe the tenets could quote us figures on jobs. As it is, there are lots of examples where new (especailly, subzidized developments) generally just move jobs around. Its not like we have a jobs problem becasue we have a shortage of office or commercial space – there is plenty o’ that.

  14. Adam says:

    For me the main issue is accountability. I think this ties into several other strands of thought. First, Doug is right that McKee should not be rewarded for his neglect of the property. To do so is to send a message that block-busting is morally acceptable and that we’re fine with wealthy people trampling over the rights of middle and lower income people in order to get what they want. Thus, I would argue that McKee’s “punishment” for his neglect should be that we hold him to much higher standards of accountability than we would have done if he had previously demonstrated good faith.

    Second, I lived in Massachusetts during the “Big Dig” and I’m very wary about situations where the government is so invested in a project that they are basically forced to throw money down a bottomless pit in order to avoid disaster. I think we need to ensure that along every step of the way of this process, Paul McKee has more at stake with each goal being met than does any other player (including the city and the local residents). He is, after all, a businessman, so if there is ever a point in the process where he can leverage the fact that the city has more invested than he does to get the city to commit more money, why wouldn’t he do it? Thus, in my opinion, any deal should be structured so that if McKee announces half way through, “Oh, I guess we aren’t able to do the trolleys after all,” then he should lose X amount of subsidization. If he decides that he can’t renovate some building he had promised to renovate, then he should lose a punitive amount of subsidization. In other words, his funding should be tied to the promises he makes, so that there is no point in the process where he can sneak out of his commitments or blackmail the city to cover them.

    So my question is: is there a way to structure the subsidization so that it is contingent upon McKee meeting the commitments he has made (including things like the trolley, preservation, not using eminent domain, etc)?

  15. So my question is: is there a way to structure the subsidization so that it is contingent upon McKee meeting the commitments he has made (including things like the trolley, preservation, not using eminent domain, etc)?

    Yes. The redevelopment ordinance can — and should — make such contingencies.

  16. Randy V. says:

    I support efforts to create forward-thinking, progressive new urban development in St. Louis. I think this project looks very exciting on paper, and I think St. Louisans in general need to demand higher standards and outside-the-box thinking in helping to shape the future of the city. This proposal embodies a lot of sparkling features that most definitely should be part of future revitalization efforts all over this city.

    That said, I am very reluctant to take McKee at face value. There are no two ways about it, his acquisition process has been absolutely horrific. And what kills me is that it didn’t have to be this way. McKee could have had a lot more support for his grandiose proposal by now if he had been more transparent and made a worthwhile attempt to actually show the residents he claims to be helping in the long run that he cares about them and their property. His mysterious holding companies have created awful neighbors to residents living next to them and have succeeded only in making the blocks around them less desirable for everyone. To echo Steve’s post above, I don’t see how this vision is fundamentally different from all the other large-scale urban renewal projects that have failed over the past 60 years in this city and others. Laclede Town comes to mind first. The most interesting and sustainable neighborhoods are those that evolve organically over time with investment from multiple developers large and small and sensitive intigration of existing infrastructure and housing stock.

    I understand that this project holds a lot of promise for the overall health of the city and region if it comes to fruiton as envisioned, and part of me would love to see it happen as long as it includes the preservation of as many existing buildings as possible. The other part of me doesn’t trust McKee as far as I can throw him. His approach to this whole thing has been weird and downright shady. If this project moves forward, it had better have more accountability built in to the plan than say, Ballpark Village.

  17. Jimmy Z says:

    “He should not be able to own some 1000 parcels, many of which are residential and need immediate stabilization, if he’s not a residential developer.” If he can afford to, why not? Not many others seem very interested, at this point, at least.

    “. . . the lack of public planning allowed McKee to step in and fill that vacuum . . . St. Louis’ local government has essentially abdicated its responsibility to plan for the past 60 years . . .” If you don’t like what the city has (not) done, and you don’t like what Mckee’s proposing, what’s the/your alternative?

    “Does anyone have any idea what present and future economic trends support the proposal of four business centers and 22,000 jobs?” The ultimate question. Personally, I think St. Louis is well-postioned, with affordable housing, plenty of water, a central location and a surprising amount of salavgable urban infrastructure – check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAxv115dONo – the world is evolving, and there’s no reason why we can’t be the home for the next big thing (and a lot of reasons why we can still blow it).

    Urban planning is never perfect or final – needs change and plans evolve. Cities are also never static. And while I agree with Steve on the possibilities McEagle brings to the table, and the potential that it offers my adopted city, this also isn’t my ‘hood – I won’t be displaced or impacted directly, so I have the luxury of taking, like many others, a dispassionate and academic view of the project. The most critical element we all need now is a respective and detailed dialogue – whether it’s led by the city, the BoA, McEagle, their consultants or a combination of one or more of ’em, I really don’t care, as long as the results balance the various agendas. And unfortunately, not everyone will be happy – the best we can hope for is minimizing disappointment!

  18. Cheryl Hammond says:

    I am also sceptical about bringing in these 22,000 jobs. Mastercard went from Maryland Heights to Winghaven. Express Scripts moved from Maryland Heights to North Park. What NEW jobs have come into Winghaven or North Park?

    I don’t know enough details on whether new jobs really came in to these developments, but I think Mastercard and Express Scripts have most of the jobs in these two developments. Show me the new jobs!

  19. barbara_on_19th says:

    “Is there a way to structure the subsidization so that it is contingent upon McKee meeting the commitments he has made?”

    Several neighbors groups, including mine, are now pushing for a Community Benefits Agreement to be added to the development ordinance. A CBA is a relatively new legal tool to get the fighting to stop and bring everyone to the table. The CBA is a contract where the community groups agree to support the development provided that the developer sticks to x, y and z requirements, as thrashed out in negotiations with the affected residents.

  20. Adam says:

    Barbara, that sounds great. Where can I find out more about that? Is there any way for people to help the effort to get a CBA added?

  21. GMichaud says:

    Some possible solutions: number one, stop any final decision on the project. It is a lack of political leadership that leaves the populace unprepared; decisions should not be made until an inclusive city wide development process is formulated and enacted.

    Number two; establish a city wide development plan. While there are other cities that take this approach, we will use the City of London Unitary Development Plan as a guide.
    It has 31 overall strategic development policies. It has 13 subcategories such as housing, shopping, and visitors to the city and so on. Plus there are numerous planning principles under each subcategory.
    For example, are the Paul McKee Plan job centers going to look like Hanley Industrial Park? Is that what should be built? Should there be provisions for trains? If energy goes crazy, will be difficult to provide space for trains at a later date?
    Many businesses in industrial parks are compatible with the larger city, showrooms, parts stores etc. Is there a way such businesses could be integrated with the larger whole, instead of shuffled into a suburban mecca?

    The questions are many, but finite. A city wide development plan, not zoning, not land use maps, but verbal principles coupled with explanatory maps create an outline to follow: understandable by the public, public officials and developers. It is exactly what is lacking now and why there is so much angst.

    Number three, stop the giveaways to the wealthy insiders. The time frame – 15 years is what it took to substantially rebuild Soulard and Lafayette Square. The Federal Historic Preservation tax credits were the juice; these credits were available to all, not just McKee or insiders like him.

    It would be great for McKee to provide a super plan and see him make money for his efforts. Yet there is so much that is flawed. I’m sure Mr. McKee is a nice guy in person, but the American people are kicked around like Chinese Serfs.

