Maria Altman

Reporter

Maria is a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio, specializing in business and economic issues. Previously, she was a newscaster during All Things Considered and has been with the station since 2004. Maria's stories have been featured nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on Marketplace.

Maria has won numerous awards, including from the Illinois Associated Press, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, the Missouri Bar Association, and the Missouri State Teachers Association.

She came to St. Louis from Dallas, where she worked at KERA. Maria has also worked at WUIS in Springfield, and WSIU in Carbondale, Ill. She received her M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa.

In her spare time she serves as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Maria lives in St. Louis with her husband and two kids.

Ways to Connect

Brenda Nelson plays a card game with friends on Mullanphy Street during the street's last annual block party on Saturday.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the third Saturday of July neighbors and former residents gathered in the 2300 block of Mullanphy Street in north St. Louis.

That’s when the annual block party always takes place.

But this would be the last one.

courtesy NewLeaf Symbiotics

NewLeaf Symbiotics is growing fast.

Formed in 2012, the startup has nearly 40 employees and has hired four executives in the last year.

The latest executive to come on board is Dr. Janne Kerovuo, the head of Monsanto’s Microbial Discovery Strategy since 2013. He’ll now be NewLeaf’s Vice President for Research and Discovery.

(From the Economic Development Incentives report from the PFM Group.)

Each month the commissioners of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of St. Louis hear request after request from developers and even residents for tax abatements that usually last five to 10 years. 

It's just one of the tools the city uses to spur economic development, but St. Louis officials are taking a look at how those tax incentives are distributed. 

A crew member with Matt's Health Woods & Wildlife plants hybrid poplar trees in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood of St. Louis. Fresh Coast Capital is leasing 42 parcels from the city for an urban tree farm. July 13, 2016
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

A small crew spent Wednesday morning planting poplar trees on several parcels of vacant land in St. Louis’ Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.

A company called Fresh Coast Capital is leasing 42 parcels from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority for $1 a year. The city will receive about 2 percent of the revenue when the company harvests and seels the hybrid poplar trees in 10 to 12 years.

courtesy of Northside Regeneration

Developer Paul McKee is finally using the Tax Increment Financing approved years ago by the city of St. Louis.

The Board of Aldermen approved a bill on Friday to release $2.8 million in TIF for infrastructure around a proposed grocery store and gas station McKee announced in March. It’s the first time McKee has sought to use any of the $390 million TIF first approved in 2009 for his massive Northside Regeneration project.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill Wednesday tightening laws around a popular economic development tool.

The law is aimed at the St. Louis region, naming St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County. It limits the power of municipalities to approve tax increment financing if a county-wide TIF board rejects it.

Nixon signed the bill at a meeting of the regional East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which did a report on the issue.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

A 100-acre site in north St. Louis will be home to the sophisticated, high-tech National Geospatial Agency facility in few years.

At the moment, archeologists are trying to find out how people on the site once lived.

"The whole idea is to understand what people’s lives were in past and get a better feel for that," said Joe Harl, principal investigator for Archeological Research Center of St. Louis.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Land Reutilization Authority owns more than 11,000 parcels in the city of St. Louis.

It’s a land mass roughly the size of Forest Park.

St. Louis has the distinction of having the oldest land bank in the country, created by a Missouri state statute in 1971. It was a response to St. Louis’ quickly shrinking population after reaching a height of 856,000 people in 1950.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Paul McKee’s Northside Regeneration is wasting little time now that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has officially chosen to build in St. Louis.

The developer announced on Tuesday he’s partnering with CRG Real Estate Solutions and Washington D.C.-based Telesis Corporation to build 500 residential units over the next five years.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis city officials told about 200 community members that they wanted to hear ideas and concerns about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility that received the official green light just last week.

They got an earful.

St. Louis has won the effort to get the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.75 billion facility.

The final decision was not a surprise, even as Illinois officials continued to push this week for a location near Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a law last year making it easier to register a home-based business.

It also lowered the business renewal license fee, due each year on June 1, to just $25 for those home-based businesses with annual revenue under $100,000.

It had been $200.

Many business owners have no idea the fee has dropped. 

Outside the old Buster Brown factory, party attendees hold up signs and pose for photos as part of the "This Place Matters" campaign, a social media project started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Passers-by wondered what was going on.

There were food trucks, balloons, and music at the corner of Cass and Jefferson Avenues on Thursday afternoon.

It’s all part of Jim Osher’s effort to save the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory. (You can read St. Louis Public Radio's previous story here.)

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro,
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Illinois Congressman Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro< is asking for an investigation into the report that laid out the pros and cons for the proposed sites for a new $1.75 billion federal facility.

