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Before It Was Officially Named NorthSide Regeneration, We Knew It As ‘Blairmont’

June 18, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, NorthSide Project, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Before It Was Officially Named NorthSide Regeneration, We Knew It As ‘Blairmont’

With the news last week that the City of St. Louis now considers developer Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project in default and Missouri suing him for tax fraud, I got to thinking about how we got here.

To my knowledge the first blog post about Blairmont was Michael Allen’s July 21, 2005 entry titled Seeking Blairmont, here’s a snippet:

Blairmont owns many properties on the Near North Side of St. Louis and is notoriously hard to reach. No one can find out anything about Blairmont except that a man named Harry Noble supposedly owns the company — but even that isn’t verified. A search through the Missouri Secretary of State’s corporation registry reveals that the “CT Corporation System” registered the name “Blairmont Associates LC” on behalf of an anonymous party or parties.

Many of Blairmont’s properties seem to be vacant lots in Old North St. Louis, St. Louis Place and other neighborhoods, although the company recently purchased a vacant St. Louis Public Schools property at 2333 Benton.

Other people report needing to make agreements with Blairmont to repair shared utilities or utilities that run through Blairmonnt properties, and having difficulty finding a phone number. 

If you know anything about Blairmont, please post a comment here and maybe we’ll be able to help Lyra and others who are interested in contacting the company.

Many wrote about Blairmont, but Michael Allen was most prolific. For example, in December 2005 he wrote:

The July 15 Quarterly Report of the Jordan W. Chambers 19th Ward Regular Democratic Organization reveals some interesting information about its contributors. Namely, that the following contributors, all real estate holding companies, share the same address:

N & G Ventures LC
Noble Development Company
VHS Partners LLC
McEagle Properties LLC
West Alton Holding Company LLC
Oakland Properties, Inc.
Blairmont Associates Limited Company

That address is 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place in O’Fallon, Missouri .  1001 Boardwalk Springs Place is the address of the largest office building in the sprawling WingHaven development. This also happens to be the mailing address for Paric Corporation and McEagle Development, the well-known companies founded by wealthy developer Paul McKee, Jr. (Paric is now led by McKee‘s son Joe.)

In the above post Allen lists how many properties were owned by each entity. At the time I was in real estate so I could look up all the properties owned by name. Using Allen’s list of names we were quickly able to create a list of hundreds of properties involved. The data was exported in XLS format so he could create a master spreadsheet.

In the meantime, BJC Healthcare was wanting development rights to Hudlin Park — a former piece of Forest Park with their underground parking garage. The local neighborhood group, for which the park was a part of, was to hold a meeting on BJC’s plans.

In April 2006 I wrote:

I just love how all this works:

1) Hatch evil plan around self interests but tied concerns about higher taxes if not accepted.
2) Get politicos on board with plan. After all, that is why we give them contributions!
3) Get local group on board now that they are used to our annual grants.
4) Oh yeah, almost forgot, hold some sort of public meeting now that all the decisions are made. Solicit “input” without laughing.
5) Wrap up song & dance and return to doing whatever we feel like secure in the knowledge the alderman and neighborhood are eating out of our hands.

What a system we’ve got.

Keep the above sarcastic playbook in the back of your head. Blairmont moved from blogs to print on January 10, 2007 when the Riverfront Times wrote about it, here’s a quote on Allen:

Michael Allen has tracked the company’s comings and goings on his Web site, www .www.eco-absence.org. He says that the Blairmont group of companies (which operate under names such as VHS Partners, N&G Ventures and Noble Development Company) has accumulated nearly 400 properties — more than 1,000 acres — in the Fifth and Nineteenth wards. 

“They show no signs of slowing down,” says Allen. 

Among Blairmont Associates’ properties are the historic James Clemens Jr. House at 1849 Cass Avenue, which is a stately-but-crumbling mansion, and the Brecht Butcher Supply Company buildings at 1201-17 North Cass Avenue, which were gutted by fire last October. 

Residents first identified Blairmont as a neighborhood force about three years ago, says Sean Thomas, executive director of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. The nonprofit group, which was established in 1981 to help revitalize the area, grew uneasy because Blairmont didn’t seem concerned with upkeep.