    The political class: the Aldermen and the Mayor are especially responsible for not acting as leaders in this situation. It has been several years; they could have stepped up to the plate by now.

  22. john says:

    The real meaning of CAVE? Feb ’07, SLBJ: “McKee said he has acquired properties on the North Side in recent years, but owns less than 75 acres. 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.”
    – –
    Two years later: McKee said he owns roughly 130 acres of the 430 acres he’d like to see redeveloped and to partner with other developers to transform about 40 percent of the land inside a 2,100-acre redevelopment area. Potential? Of course but are the promises-goals realistic? No.
    – –
    The important keys are what McKee doesn’t have and they are the MoDOT properties and mountains of capital, primarily debt and government subsidies. In the years during which these plans were being formulated, abundantly cheap capital and highly levered balance sheets were the norm, but no more. The negotiations for the MoDOT properties will be interesting to monitor as others will certainly want the same. Does he even have the expertise and knowledge? Again, what is your view of Winghaven? A “cartoon creation” of New Urbanism?
    – –
    As others have made clear, moving Centene, Express or Mastercard from one area of the region to another doesn’t create new jobs whatsoever. In McKee’s outline, new (non-construction) jobs and capital must come from China and I think we all know what that means. China is waiting to see if he can deliver on what the Communist Ruling Party does routinely. The Cult of Mao, excuse me, the Cult of McKee to be our savior?

  23. civil servant says:


    How are people thinking community gets defined under the proposed Community Benefits Agreement?

  24. Jimmy Z says:

    In a city where the Board of Aldermen wants to run individual fiefdoms, “a city wide development plan” will either never happen (with any real substance) or it will end up like too many other plans, gathering dust on a shelf. (We can’t even agree, as a city, whether dogs should be allowed on restaurant patios or if public streets should or should not be barricaded.) Should we have an up-to-date comprehensive plan, supported by appropriate zoning regulations? Yes! But we need to change both the structure of city government and the underlying culture before that can ever happen.

    Until we accept that we ARE a big city, and start to act like one that’s unified, we’re going to continue to expend way too much energy protecting turf and righting past wrongs, and spend too little energy bringing substantive projects to fruition. This project has the potential to have a huge, positive impact, unlike way too many suburban TIF proposals, that focus primarily on stealing sales tax revenues. Is it good, right or fair that the leadership is coming from the private sector? Probably not, but it beats the alternative, of little or no action, at all . . .

  25. john says:

    You got it JZ… the problem is our political structure and how it works: “we need to change both the structure of city government and the underlying culture”. This will require a coordinated whole, not numerous fiefdoms at war, in other words a major merger of the City-County.
    – –
    It is a big goal but a necessary one if the area is to prosper. We can’t afford to have numerous neighboring communities bargaining against each other with TIFs and other government giveaways. But as Steve stated in April, “I’m not neccesarily an advocate of changing the city-county relationship.”
    – –
    “Until we accept that we ARE a big city, and start to act like one that’s unified, we’re going to continue to expend way too much energy protecting turf”. That is exactly what McKee wants to exploit… that’s not wise leadership.

  26. Tim E says:

    Doug and Barbara,

    A lot of what he is proposing is actually dedicating government taxes on government infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, sewers that is desperately needed in North St. Louis. From outsiders point of view he might have put together a plan and state backing in form of $20 million a year in tax credits (paid by all of us and thus a very sound/legitimae reason for input from everyone) that no one has done or willing to do to date. It might also might provide the city with resources and private backing to finally secure some serious Federal Funds (At the moment the bulk of road money is going to one project – Highway 141 extension with the promise of 20,000 jobs – must be a good number to use in the political arena for this area). Does that make up for past mistakes. No. But it does provide a means go forward where as the region has always been willing to turn their back on their in protecting their own self interest.

    That being said, I also believe he will truly go after commercial development in two areas first and that will drive what can be accomplished, how things will be dictated, and will it provide a spark for residential renewal that both of you desire and what I also hope for. The 22nd street interchange and the area that will be defined by the new Mississippi River Bridge. I think both projects are hugely important for the region. The 22nd street interchange was a failed attempt to destroy more of the city. We need to show Wells Fargo why they should maintain a big presence in St. Louis. A reconfigured 22nd street and a stronger business district next door will help. St. louis region as a whole already has a strong presence in the financial world with companies such as Edward Jones, Stifel, Scottrade, and now Wells Fargo. Second, McKee might be able to pull together the funding for the desired N. Tucker access from the New Mississippi bridge. This might help lure business back to downtown. While some workers might realize the benefit of the New Mississippi bridge to commute to Illinois. Others might take a look at North. St. louis or realize what Metrolink has to offer in connecting communities. A stronger downtown will only strenghten the region.

  27. bibliodude says:

    The highway 141 extension is a project that is going to cross the Page extension which was pushed by whom?—-Paul Mckee. The Page/141 extension project or “the road to nowhere” as it has been called is now being looked at as a prime development location but it is a floodplain that most feel that anything built there will suffer flooding every year. But there is money to be made here and a little flooding never hurt anyone right. Who’s the developer that can make that happen? One guess.

  28. Jeff K says:

    Mr. Patterson,
    Please take Ex-Steve’s comments to heart. He speaks wisdom. Take it to heart not just for this issue, but for your chosen career as it unfolds — especially if it’s going to unfold in this city. We’ve had our share of planners and leaders who think the ends justify the means; who are eager to make deals with devils because they foresee great “renewal” for which they will be lauded and remembered. “Leaders” for whom the human cost is just so much collateral damage. If you aren’t committed to building genuine, healthy COMMUNITY, you are part of the problem.
    With this current deal, as with so many others, the damage is done. The well is poisoned. The community is scattered and demoralized. There is no joy in it. What, in this atmosphere, are the prospects for success? Even if it does succeed and a future generation benefits, was it really worth the cost to this generation?

  29. Jeff K says:

    Adam says: “I would argue that McKee’s ‘punishment’ for his neglect should be that we hold him to much higher standards of accountability than we would have done if he had previously demonstrated good faith.”

    and: “his funding should be tied to the promises he makes, so that there is no point in the process where he can sneak out of his commitments or blackmail the city to cover them.”


    Jimmy Z, I agree with John that you nailed it regarding our city government structure, but I don’t agree that the alternative has been simply little or no action. More “organic” efforts have already been established and growing in organization and commitment for years. Ask Michael Allen about it, he’s been in the thick of it. I agree with the suggestions that 15 years of that course — with more city participation and with the added elements of Harlem Children’s Zone-like projects — would have produced far healthier results.

    Randy V., you’ve summed up my equally ambivalent feelings exactly. Thank you.

  30. Jimmy Z says:

    I’ve only been here for five years, so I don’t have the historical context (and memories) many other people bring with their comments. I also have no objection to organic growth and smaller projects, IF they’re getting the job done. My observation, however, is that too many blocks (but, obviously, not all) in this area have reached the point where there’s too little left to salvage, so anyone looking to invest will be looking primarily at land, not structures. And when it comes to land, there’s competition from many sides, everything from O’Fallon (MO or IL) greenfields to inner-ring suburban brownfields to vacant or underutilized lots throughout the city. Add in the financial reality, that for the small-time, “organic” investor, it’s almost always easier to start with a structure to rehab than to it is to convince a bank to invest in a construction loan for a new, especially speculative, structure in a “challenged” neighborhood – the cost of construction is inevitably higher than the replacement value of anything comparable in the area.

