Ballpark Village tax incentives move forward; some request economic development changes | St. Louis Public Radio

Ballpark Village tax incentives move forward; some request economic development changes

Nov 30, 2016

A St. Louis aldermanic committee approved a $56 million tax incentive package for Phase II of the Cardinals’ Ballpark Village on Wednesday in a meeting that also delved into larger economic development issues in the city.

The 8-1 vote in favor of the measure came after two lengthy meetings of the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee, as well as the addition of two amendments. (You can read about the first meeting here and the amendments below.)

The Cardinals and their development partner Cordish are planning the $220 million project, which includes a 29-story luxury apartment building, a Class A office building and more retail space and parking.

Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said the project would be transformative for downtown St. Louis, providing the first new office building since the late 1980s.

“It’s really an unbelievable project that I know our fans, as well as city residents, as well as people visiting from out of town, will be very impressed with,” DeWitt said following Wednesday’s meeting.

Here’s how the Cardinals’ $65 million tax incentive request breaks down from both the city and state:

  • $42,936,498 in TIF bonds from the city as part of the Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority
  • $6,890,544 in tax revenue from a 1% sales tax as part of a Community Improvement District
  • $6,695,652 in tax revenue from a 1% sales tax as part of a Transportation Development District
  • $8,878,050 in the state’s share of the Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority

Request for earlier input by city’s financial officers

During the meeting several aldermen asked that the city’s comptroller and the budget director weigh in on the incentives package.

After hearing from both, Alderwoman Marlene Davis (19th Ward) asked budget director Paul Payne whether he should have “a seat at the table” in the analysis of development projects.  

“I believe that those projects which have a potential impact on city revenues should be reviewed by the budget division, yes,” Payne replied.

The St. Louis Development Corporation is responsible for drafting agreements with private developers and its recommendations have typically been followed by the Board of Aldermen.

Moments later, Comptroller Darlene Green told the committee she believed her office, along with the budget division, should be included in early discussions regarding economic development projects.

“I believe that if that were to happen there would be less questions when it gets to the Board of Aldermen, because we would have had an opportunity to have our attorneys and our input involved in the development agreements,” Green said.

In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio the comptroller said she would like to see legislation laying out how both offices should be involved, as well as setting guidelines for when incentives should, or should not, be given.

“It would be a framework that would be guided by past experience that the city has had,” she said.

Developers would get those guidelines before approaching the city about incentives, she said.

As for the Ballpark Village incentives, Green told the committee she would like to see federal New Market Tax Credits used in order to lower the city’s portion of incentives. The bill’s sponsor, Jack Coatar (7th Ward), drafted an amendment including the possibility of using some of the city’s $75 million awarded by the federal government.

The comptroller's opinion may have been more keenly sought by the committee after Green requested changes to another development incentive package in October. 

The amendment passed 7-2.

Spreading around big development revenue

Alderman Antonio French (21st Ward) proposed an amendment to take $250,000 annually from new city tax revenue generated by the latest Ballpark Village project and put it toward small business development in low-income areas.

French, one of seven mayoral candidates, said while large-scale projects are getting incentives, most small businesses get no breaks.

“Right now people feel like the city only cares for the big guy, not the little guy,” French said.

The fund would provide grants of up to $50,000 and loans up to $100,000 and help entrepreneurs cover the cost of opening stores in poorer areas, according to French.

HUDZ Chairman Joe Roddy (17th Ward) and Davis, both questioned whether broader legislation wouldn’t do a better job of addressing needs in low-income areas. French said he wanted to take small steps but hopes more money from major development projects will be set aside in the future for the fund.

The amendment passed unanimously.

The legislation now goes to the full Board of Aldermen.

Follow Maria Altman: @radioaltman