Developer Paul McKee unveiled plans Wednesday for an urgent care facility on the north side of St. Louis, but questions at the press event turned to the lack of infrastructure projects in McKee's massive, 1,500 acre redevelopment area.
The city of St. Louis has approved $390 million in tax increment financing for infrastructure work within McKee’s Northside Regeneration plan. While McKee said he would sell $100 million of TIF notes this spring, none has been sold.
McKee said Wednesday that’s because the city of St. Louis wants to issue bonds to improve the streets leading to the Pruitt-Igoe site and near the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.
"Why contribute their TIF revenue when this is really a capital investment in the streets the city owns to win the jobs?" McKee asked. "So that’s the city’s decision, not mine. I’ve had to follow that."
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will debate the nearly $200 million bond issue on Friday, which is expected to go before voters in November. The bond would include $15 million for streets within the Northside Regeneration footprint, but the mayor’s office indicated it will lobby for an additional $10 million to go toward that effort.
It’s been a contentious issue. Alderman Antonio French of the 21st Ward said he’s not in favor of issuing bonds to fix streets within McKee’s project when other areas of the city also have infrastructure needs.
"There are some streets you can barely drive down and people still live on those streets, so I think it’s entirely unfair to have them increase their property taxes to pay for a single developer’s project and we can’t even explain what the project is," French said.
At least part of the project is no longer in question. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced Tuesday that Pruitt-Igoe was one of six sites in the region under consideration for a new facility. The land is owned by the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, but McKee has the option to buy it for $1 million.
If the federal government chooses the site, it will pay McKee for the land. The developer said that’s because his company, not the city, is competing for the facility.
"We were asked blindly to respond to a 50-acre proposal, and we had no idea who it was and that started 18 to 20 months ago," McKee said. "We submitted NorthPark and Pruitt-Igoe, but Pruitt-Igoe was not big enough, and so it’s Pruitt-Igoe and adjoining land to get to that."
For Alderman French that process raises red flags, since the land is technically owned by the city and bond money could be used to improve it.
"So, what could happen is the city spends $25 million to not only improve the streets, but also improve the Pruitt-Igoe property," French said. "Paul McKee then exercises his contract, gets that new, improved land that would be valued at more than $25 million that he purchased for somewhere around $1 million. He then flips it to the federal government giving him free money to do what he wants to do."
McKee called the notion he would benefit from the bond issue "crazy." He said the bond money spent on streets within the Northside Regeneration area will then be subtracted from the TIF. For example, if the city issued $25 million in bonds, McKee’s TIF would be reduced by the same amount.
"You can’t win jobs without infrastructure," McKee said. "That’s what the city has chosen to do."
As for the urgent care facility, McKee said they will submit a letter of intent July 23 to the state. The proposal includes an urgent care center at N. 25th and Maiden Lane. The facility will have a three beds, an emergency entrance as well as a health and food learning center. A state hearing on the the request is likely to take place in November.
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