    If we had 50 or 100 Michael Allen’s doing similar stuff all over the northside, and a lot more urban pioneers willing to take the “risk” of buying or renting what’s being fixed up, we wouldn’t need a Paul McKee. There were parts of Denver that, 20 or 30 years ago, where I would’ve said the same thing (Five Points, Brighton Boulevard) that have turned around and are currently “coming back” surprisingly well. The big difference is simple economics – other parts of Denver have gotten increasingly expensive and “unaffordable”, so the lower-cost alternatives start to get more attention, warts and all. In St. Louis, not so much – there are many parts of the city that are still extremely affordable and where the building stock is more intact, both individually and as a neighborhood.

    Manchester east of Kingshighway and the area around Benton Park are a couple of examples that come to mind – why is there more activity there now than on MLK east of Kingshighway or around St. Louis Place? I’d say simple supply and demand – we have a huge supply and limited demand. We can’t do too much to reduce supply, short of even more demolition, so we need to work on the demand side. Unfortunately, a lot of demand revolves around intangibles, although creating more jobs would be one big tangible change (and something McKee apparently believes that he can deliver). We also face an undercurrent of racism, a steady drumbeat of serious crime news happening in the generic “north St. Louis” and a serious lack of “cool” that would attract more college graduates and entreprenuers, of all colors.

    We can all name those “cool” cities – Portland, Austin, NYC, Chicago, Madison, Silicon Valley, Seattle, followed by Hotlanta, Charlotte, Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, LA, DC, Denver, maybe Houston or San Antonio, maybe Orlando, Tampa or greater Miami, maybe Minneapolis, maybe Las Vegas or Phoenix. For better or worse, St. Louis ranks up (down?) there with Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati, KC, Buffalo, Albuquerque and many others that have some regional appeal, especially for kids in smaller towns, but don’t really register in the national psyche as a place most people aspire to. Admittedly, in many ways, it’s their loss and our gain (remaining undiscovered), but its also makes it more difficult to justify the economics of reinvesting – can you ever expect to “get your money back”? If you can’t, it then becomes a labor of love, and that only works on a small, personal scale – you can’t “lose a little money on every project and hope to make it up on volume”!

  31. john says:

    Without addressing all your points, McKee would have much more credibility and support if he ate his own cooking. That means he would have already moved his main office and corporate management team to the North side, even his home. He would be seen walking the streets, visiting with neighbors, explaining his views on local and regional priorities, addressing the lack of maintenance and the need for improved infrastructure, etc.
    – –
    St Louis is not “undiscovered” as I have met numerous families in the last 10 years from other states and other countries such as Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, etc. who have moved here as professionals. Virtually everyone has left as they recognized that the region remains poorly managed and local attitudes prefer the status quo. One family from Germany who use to cycle their children to school with mine left after seeing how the New 64 was being built. The mother was astonished that in this day and age that this design is allowed to happen. As she said “people here just don’t get it. We tore down the Berlin Wall and now MoDOT is rebuilding it here”.
    – –
    Local leadership continue to discourage the Michael Allens and, even worse, drive many of the creative-professional class away. A close friend moved his company from StL to LA 15 years ago and he states that “it was the best decision he ever made”. The City-County prefers using PR spin such as the World Leadership Awards (see UR 12-7-07) instead of promoting fundamental change. Our political system is designed for divisiveness and the proof is in the results. These weaknesses opens the doors for developers with their hands wide open for preferential treatment and subsidies.

  32. Turd Ferguson says:

    Michael Allen…..

    Have you ever thought about running for Alderman? 🙂

  33. different adam than above says:

    McKee says he HAD to assemble his properties in secret because otherwise property values would have increased due to word of development.

    question: is this true? was there ABSOLUTELY no other way for him to go about it? couldn’t he have worked with the city to establish some sort of ordinance to prevent owners of non-LRA properties from price gouging? it seems that if the city can approve eminent domain in the name of the greater good then they could certainly set up some sort of non-gouging zone.

  34. “If we had 50 or 100 Michael Allen’s doing similar stuff all over the northside, and a lot more urban pioneers willing to take the “risk” of buying or renting what’s being fixed up, we wouldn’t need a Paul McKee.”

    Paul McKee is placing the “risk” largely on the public.

    Urban Pioneer is pejorative. They didn’t move to unsettled California.

    Jim if you didn’t know the ONSLRG was established in 1981.

    North Side Community Housing and the North Newstead Association are both doing projects. Dick Gregory Place is an important effort.


    A lot of people are working on the North Side. The problems are extensive, but we don’t need to drop Fat Man and Little Boy. People do live here and our built environment is something worth saving.

  35. Dustin Bopp says:

    Doug, I also think of the term “Urban Pioneer” as pejorative but if you look at someone like Barbara Manzara who moved into a house with no utilities whatsoever (including sewer) you might consider the term appropriate. It’s true, I know several neighborhood stalwarts in many corners of the city that have been working on quality of life issues for decades and they take offense to the term for the very reason you describe. They have seen many waves of “Urban Pioneers” come and go over the years. Young bucks who ride in thinking they are going to save the city and think the established residents are just uptight complainers. What I have learned is, they know the ropes and have been there, done that. The youthful energy of the new blood is welcome and necessary but they should remember not to reinvent the wheel. It takes both. Not that I don’t think that there are many areas that need a completely different approach. I have fought that battle in my own neighborhood but I was also educated as to the history of why things were as they were and understood better the attitudes I found detrimental.

  36. Jimmy Z says:

    different adam . . probably not – when it comes to real estate, most people either want to stay put and be left alone or they want to make as much money as possible when they sell. You can call it greed, if you want, but you can also call it maximizing one’s investment. Once a neighborhood gets a whiff that a developer may be interested in assembling multiple properties into a larger contiguous parcel, you usually see a combination of “circling the wagons” (to kill the project) and/or trying to get as much out of the developer as possible (“above market” prices). That’s also why eminent domain is so problematic.

    And Doug, my use of urban pioneer is not meant to be perjorative, just a statement of reality when you’re dealing with too many abandoned or barely-habitable urban properties. It takes both sweat equity/money and a lot of dedication to either break the prairie or to bring an urban shell back to life. Why would anyone attempt to save a structure in the shape that the one on the previous post starts with? It’s primarily a labor of love, either to save money or to save history. If all you want is a clean, secure roof over your head, there are many, many easier (non-“pioneering”) choices out there, to either buy or rent. It takes someone with a true commitment to bettering a struggling neighborhood, a pioneer, to make that type of commitment.

  37. Angelo says:

    Could someone please name the last mega-plan of this size that worked in Saint Louis….or anywhere? It seems as though the bigger the plan, the more likely it is to fail miserably.

    We should probably be emphasizing hundreds of small business owners and community activists instead of allowing mega-developers to promise, fail, and leave.

    I am hoping that South City’s rejuvenation will be a testament to what a large number of small people can do…opposed to what a small number of big-guys fail at providing.

  38. GMichaud says:

    “In a city where the Board of Aldermen wants to run individual fiefdoms, “a city wide development plan” will either never happen…”

    So what do we do? sit on our hands until the next crisis and say gee maybe we should do something next time….yet again?

