North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Post-Dispatch Gets it Wrong on NorthSide

by Michael R. Allen

Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch carries an editorial on Paul J. McKee Jr.’s NorthSide project (“Next 90 days could set North St. Louis’ direction for decades”).

Among reasonable suggestions and enthusiasm for the potential of NorthSide, the editorial’s main purpose seems to be making the case that the city of St. Louis, pension crisis be damned, should guarantee some of the tax increment financing for NorthSide, and that McEagle should be given eminent domain latitude:

Financial guarantees from the city and the use of eminent domain are “hot-button” issues with the public, and for good reason. But there is every reason to think they can be resolved in ways that both impress potential investors with a prudent city commitment and protect the public.

Well, the Post-Dispatch has it wrong here. The absence of a city guarantee is the work of the office of Mayor Francis Slay, who is not exactly an opponent of the NorthSide project. The restriction on eminent domain that will likely be in the redevelopment agreement comes from Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin (D-5th) and her colleagues involved in discussions with the developer. Again, Ford-Griffin is a supporter of the project. Ford-Griffin’s ward comprises 80% of the proposed project area, and her constituents are up in arms about eminent domain. McKee says that he only wants 20 parcels through eminent domain anyway, although the developer has not provided a list. Disallowing broad condemnation rights on this project — which may take over 30 years to complete — makes sense. Life has to go on for residents while McKee is working on the Downtown West and Mississippi River Bridge landing phases of his project.

If public officials who support the project have placed limits on the public financing and eminent domain use for NorthSide, that’s for good reason.