That same day, on January 10, 2007, I saved a PDF of Paul McKee’s bio on the McEagle website. Two issues, BJC/Hudlin Park and hundreds of vacant/derelict properties had one connection: Paul McKee. Ten days later the RFT had part 2 of their Blairmont story:

Before the 2007 legislative session, the developer met with Republican state senator John Griesheimer of Washington. Griesheimer, who chairs the Economic Development, Tourism & Local Government Committee, says a mutual friend suggested the confab to smooth things over with McKee, who had lobbied last year against a tax increment financing (TIF) reform bill the senator favored. 

Griesheimer says McKee seized the opportunity to float the idea of a tax credit to encourage development in distressed areas. The senator ultimately inserted the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act into an omnibus economic-development bill that now awaits the signature of Governor Matt Blunt. A spokeswoman for Blunt says that because there are so many provisions to consider, the governor will take his time signing. His deadline is July 14.

Although I’d read about Blairmont, and worked behind the scenes with Michael Allen on identifying properties, I hadn’t written about it…yet.

My post from February 9, 2007 was my first to use the word ‘Blairmont’, here’s how I opened the post  “Blairmont Scheme” Is Fulfillment of Official City Plans:

Much has been written lately about the sinister plot, known to many as “Blairmont”, to bulldoze North St. Louis (specifically the St. Louis Place neighborhood). The focus has been on various straw companies such as Blairmont Associates, LLC and part owner Paul McKee. McKee is a founder of well known commercial contractor Paric, an officer in McEagle Development and current Chairman of BJC Healthcare. In other words, a prominent citizen for all that’s worth.

The major issue has been these companies are buying hundreds of properties, including some very historic structures, and letting them sit empty and decaying. A few have had some devistating fires. Nobody has been able to track down any more information on the motives & intention behind these purchases. Interestingly, the answer was under our noses the whole time.

This is all part of a public plan, one of many actually. 

The following was an example I cited:

In 2002 the city’s Planning Commission adopted the 5th Ward Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan. It should be noted the boundaries are the old 5th Ward, not the boundaries as changed around the same time as the plan was being adopted. Anyway, in the plan a large swath of land just north of the long vacant Pruitt-Igoe site is shown hatched out with the designation “Proposed Large Land Use (for further study).” In other words, level anything remaining and start fresh. There it is, fully adopted after numerous public meetings and everything.

Fast forward to Monday May 11, 2009 when McKee was to finally attend a North side resident meeting and talk about his plans. So how did the meeting & presentation go? I’ll let Alex Ihnen explain:

Well today the plan was offered to select attendees at meeting on the North Side. The press wasn’t allowed and even Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL was asked to leave as a member of the press. Well, well, bloggers have come a long way huh?

So what’s on the table? 

  • $400M TIF
  • Mixed infill residential with commercial centers
  • 22,000 permanet jobs and up to 43,000 temporary jobs mostly in construction 
  • Commercial centers located near 22nd street & I-64, Jefferson & Cass, Jefferson & Natural Bridge, and the new I-70 bridge terminus. 
  • Light rail and the requisite bike lanes
  • Preservation of existing historic buildings

So what’s missing? Just developers and financing, that’s all. It appears as though McKee will be asking for concessions from just about everyone and I’m not sure that people are clamoring for development on the north side enough to give him carte blanche. This is just the first word, but it appears that the potential $400M TIF will be up for a vote as early as this coming Friday.

Yes, I was asked to leave a meeting. Never mind that where I lived then is where I live — which became part of the 5th ward after the last redistricting. I got into my wheelchair , left the meeting, and joined the press outside.

Sign outside meeting where I was asked to leave

The next week another meeting was scheduled for May 21, 2009  — the press was welcome to attend.  That morning I wrote:

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

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

Source: McEagle

Six days later I shared my thoughts, the following is part of what I wrote:

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.

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.

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 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.