    The Unitary Plan of London does not sit on a shelf collecting dust, it is used daily by private enterprise and public officials. It is an outline of public policy that is amended on the fly if conditions warrant it. My bringing the Unitary Plan up is an attempt to shed light on new ways to do things. One that in my estimation is also blog friendly. There is too much planning that sits on a shelf. That is no longer needed.

    If it turns out the individual fiefdoms obstruct progress too much then perhaps it is time for the people to take action. I feel like a new government is going to emerge from these blogs and by other means if the status quo is all the aldermen and mayor can accomplish.

    Nor do I understand this unbelievable acceptance of the corruption of politics and decision making. McKee is clearly buying votes, yet we Americans now consider such actions normal, or necessary to achieve ends. These actions are ignored by the press, political establishment and too many citizens.
    It is all surreal to me and I personally think the north side would be better off without McKee.

    His suburban job centers are just the start of screwing up the north side, ah yes jobs, so anything goes.

    To me the discussion should evolve into how to begin to establish new policy without the current corporate/political system.

    This goes beyond any planning in St. Louis, it is the heart of a new urban planning that is needed to reduce reliance on foreign oil, to circumvent global warming and to create sustainable environments.

    I suspect that President Obama and the federal level would support jettisoning the current system of leadership (if it can be called that) in St. Louis for true reforms that begin to deal with the problems we face as Americans.

    Finally, Steve, I agree with Jeff K above, Ex-Steve is spot on with his comments.

  39. Otto says:

    “If we had 50 or 100 Michael Allen’s doing similar stuff all over the northside, and a lot more urban pioneers willing to take the “risk” of buying or renting what’s being fixed up, we wouldn’t need a Paul McKee.”

    The real problem is all the vacant land. We would definitely need 50 to 100 Michael Allens, but we would need them back in 1980. You can’t rehab a vacant piece of land. Plus, we just went through a period of bloated, abundant credit. Rehabbing is alway difficult, but getting the money to do it was easy for the last 15-20 years. Not anymore.

    I find all this “McKee is a jerk” and “government is corrupt” stuff not very helpful. It’s old news. Scorpions sting and developers develop. My concern is that many of the people who have good ideas about preservation and urbanism are ranting and raving and making themselves easy to marginalize.

  40. adam says:

    thanks for the reply, JZ.

  41. Jim Zavist says:

    Angelo – the city I’m most familiar with is Denver, where Stapleton (the old airport site, http://discover.stapletondenver.com/) and Lowry (an old Air Force base, http://www.lowry.org/) would both be considered to be successful urban mega-plans. They also have a successful citywide plan, Blueprint Denver (http://www.denvergov.org/Default.aspx?alias=www.denvergov.org/Blueprint_Denver). And if you look at the ‘burbs, there are multiple examples of successful mega-plans, including everything from Winghaven to New Town.

    The big difference between here and there (other than the basic economy) is that Denver has a “strong mayor” form of government, while here the mayor has much less power and the individual members of the Board of Aldermen have significantly more power (in their respective wards) than do the members of Denver’s City Council. This gives Denver’s mayor both the power and the tools to pursue larger projects, that cross Council District boundaries. Here, it seems like if a project is bigger than one ward (< 4% of the city), there are simply too many historic and political hurdles to get over. So, GM, until the number of wards are reduced significantly in the city OR the culture at the BoA changes to one of more mutual cooperation, planning will likely remain an academic exercise. (I don’t object to good planning, I’ve just seen too many good plans remain unimplemented because the political side of the equation was ignored.)

  42. Dan Scott says:

    Hey concerned citizens, Help save this city. Repeal the City ordinaces on minimum housing standards—NOW. Fight the real enemy!
    Paul has a partner—The city of saint louis. The law is on their side-current housing code standards. The Building Division is the weapon of choice. Everyday an army of inspectors go to war, with a common mission, disqualify housing for ocupancy! Empty the buildings, and punish the owners! The Law Department, cordinates with other city departments to determine who will recieve, “premium prosecution”, or none at all. Mary Entrup, wife of Lewis Reed, is a housing court judge. Slam dunk, game over, citizens lose,” prefered developers” win.
    The city of saint louis has used this policy to chase people from this city for decades. IT WORKS!
    The city of saint louis has also used this policy to “grab” large amounts of real estate. The prosecutors and the judges, from the bench even, strongly suggest that private owners “do the right thing” and give their “problem property” to LRA—-the city of saint louis. The city of saint louis has and is using this policy as a built-in emnient domain tool. They selectively attack property owners based on location.
    Shame on us citizens for not keeping property up to “the code”. For that we deserve heavy fines and jail times. Meanwhile, LRA- Saint Louis City is the largest offender. The code does not apply to them. Rules for us– not for them—–is bad policy, and it encourages coruption.
    Spend energy on legislation—repeal this bad policy — now.
    OR if you think I’m just trying to get out of a housing ticket, visit our system at work-see it live for yourself, go to housing court, held every week @1430 Olive. See why and how saint louis goes empty.

  43. c'mon dan says:

    C’mon Dan, you know you’re making a plea to defend slumlords at the expense of neighborhood quality of life. Pay your fines and maintain your properties and know one gets hurt. LRA is the recipient of abandoned slumlord properties. The city doesn’t want more property owned by LRA, however, often it’s the only to stop slumlord landlords from ruining a neighborhood.

  44. Turd Ferguson says:

    Barbra on 19th has the right idea. However, if our elected officials are merely pawns of the real powerbrokers in this city and region, (Civic Progress), then it largely won’t matter. It keeps coming back to the same conundrum. Bottom line: St. Louis is where it is now because of the incredible corruption prevalent throughout the city, aided and shrouded by ignorance and downright stupidity. Until we change the structure of government here, we will get the same result, time and time again.-nod to GMichaud

    BTW, does anyone else have doubts that Paul McKee will live to see this “project” through? 😉

  45. Angelo says:

    Jim Zavist; first off…..I lived in O’Fallon and Saint Charles….Winghaven and New Town are ridiculous Potemkin communities. They are hollow, basic shells that can exist only as the ultimate result of extreme suburbanization.

    Trying to build a fake community, suburban style, in a city like Saint Louis is doomed to failure. Suburbanites like to live in….the real suburbs…outside of what they see as the crime, pollution, and scary people of the city.

    You also didn’t give me a single mega-project that has worked for Saint Louis. Denver is Denver, it has far fewer problems than our city…it’s reputation is certainly better. Denver has an obvious attraction, and it’s not quite as hard-core Urban as Saint Louis’s core. It’s been a vacation destination for quite some time; Saint Louis is hardly as welcoming.

    Secondly, “success” isn’t just measured by Mckee’s own standards. Even if his scheme was victorious I surely wouldn’t step one foot in North City. If I wanted a bland, cheap, disney-land community I would have dressed up as Mickey Mouse and hitch-hiked to Florida.

  46. Jimmy Z says:

    Angelo, your question was “Could someone please name the last mega-plan of this size that worked in Saint Louis….or anywhere?” Agreed, Denver ain’t St. Louis, and replacing an airport or a military base (already under single ownership) isn’t quite the same as doing a large assemblage, like McKee is proposing, but the dynamics are similar. My definition of “worked” is that the master plan was successfully implemented, not the quality of the original plan – that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion. I agree, New Town and Winghaven (and Highlands Ranch outside Denver) are all “ridiculous Potemkin communities. . . hollow, basic shells”, but that’s exactly what they were designed to be!

