St. Louis – Developer Paul McKee's plan to redevelop more than two square miles of north St. Louis redevelopment project took a step forward Wednesday.
The St. Louis Tax Increment Financing Commission voted unanimously to send McKee's application for more than $390 million in tax increment financing to the Board of Aldermen for further negotiation.
Deputy Mayor Barbara Geisman sought to reassure a skeptical public that eminent domain was not part of the current TIF application. But she did not completely rule out the possibility for the future.
"This legislation will not have anything to do with eminent domain," Geisman said. "If there is ever going to be eminent domain there will be another public hearing, and there will be new legislation and there will be new ordinances."
Geisman said that anyone whose property is purchased through a "redevelopment agreement" will be eligible for relocation benefits.
Many members of the overflow crowd, including city resident Mike Moore, were skeptical of throwing public money behind McKee's promises for future job creation.
"TIF only helps when it comes to the city, the developer and the bank, but when it comes to the community, the community gets gypped," Moore said. "When you see all this about 'jobs, jobs, jobs,' Mr. McKee is talking about good faith, it's not in writing."
McKee has said the first two redevelopment zones alone will create more than 15,000 office and retail jobs, plus 40,000 construction jobs.
Other speakers said the city cannot afford to risk squandering any opportunity for job creation, especially in the current economy.
Walle Amusa is on the board of directors for the St. Louis Construction Prep Center, which trains African American construction workers. He said he supports McKee's project for a single reason.
"I believe that the project will provide jobs," Amusa said. "I deal with people every day that are literally begging for jobs. We need to improve the infrastructure in that development area to bring it to world-class levels."
McKee is asking that the city use its general fund to guarantee half of the TIF bonds.
St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green, as well as many aldermen, have said they will not support a bill that includes city-backing for TIF bonds.
There's more coverage of McKee's proposal, including photos here.