I’m going to stop here for now, I’ll continue on Wednesday and share my thoughts on what St. Louis should do next.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bill Week 9 of 2018-2019 Session

June 15, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bill Week 9 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 9th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes just new bill:

  • B.B.#87 – Murphy – Pursuant to Ordinance 68937, an Ordinance authorizing the honorary street name, Robert Prager Way, to begin at the intersection of Morgan Ford Road and Bates Street and run west on Bates Street to the intersection of Bates Street and Gravois Avenue.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Supportive of Mayor Krewson’s Advocating for a vote on DACA

June 13, 2018 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Supportive of Mayor Krewson’s Advocating for a vote on DACA

Many of you might think of immigration issues and those who came here as kids as something for border cities/states — like San Diego, California. The numbers are smaller, but it’s an issue right here in Missouri:

In Missouri, 3,500 young people have registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They want Congress to pass a long-term solution that would allow them to stay in the country. (St. Louis Public Radio)

When mayors have residents who are fearful of authorities it is good to find a way to reduce that fear — they’d be more likely to talk to the police about crimes they might have witnessed, for example. Not having families torn apart if one or both parents are detained/deported.

Source: Missouri Dreamers Facebook page

Here’s more:

What is a “Clean” Dream Act and Why Should You Support It?

  1. A clean Dream Act would keep more families where they belong?—?together, by excluding any provisions that would harm our immigrant communities by increasing immigration detention, enforcement and deportation.
  2. A clean Dream Act honors the voices and lived experiences of those in border communities by refusing further militarization of the U.S. southern border, including the use of drones, more agents or the expansion of a wall.
  3. A clean Dream Act promotes the reunification of families by avoiding any changes in immigration law that would reduce current immigration pathways by expanding grounds of inadmissibility and removability or radically changing family-based petitions and the diversity visa lottery.
  4. A clean Dream Act would uphold our values of offering humanitarian aid to those fleeing persecution or other dangers by safeguarding protections for unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers and others in need.
  5. A clean Dream Act rejects any attempts to further scapegoat and demonize the immigrant community, whether through increased funding for policing of immigrant and communities of color, provisions falsely claiming to address gang violence that actually provide a license for racial profiling of immigrant youth, and the creation of new grounds for inadmissibility and deportation. (Medium)

A clean Dream Act would help St. Louis and other cities. In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll less than a third didn’t think Krewson should be adding her name to 100+ other mayors in support of a vote on the Dream Act:

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson shouldn’t be pushing for changes to federal immigration policy.

  • Strongly agree 9 [31.03%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [6.9%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [6.9%]
  • Disagree 1 [3.45%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [51.72%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

These people have been here since they were kids, they don’t know how to live in the countries they came from. Let them stay and work toward citizenship. Keep their families intact.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Mayor Krewson Be Pushing For A Change To Federal Immigration Policy?

June 10, 2018 Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Mayor Krewson Be Pushing For A Change To Federal Immigration Policy?
Please vote below

Last week Mayor Lyda Krewson posted the following on Facebook:

This week I joined more than 110 mayors calling on leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring the #DreamAct up for a vote and pass a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Read the letter:

Here’s the text of the letter signed by Krewson and over 100 other mayors & county officials at the U.S. Conference of Mayors:

Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi:

We, the undersigned mayors and county executives, urge you to move expeditiously to pass a bipartisan solution with a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers that does not further harm immigrant communities—the DREAM Act. We are gravely concerned about the futures of Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of whom know our cities and counties as home. We are equally concerned about the increases in immigrant detention and non-criminal arrests over the past year. Congress can and must provide permanent protections for Dreamers without increasing enforcement measures against immigrants at large.

As local leaders we work closely with our residents. We know first-hand that immigrants are cornerstones of our communities who contribute with their diverse perspectives and ingenuity to ou

r local economies and participate robustly in civic life. This is why we are members of Cities for Action, a national coalition that advocates for inclusion of immigrants into our communities to create stronger, safer, and more prosperous cities. Our coalition includes over 175 mayors and county executives, representing over 70 million residents, including 17 million foreign-born residents. The 1.3 million young undocumented immigrants enrolled or immediately eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program contribute an estimated $2 billion a year in state and local taxes to economies like ours. DACA-eligible residents pay an average of 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

Recent federal court decisions currently allow DACA recipients to apply for renewals but DACA recipients are hesitating to renew because of the uncertainty over the future of the program, despite our robust efforts at the local level to conduct community outreach. We are concerned that Dreamers without DACA status will be in danger of deportation. Every day that Congress fails to pass legislation, more young lives are thrown into chaos.