    I don’t advocate for building a “fake community, suburban style,” in St. Louis, and I don’t think that that’s what McKee is proposing, either. He has two major components, employment centers and new residential infill. The employment centers will be whatever density the major employers want – the odds of them being anything over six stories are probably pretty slim. One, the cost of going higher is pretty steep, and like 98% of the rest of the city, makes little economic sense. The existing office enclaves throughout the city – along Lindell (in the CWE), at A-B in Soulard, Ameren or Wells-Fargo – are all pretty consistent and are all arguably “suburban” style with convenient parking. And if they end up being retail or distribution, one story is the current “standard”. The only precedent for “high rise” within the development area was Pruitt-Igoe, and I doubt that anyone wants to repeat that mistake. Personally, I’m willing to be more flexible on the employment side – we’re struggling to attract new, especially “good” jobs, and I’m not about to trade new and better for existing vacant and boarded up.

    As for the residential side, look at new construction that’s happening elsewhere in the city – densities are similar to what surrounds them – you don’t see (m)any sprawling suburban ranch house being built. The big differences are more vinyl siding (yuk!) and more garages and off-street parking. People expect a certain of level of density, that their neighbors will be closer than in Jefferson County, and that there will be sidewalks, but they also expect modern amenities, and two-car garages are pretty much a given. We can argue whether that’s “right” or not, but that’s what the buyers want – we can either stand on principle and limit success or we can figure out how to integrate them appropriately (alleys!). And if we, as a city, don’t want vinyl siding, our government has the power to limit its use and/or to require more brick. You can “blame” the developer for trying to deliver as much product as possible at a certain price point, but it boils down to a transaction between the seller and the buyer – if they’re both satisfied, it happens; if not, then no.

    Bottom line, the government walks a fine line between doing its duty of mandating safe, serviceable, new construction and demanding premium finishes that increase the cost of each home. Are we, as a community, better served, by getting more people into less-expensive homes or by getting relatively-fewer people into “beter”, albeit, more-expensive, homes of the same size? I have real mixed feelings on this – in the long run, quality is almost always the better option. But, in the short run, we’re looking at a market that skews lower, pricewise, that really limits our options. In Denver, this was addressed in two ways, one, a “pattern book” that established reasonable design standards, and two, an affordable housing ordinance, that requires 10% of the new homes be affordable to someone making a defined income level AND severely limiting their ability to “flip” the property. I’m sure there are other potential “tools”, as well – it all boils down to a delicate balancing act of what we “want” and what we can afford!

  47. ceepee deecee says:

    OK, now we’re cooking! Of course the residential won’t be low density or “suburban” — most likely, it won’t get built. McEagle is a commercial developer that uses heavy government subsidy to make things work — kind of a flip side McCormack Baron Salazar. McEagle will make as much of this project commercial as possible, and the commercial won’t be high density.

    Those who think that this project will be some great urban experiment or even attractive are misguided. McEagle is leveraging control of big, bad north city to lure employers that would not locate if McEagle owned only a few sites surrounded by wild and wooly residential blocks.

    We will get some jobs, some low-rise buildings and a hell of a lot of surface parking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if we get some jobs in the city, but it will make Loughborough Commons look like child’s play. Urban, schmurban — commercial real estate is about financing, not design.

  48. GMichaud says:

    JZ brought up a good point in an earlier post about McKee, that is, what will sell?
    I don’t think the low rise one story commercial surrounded by parking is a good development strategy at this juncture in history. By the time implementation occurs, if it does, it will appear dated and backwards.
    Awareness of walking orientated, transit friendly communities that include job opportunities is only going to increase. There are plenty of examples in the world were by choice, close to half of the populace in urban areas do not own cars. They are different kinds of cities than cities, with many small diverse business enterprises supported by a different scale of transportation: walking and mass transit.

    I don’t think energy and the many other crisis in play are going to be sweep under the rug like what happened with the shot across the bow America had in the seventies with that energy crisis.

    An innovative, exciting and true problem solving plan could easily shortened the 20 year timetable for development. More money could be made(time is money), a happy time for developers.

    The key is meeting the needs of the 21st century. Terms like a job campus, or three job centers do not inspire the revolutionary thinking that is needed. A campus or center denotes separation, exactly the opposite of what a city is. (Much of the definition of the city has evolved from ancient times, and has proven been proven successful to the current date).

    The key beyond keys is mass transit planning, it is imperative before a McKee Plan is finalized a general idea of how mass transit is going to work in the city in the future is essential for a successful, focused project. (Where is the leadership to address this critical issue?)

    While I have no respect for MoDot in regards to transit planning, I do feel as if East West Gateway makes a good faith effort. The problem is that they represent far more people in the suburbs than in the city and transit solutions reflect that fact.

    It keeps us from arriving at an ultimate city transit solution, which in turn damages the whole region as well as the city.

    To seems to me it would be best if McKee would put his plans on a blog and let it rip. Either his own blog or on a topical North Side blog like Rick Rick Bonasch has recently created: http://northside-stl.blogspot.com/

    Mr McKee might find he has more to gain working with the people than against them.

    What would sell is problem solving in the interest of citizens and of the very future of America itself.
    How can we keep doing the same thing over and over?

  49. Turd Ferguson says:

    Hasn’t ONSLRG been doing infill housing for a while now? What would stop them from buying a vacant block and working their magic on it? I’d highly prefer that to McKee’s likely vinyl with street-facing garages.

  50. Angelo says:

    Sometimes I wonder how many of you would support this plan without the billion dollars attached to it. Are we really willing to sacrifice this city’s soul for yet another money-chasing scheme?

    This is what gets this city outlandish casinos, abandoned developments, and Chernobyl neighborhoods. Always looking for a one big solution instead of acknowledging the hundreds of small solutions that are actually working.

    Micro development is far more sustainable, community oriented, and long-lasting. While the rest of us small-timers are struggling to bring this city up, the big boys are getting everything they want in order to tear the rest of it down.

    The city museum has had a greater positive impact on this city’s development than McKee and his billions ever could.

    Will and Andrew Lieberman, small-time landlords who actually live in the neighborhoods with their properties, have done more for this city than Mckee and his billions ever could.

    Everything you people want to happen IS HAPPENING! The sorts of people you really want to support ARE HERE! For the love of god, seek them out and throw your money, well-wishes, and activity behind them!

    This city doesn’t need McKee, but many of you have been convinced otherwise.

  51. Jimmy Z says:

    I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid and I don’t believe that McEagle is the only answer for what ails us. But I also know that the numbers don’t lie – we’re number one, GLOBALLY, in the rate of our annual population loss, worse even than Detroit, Buffalo or Cleveland (http://www.demographia.com/db-intlcitylossr.htm)! We’re losing both population and jobs, and we can embrace the “big tent” philosophy and try to work with developers of all sizes and persuasions, or we can continue to do what we’ve done for the last 20 or 50 years and watch our population continue to erode, our jobs move elsewhere, and our neighborhoods decline even further. Sure, we’ve obviously tried stuff that hasn’t worked, but we’ve also found a few things that have. To say that we shouldn’t “throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks”, out of either fear or “principle” is a luxury we really can’t afford, especially now.