That’s after he and several other member of Illinois’ congressional delegation met with National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo on Thursday.

(Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory in north St. Louis is worth about $810,000.

That’s the figure that a three-member court-appointed commission determined in a filing on Wednesday. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is within the proposed footprint of a new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency building and among the properties facing eminent domain proceedings by the city.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

More than 100 people chant the tongue twister “Betty Botter bought some butter.”

Then they move on to dollar drills.

This is the Missouri Auction School, the world’s biggest and oldest school for would-be auctioneers. It was founded in 1905.

Twice a year students convene at a Route 66-themed Holiday Inn in Sunset Hills for the week-long class, where they start the day with the 30-minute warm-up. President Paul Dewees says students come from all over the U.S. and even travel from other countries to learn how to become auctioneers.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The city of St. Louis will likely pay more than $1.6 million to compensate property owners who faced eminent domain to make way for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility.

Mow to Own
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio)

The parcel next to Eltorean Hawkins’ home looks like his side yard.

He’s been mowing the grass and cutting the weeds since he bought his house two years ago, even though the land belongs to the city's Land Reutilization Authority.

Now all Hawkins has to do is pay $125 and keep mowing for another two years, and the deed goes to him.

It’s called Mow to Own.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

There’s no place like home, and for Sheila Rendon that’s especially true.

The two-story brick home on Mullanphy Street has been in her home since she was born. Her parents and grandparents bought the house back in 1963, when home ownership was just a dream for many African Americans.

Fergus Randall | Flickr

The St. Louis-based utility got its start in 1857 as the Laclede Gas Light Company.

Now it will be known as Spire.

Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis all but declared victory after the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s director gave the city the nod earlier this month for a new $1.75 billion facility.

Yet officials across the river aren’t giving up on a 182-acre site in St. Clair County.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s not clear whether the Peabody Opera House will keep its name.

That’s after Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday. The St. Louis-based coal giant aims to restructure in the midst of a major downturn for the industry. In its bankruptcy filing, it listed $11 billion in assets and $10 billion in liabilities.

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will dedicate a new wing of the facility on Friday. The expansion is called the William H. Danforth Wing, in honor of the founding chairman who helped create the plant science center in 1998.

"Everyone thinks I had a big plan when we started. You know you have to feel your way. That’s what you do in life,” Dr. William Danforth told St. Louis Public Radio. “We’re now far ahead of where I thought we would be when we started.”

(courtesy Missouri Competes)

"Discrimination has no place in Missouri.”

That line greets visitors to the Missouri Competes website.

The coalition has come out against Senate Joint Resolution 39, a measure to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the state ballot that would allow clergy and some businesses to refuse services for same-sex weddings.

(courtesy BioSTL)

NRGene is an ag tech company based in Israel that will soon have a presence in St. Louis.

"Settling in St. Louis is actually a pretty easy decision," said Paul Chomet, who will head up the office here.

He said that’s because NRGene, which uses big data analytics to identify genetic traits and improve crops, has dealt with ag companies and scientists in St. Louis previously. That includes the world-renowned Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Sarah Davis, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

If a federal spy agency chooses to relocate to north St. Louis as expected, residents in the way will have to move quickly.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency gave St. Louis the initial nod last week, but the spy agency’s final decision will come May 30. St. Louis Development Corporation executive director Otis Williams said a month after that, the city expects some of the 200 residents living in the new site's footprint to begin moving out.

The deal is not done, but St. Louis and Missouri officials are basking in a win.

That’s after National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo told St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay late Thursday afternoon that north St. Louis is his preferred location for a new $1.75 billion facility.

Maggie Crane | Twitter

The city of St. Louis chalked up a big win, likely beating out St. Clair County for a federal spy agency.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency indicated in a report that the “preferred” site for its new facility is on the city’s north side. While the final decision isn’t expected until late spring, NGA director Robert Cardillo’s choice is expected to stick.

It’s hard to tell how much impact St. Louis’ 1 percent earnings tax has on attracting businesses to the city. Arguments over the effects of the tax are largely anecdotal.

That’s in part because not much research has been done on the subject over the last 20 years, according to Sarah Coffin, a professor of Urban Planning and Development at Saint Louis University.

(courtesy Powers Insurance and Benefits)

Powers Insurance and Benefits has been in Clayton for nearly 25 years.

Now the family-owned business is making the move to the city of St. Louis.

"There really is no location like this in Clayton, so the city’s giving us something too, which is a very visible site," said CEO Pierce Powers. "You’ll see our signage from the highway."

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