DACA recipients have done everything the government has asked of them in good faith: they have proven that they are not public safety threats, submitted to regular check-ins, earned degrees, served in the military, and paid their taxes. They deserve a permanent place in this country they call home. We commend the bipartisan efforts on House Resolution 774 which already has the support of over half of the House of Representatives. We urge you to listen to these Members of Congress and bring legislation that protects Dreamers up for a vote. This is an opportunity to pass the DREAM Act, and finally provide Dreamers the protection they deserve.

This is the subject of today’s poll.

This poll will close automatically at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 8 of 2018-2019 Session

June 8, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 8 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 8th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes 15 new bills:

  • B.B.#72 – Pres. Reed – An ordinance revising The Transparency in Government Law, Ordinance 69707 and Ordinance 70321, codified at Chapter 3.115 of the Revised Code, to require the effective closed captioning of all public meetings of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, including committee meetings; the Board of Estimate & Apportionment; and the Preservation Board.
  • B.B.#73 – Howard/Murphy – An ordinance pertaining to conveyances of title and the recording of such transfer with the Recorder of Deeds; amending Section Three of Ordinance 56141, and Ordinance 65038, by removing the requirement of the signature of the grantee on deeds issued by the Sheriff of the City pursuant to court order.
  • B.B.#74 – Davis – An Ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission, the Board of Public Service, and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, establishing and authorizing a public works and improvement program (the “Airfield, Building & Environs Projects”) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport® (the “Airport”), as more fully described in the attached EXHIBIT A, entitled “FY19 PROJECT LIST” ; and containing a severability and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#75 – Davis – An ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission, the Comptroller and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, making certain findings with respect to the transfer of up to Three Million Dollars of excess moneys that The City, the owner and operator of St. Louis Lambert International Airport, intends to transfer from the Debt Service Stabilization Fund to the Airport Development Fund in accordance with Section 516.B of the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Indenture of Trust between the City, as Grantor, and UMB Bank, N.A., as Trustee, dated as of October 15, 1984, as amended and restated as of July 1, 2009, as amended and supplemented; authorizing a transfer in an amount not to exceed Three Million Dollars from the DSSF into the Airport Development Fund during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018, for the purpose of making funds available to address Coldwater Creek Emergency Repairs Phase 2 – Installation of Two 12 Foot BY 12 Foot Reinforced Concrete Box Culverts and the Restoration of the Charlie Pad Aircraft Ramp, Glycol Recovery System, Ramp Edge Lighting System, and Associated Impacted Improvements; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#76 – Hubbard – An ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission approving the name of a new public street located in the approved Jonas Hubbard Estates subdivision, located in City Block 552.
  • B.B.#77 – Williamson – An ordinance, recommended by the Board
    of Estimate and Apportionment, authorizing a supplemental appropriation; amending Ordinance 70540, commonly referred to as the City of St. Louis Annual Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2017-2018; appropriating and setting apart projected local use tax and gaming fund revenues to address certain shortfalls in revenues and excess expenditures in the General Fund for the current fiscal year, in the amount of Three Million Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($3,200,000) as hereinafter detailed; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#78 – Moore – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2615 Billups.
  • B.B.#79 – Spencer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 3437-3439 Iowa.
  • B.B.#80 – Spencer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 3211.
  • B.B.#81 – Martin – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 7714-18 South Broadway.
  • B.B.#82 – Guenther – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2829 Iowa.
  • B.B.#83 – Ingrassia – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2528 Texas.
  • B.B.#84 – Coatar – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2235 McNair.
  • B.B.#85 – Coatar – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 705-719 North 2nd.
  • B.B.#86 – Davis – Pursuant to Ordinance 68937, an ordinance authorizing the honorary street name, Urban League Square which shall begin at the intersection of North Spring Avenue and Grandel Square and run East on Grandel Square to North Grand Boulevard.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

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