  52. just a south sider says:

    Jimmy Z says “To say that we shouldn’t “throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks”, out of either fear or “principle” is a luxury we really can’t afford, especially now.”

    But we have thrown stuff at walls for years, and a few things have stuck: neighborhood microdevelopment, downtown!, historic rehab tax credits, MetroLink, etc.

    Nothing big has “stuck” in the city, but that’s not a problem because we are no longer desperate enough to have to try anything.

    Some things work. Let’s try more of them. Let’s be skeptical about trying more things that have failed time and time again (BIG projects).

  53. GMichaud says:

    JZ, I consider you the voice of reason when passionate voices need tempering. I do believe however that it is doubtful that McKee is better than nothing.
    I am willing to give him a chance, but the circumstances of the events to date makes the whole project dubious, and probably dishonest on a St. Louis scale of Wall Street thievery.
    If the politics of St. Louis continues as it has in the past, then the McKee project will be a failure.

    Only change can save the project.

    Look at the very notion of a multi million dollar tax credit for one man, I don’t see how it is not criminal. Where is the ACLU?

    The idea of bigness and largeness as a solution has failed the nation. We have the current economic situation of America to verify that fact.

    The failure of bigness (and McKee is a clear failure up to now), coupled with the rebuilding of neighborhoods like Soulard, Lafayette Square and Benton Park should make it clear a savior such as McKee is not needed, and that rebuilding can be accomplished easily on a small scale if the same benefits are given to the small developer that are given to the bloated, large scale developer.

  54. Angelo says:

    I think we can experiment plenty, and more effectively, without handing a significant chunk of the city to one individual.

    As the South Sider says; what has already been working and sticking has been micro-development. People are attracted to places they have a stake in, places where their voices can be heard, places where they can have an impact.

    That tendency is already attracting people I know from the Counties back to Saint Louis. I moved from Saint Charles from Saint Louis because of it. I know people who are tired of living in the ultra-expensive, ultra-crowded big cities like Chicago and L.A. who are interested in moving here.

    We need to attract these people; McKee’s plan certainly won’t.

    Saint Louis needs to develop, again, it’s own culture…it’s own voice…it’s own unique direction. We don’t need big men to hurl their vision onto the whole of the city in spite of everyone else.

  55. john says:

    Although the MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry was lobbying for the China hub facility in St. Louis, there had been no testimony about it in the MO legislature. President Mehan of the CoC said the China hub will be as transformational to Missouri’s economy as the Eads Bridge was more than 100 years ago. “This is building a bridge of a different kind to the Far East.” Van Eaton, who was formerly on Bond’s staff,is executive director of the China Hub Commission.

  56. Jimmy Z says:

    OK, OK, “seeing what sticks” is a poor choice of words, especially when it comes to envisioning a final product. But it IS a good way to start to look at options, especially at this stage of the process. There likely is more than one “right” answer, and, most likely, a “symphony” of complementary projects.

    There seem to be nine areas where McEagle’s opponents have major concerns with his proposal, the size, what it will be, what it will look like, how much of a public subsidy it will require, how it will impact the existing residents, how it will impact existing businesses, who gets a say in how the plan is developed and finalized, and how the properties McKee purchased over the years have been maintained, and what assurances the project will be delivered as promised.

    One, it’s big and audacious, not warm and “friendly”. Yes. But as Steve and others have pointed out, we need something big to turn things around. Successful pockets (like ONSL) simply aren’t registering with the larger region or the rest of the country. What is are the nightly body counts and the scenes of mostly-vacant and decrepit blocks. And while Winghaven would certainly look out of place plopped down here, Winghaven IS a big step up from what was being developed in areas nearby in St. Charles County. The same goes for North Park – it’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement over what was there before and what little is being built nearby. Yes, North St. Louis is a different context, and deserves sensitive infill. From what I can tell (being promised?) a certain degree of sensitivity is already present; it’s up to the residents and their elected representatives to push for whatever level is truly appropriate.

    Two and three, what it will be and what it will look like. Well, that seems to be what we’re talking about! St. Louis 100 years ago was built with a lot of brick because it was relatively affordable (locally produced and installed with skilled-yet-cheap imigrant labor) and beat the next-best alternative, wood siding. Today, the burbs are being built with vinyl siding for the same reasons – it’s cheap and it’s acceptable to most buyers and most elected officials. If we don’t want that here, we have the power to require certain materials. Aurora, CO. faced the same issue and did something about it: http://www.ci.aurora.co.us/stellent/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dID=9664&dDocName=007588

    Four, the multi-million dollar subsidy. Given the size of the project, I’m not surprised that it’s big. And while I’m no fan of government subsidies, the reality is that people will ask and people will receive. On smaller rehab projects, there are tax credits and tax abatements available. Here, it appears that TIF’s will be used to replace century-old infrastructure. Without them, nothing happens, land and buildings remain vacant and there is no TI.

    Five and six, the impacts on existing residents and businesses. Will there be? Absolutely. Anytime change happens, there are impacts. Whether they’re positive or negative, and to what degree, depends on one’s perspective, and we’ll never all agree. The best we can hope for is a net positive.

    Seven, who gets a say? That’s the REAL question. We have a history of back-door deals and constituents being ignored. We have an antiquated legislative system that places great power with a few people. We also have a process here that’s being presented as being much more inclusive. Whether that’s reality or just eye candy will depend on two things, constituents continuing to push for a seat at the table and our elected officials listening and delivering. The developer wants public money and needs public approval. He’s gonna do as much (or as little) as he needs to do (and little more) to get what he wants. The power does now lie with the people and our elected representatives.

    Eight, how McKee maintained the properties he acquired. Again, this falls back on our government. Yes, dealing with slumlords is a challenge, and McKee’s (in)actions apparently parallelled those of many slumlords. But the city has the power to secure, maintain and bill the property owner, and, unlike many slumlords, McKee seems to have actually paid his bills. Should McKee have been a better property owner? Yes. But the city is equally at fault, for not moving more aggressively against McKee and every other property owner in the city who fails to secure and/or maintain their properties! Again, McKee is bigger than most, but certainly not worse than most other “investors”.

    Finally, nine, assurances any or all of this will actually happen. Bottom line, there really are none. We have no assurances the Rams will stay, either, or BPV will actually be built (and it certainly won’t look much like what was promised 5 years ago). What we can count on is that someone is betting millions of dollars in hopes of making millions more. If it doesn’t happen as planned, or something similar, McKee is going to be out a pile of his own money. He’s motivated, as is the city (maybe too much so), and only time will tell . . .

  57. john says:

    What DESPERATION (“we need something big to turn things around”) looks like. The same message has been delivered numerous times in Sunset Hills, Hadley Twsp, Rock Hill, etc over and over again with the same dismal results. The major difference this time is the needed support of MoDOT and the state, both critical to the plan and not addressed. No where in the list of “nine areas of concern” is the mention that government has a duty to protect property rights and not to have those rights compromised for the benefit of private development.
    – –
    This “grand scheme” is Winghaven with urban flair but with property rights being abused in numerous ways. Favoritism has damaged the credibility of the region for decades and it is now being requested on a scale much larger than ever before.

