North St. Louis Northside Regeneration

Taxpayers Cutting the Lawn for Allston Alliance

by Michael R. Allen

On Saturday morning, passers-by on 10th Street downtown may have seen the city Forestry Division crew trimming the tall grass and weeds along the east wall of the vacant Cass Avenue Schnucks.

This publicly-funded trimming is odd because the building is privately owned by the Allston Alliance, a company whose registered agent is developer John Steffen. The Allston Alliance purchased the property on December 28, 2005 with a $2.8 million loan from Corn Belt Bank and Trust Company of Pittsfield, Illinois.

Routinely, Forestry will trim vacant lots and bill the owners. This agreement isn’t uncommon. However, Allston Alliance has a for-lease sign on the building, a large loan and a prominent developer’s involvement. Can’t they mow their own grass without taxpayers’ fronting the money? Perhaps they should have sought a loan large enough to cover grounds maintenance.