  58. Jimmy Z says:

    The St. Louis population in 1950 was 857,000; in 2000, it was 348,000; today, it may be 350,000, if we’re really lucky. I can’t document it, but I’d also bet we’ve seen the same ±60% loss in the number of jobs in town; it’s at least 50%, with more losses at the higher ends of the pay scale. Desperation doesn’t describe the situation accurately, but trying to bail out the Titanic with a bucket probably does. All our well-intentioned, small-time efforts have had their successes in their own little worlds and neighborhoods, but there remain many neighborhoods where little, if anything, is being done positively. And overall, the city falls squarely under the cloud of “struggling rust-belt city”. The images are there, as are the deperessed property values, in too many areas of town. I don’t like it and I don’t like having to explain “Why St. Louis?” to everyone I communicate with outside of the city, but that’s the hard reality we’re facing!

    If nothing else, big projects generate publicity. When the DFW airport opened in the middle of nowhere 40 years ago, there were many doubters; today, it’s a huge economic generator for the region and the state. Winghaven and greater St. Charles County may be anathema to our urban design sensibilities, but you can’t argue that businesses are choosing to locate there, including more than a few willing to abandon the city. Stapleton in Denver continues to grow successfully, giving another city-and-county an expanded tax base and its citizens some new housing and retail options. Given the right incentives and the right level of government oversight, there’s no reason why St. Louis can’t benefit from the best of both camps – small-scale development that maintains the existing fabric and larger-scale development that builds on what’s already here. It won’t be perfect – nothing ever is – but it should be a step in the right direction (much like the new train station – we can argue about both its appearance and its location, but it works a whole lot better than AmShacks I & II)!

  59. john says:

    Grand designs require grand ideas, not the SOS. Mercer Consulting recently performed a study on what are the greatest cities to live in based on employment opportunities, quality of the housing stock, health issues (clean air), support services like good public schools, etc. The Top 20 cities on the planet were Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Vancouver (the ONLY city listed in N. America), Aukland, Dusseldorf, etc. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to “guess on grand designs” but we do need to learn from those that have succeeded.
    – –
    As clearly explained by Enrique Penolosa, a city that wants to prosper must first make a fundamental choice by deciding to favor cars or people:
    As the above list of the “world’s best cities” demonstrate, favoring people works. We have a divided political system and therefore powerful organizations like MoDOT rules. Our auto dependence has made us one of the “best cities for polluted air” though, along with LA, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia and KC.
    – –
    Most of McKee’s grand designs are dependent on increasing auto-centrism, not a sustainable-integrated transportation system. Simply adding a few trolleys in isolated areas hardly makes it. Most of “home owners” in the totality of his plans are in O’Fallon, not in north StL, and they will want freeways to get to the new employment centers. In fact his grand scheme is dependent on increasing trucking services and pollution as the China hub is viewed as his politically supported idea.
    – –
    Handing out major government subsidies (money and power) to one man is hardly fair or wise. The Titanic was captained by one and is hardly a fair or reasonable metaphor. The region is stuck in a morass by a political system divided by design. Until we successfully address this issue no “grand schemes” can be successful and the McKee plan is designed to take full advantage of weak regionalism. Desperation occurs when principles become subservient regardless of the dangers.

  60. Angelo says:

    Jimmy Z’s analysis couldn’t be further from the truth. This sentence is probably one of the worst:

    “…..larger-scale development that builds on what’s already here.”

    How on earth is this plan remotely doing that? It is leveling what is left of a huge amount of the city and transplanting neighborhood patterns from outside of the city.

    Our population contraction has ended, according to the statistics we are leveling out and…if we make the right decisions, we can increase the population and jobs in the city.

    That trend has arrived before Mckee’s plan has gotten off the drawing board. That is in spite of all the disastrous mistakes, all the horrible “grand plans” that have failed this city time and again.

    The communities of this city are not “bailing out the Titanic” by any stretch of the imagination. We have seen wonderful and fantastic rejuvenations in key parts of the city….without the grand schemes of billionaires.

    The Delmar Loop went from utter dereliction to a bustling city centre….as has the CWE and as will be Cherokee Street and, hopefully, Old North Saint Louis! This city is springing back to life from Downtown to Dutchtown….there is no need to panic and throw our town to a vulture like Mckee!

    Finally, Jimmy Z, How dare you dismiss the tireless and oftentimes dangerous efforts of community leaders and small-businesses by making such a ridiculous comparison! Buckets bailing out the Titanic indeed! If the people who are really rescuing this city were aboard the Titanic Leonardo Decaprio would still be washing dishes at L.A. diners!

    Perhaps things would move faster if the government spent its money aiding small businesses and non-profits.

    A friend of mine helps run an art supply store down the street. A few thugs came in, choked him, stole his computer, and robbed the place. Where is his 1.1 billion? Why is Mckee being rewarded for his vulture-like behavior while we’re down here, living and working in the city, risking our lives as well as our money?

    I am beyond disgusted.

  61. Jimmy Z says:

    “A friend of mine helps run an art supply store down the street. A few thugs came in, choked him, stole his computer, and robbed the place.” It’s stuff like this, on the news, day after day, that makes any investment in many parts of the city problematic. I’m sure your friend is working hard to change things, as are many others, but if this happens again and again, will he be willing to stay and fight? Whether it’s him, Maggie O’Brien’s bartender or the 12-year-old shot at the barbeque stand, it’s this perception and/or the reality of crime, many times violent, that distracts too many people from the success of too of our many successful small projects.

    “It is leveling what is left of a huge amount of the city and transplanting neighborhood patterns from outside of the city.” Yes and no – the plan proposes, as a first step, REMOVING the existing suburban-style 22nd Street mini-freeway and reintroducing the original street grid. It proposes bringing actual jobs to the “Pruitt-Igoe site [that] has sat vacant for 35 years”. Will the “neighborhood pattern” there be more suburban than urban? Probably, but whatever urban pattern that was once there disappeared from that site a half century ago.

    “Our population contraction has ended, according to the statistics we are leveling out . . .” Hopefully this is true – the census next year will provide the real answer. And we’re obviously going to have to agree to disagree on whether McEagle’s plans might actually be one of “the right decisions, [one where] we can increase the population and jobs in the city.”

    Finally, the success of the Loop is primarily the direct result of the vision and the efforts of one man, Joe Edwards. He blazed the path and others followed, and profited from his efforts. He also readily acknowledges that government help, in the form of substantial tax credits, was critical to his success. So while McKee’s plans are bigger, I don’t see where they’re that much different than Edwards’ – you build on what’s already there, you work hard to change perceptions, and if you’re good and/or lucky, you’ll make some money. You benefit and your neighbors benefit – sounds like a winning equation to me . . .

  62. Angelo says:

    Joe Edwards owns 4 properties on the Loop, 4! Mckee will have possession over land twice the size of downtown Saint Louis! Your equivocation is completely off the mark. There is no comparison.

    Secondly, the Federal aid in the Loop certainly does not come close to a billion dollars. Also, the assistance favored small-scale development. Encouraging many small businesses to come in and fill in the vacant areas. LOOK AT THE RESULTS!

    I don’t know what’s stopping the city, state, or Federal government from offering assistance, money, and zoning regulations that promote small business building in the area.

    As for the crime; McKee is simply taking advantage of the stabilization of Saint Louis….the stabilization that myself, my friend, and others are creating. Saint Louis will make a name for itself (a good one) without Mckee…..and, if it comes to it, despite Mckee.

    Crime is going down….not as fast as in other cities, but it is going down.

    It’s also hard to convince artistic, creative, and idealistic people to move into troubled areas when you hand over troubled areas to mono cultural developers. The people most likely to tolerate higher crime rates are being completely excluded from projects like this.

    Creating an “O’Fallon with a higher crime rate” is not a winning concept. Suburbanites would rather just live in O’Fallon, urbanites would rather live in an 1800’s townhouse.

    As for the jobs he’s supposed to be bringing; I submit to you a couple of things:

    1. That assumes his word is gold.
    2. What is the sacrifice for these jobs?

    Are we giving up more, and reliable jobs in the future for short-term job prospects? Are these jobs sustainable? Is there really a shortage of prime commercial and residential space in Saint Louis?

    Of course, the answer to the last question is a definitive no. As we all know, the city’s population halved. Even with the demolition of entire neighborhoods; the city’s capacity is hardly filled to the brim. Most traditional companies aren’t interested in operating in Saint Louis city unless given massive tax breaks.

    You’d think that if businesses were just dying to come to Saint Louis they wouldn’t find a shortage of properties to choose from. What makes this development more attractive than other parts of the city or the county? Hmmm? Parking? The city has provided an abundance of parking in many areas…to little effect.

    This is the real problem; with a plan this huge we should have had a real public debate. But non, we are having this massive plan shoved down our throats with a minimum of investigation!

    If you are going to hand over a huge chunk of a city….the size of many small cities and towns, you’d think you’d want a little more surety in the person you’re handing things over to.

    Jimmy, you are asking us to have faith…..Mckee isn’t god; just because he’s rich doesn’t make him infallible…or trustworthy. You’d think recent economic developments would have taught us that.

  63. GMichaud says:

    “whatever urban pattern that was once there disappeared from that site a half century ago”
    I think that is exactly the question, just what kind of urban pattern do we want and need as a people?

    It is a question for some reason McKee gets to answer without an orderly process of citizen involvement.

    As a people we need to make changes on how we manage society. The situation is not a joke, the implications are what kind of life our children and grandchildren will live. Yet this discussion gets swept under the rug for the benefit of one man and his company.

    McKee is lavished with government money and yet his 20 year plan will perform no better than small scale development that already has been proven successful elsewhere in the city.

    It is a process that continues to cut the needs and voices of society out of the equation so that some wealthy person can accumulate more wealth. This process is the central part of the problem.

    The unwillingness of city government (and major media) to ask questions about urban patterns (along with other issues) that result in a plan that meet the future needs of St. Louis is a serious failure in leadership.

  64. Jimmy Z says:

    I may be naive, but I think we agree that “This is the real problem; with a plan this huge we should have . . . a real public debate.” My understanding is that what was presented is the opening volley in the discussion. McKee presented what he and his “experts” think will work best, and he will now be working with the aldermen, city staff and the residents to refine the plan. Somebody needs to start the discussion – he did. There will (obviously!) be disgreement. Alternatives will be presented. Negotiation will (should?) happen. Our leaders will (should?) lead, and mediate the disparate goals and opinions. Compromise will (should?) occur, and a refined version of the plan will be approved and, hopefully, fully implemented.

    As I understand it, McKee needs to get his TIF approved quickly to qualify for additional state tax credits. I may be naive, but I’m pretty sure that the TIF part of the equation isn’t tied to having a final plan completed. Obviously, the city needs a good framework before a TIF can or should be approved, but having every block planned and all new zoning regulations in place can occur independent of the TIF. The city would still have significant leverage, since their zoning and building permits are required for the construction of every phase of the actual project.

    Angelo, like I said, I may be naive, but you obviously believe that “we are having this massive plan shoved down our throats with a minimum of investigation!” If so, whose fault is that? Our leaders for failing to lead? We citizens, for continuing to elect these apparently ineffective, non-leaders? We citizens, for sitting by passively, taking whatever is “given” to us? Or is it more of a case of being in a different minority, one that simply is being outvoted on this project? I live in the city, but nowhere near this project. On a macro level, it seems like a winner. On a micro, neighborhood level, I haven’t a clue. I need to rely on the people who live there, and per St. Louis tradition, their aldermen, to decide what’s “best”. I can only assume that if the majority were opposed, their aldermen wouldn’t be very supportive.

    As for Joe Edwards having only 4 properties in the Loop, yet being its major voice, how does that differ from McKee owning over a hundred properties here? As a major property owner, should his voice be muted? Just because he lives in O’Fallon? Should A-B be discounted in Soulard/Benton Park, just because they’re “big”? Yeah, it kinda sucks being one of the many small businesses out there, being ignored, especially when it comes to economic development incentives, (been there, done that). But that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion, on how does goverment fairly distribute incentives to small businesses and avoid either throwing money down an unsustainable rathole of failed dreams or favoring a small universe of small businesses that have the “right” connections?!

    “I don’t know what’s stopping the city, state, or Federal government from offering assistance, money, and zoning regulations that promote small business building in the area.” They’re not, there simply hasn’t been very many people willing to make the leap, take the risk, and become one of those pioneering “small businesses to come in and fill in the vacant areas.” Too many people are simply choosing “safer” alternatives, ones that involve less risk.

    “You’d think that if businesses were just dying to come to Saint Louis they wouldn’t find a shortage of properties to choose from.” You’re right, there’s a whole bunch available, both in the city and throughout the region. The fundamental problem, even in better economic times, is/was that too many businesses simply aren’t/weren’t “dying to come to Saint Louis” in the first place. Part of it is perception (both fair and unfair), but a lot of it is reality – crime rates, school system, taxes, economics, governmental structure, infrastructure, weather, air service, recreational opportunities, etc., etc. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a finacial services company, an advertsing agency or the manufacturer of solar panels, you have a range of options available, all across the country.

    Advances in both communication and transportation make running a viable business a reality in many, many more places today than was possible even 50 years ago. Today, we get our lettuce from Paraguay and our TV’s from Korea. I can sit at my computer in St. Louis, Sun Valley, Sarasota or Sao Paulo and be equally productive. FedEx or UPS can get something to Maplewood, Memphis or Milan overnight. The three areas where St. Louis excells are a central location, plenty of water and relatively low real estate costs. The central location only gains in importance when the product being shipped gets to be too big or too bulky, or you’re having too put people on planes on a daily basis. Plenty of water will become a much bigger amenity in 40 or 50 years, as reality (and continued growth) hits in the sunbelt and taps actually run dry. That leaves cheap real estate, which is much like a central location – unless you’re producing something that’s big or bulky, real estate and labor will continue to be substantially cheaper in many third-world locations. If all you need is office or desk space, the cost of overhead is a relatively small part of the equation, so being close to amenities like the beach or the mountains or “real” urban areas (NYC, Chicago, even LA) can usually be justified.

  65. john says:

    What’s BIG: Merging StL City-County.
    What’s small: Taking advantage of the division via government subsidies and the selling of public, particularly MoDOT, property.
    Take away the MoDOT property and McKee’s plans will fail.

  66. Angelo says:

    Jimmy Z, your ability to ignore the fundamentals of my argument does not impress me.

    “As for Joe Edwards having only 4 properties in the Loop, yet being its major voice, how does that differ from McKee owning over a hundred properties here? As a major property owner, should his voice be muted?”

    With spin like that, you should audition for the major news corporations.

    I’m done arguing with you; it is pretty obvious you don’t have the ability to respond to my contentions.


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