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Ballpark Village incentives a step closer to reality

The site of Ballpark Village as pictured on January 14, 2011. Subsidies for a new version of the project got initial approval today from the Board of Aldermen.

Subsidies for a scaled-back Ballpark Village continued their march toward completion at the Board of Aldermen today - a day after getting the nod from a city development agency.

The $17 million in tax incentives got initial approval from the board today. It still needs one more vote from the Board, and then approval by the state. That meeting appears to be scheduled for July 17.

As a parking lot and softball fields, the site north of Busch Stadium currently generates about $5 million a year in taxes. When the first phase of development is complete, that number is expected to go up to $46 million.

But as Ald. Stephen Conway put it, that development can't happen without the developer being able to funnel some of the tax revenue into infrastructure. The bills that got the thumbs-up today set up that mechanism.

"This isn't 'Field of Dreams,'" Conway said. "People aren't building because there's no financing. Let's keep the people here past the ninth inning. Let's bring them in earlier so that they can enjoy themselves, spend some dollars. We'll collect the tax revenue."

The measures got more than enough support to pass next week. Even Ald. Scott Ogilvie, a critic of the incentives, said the initial subsidy of $17 million wasn't a bad deal. But he cautioned aldermen to read the fine print.

"We're also voting to authorize all of the subsequent phases in this bill," he said. "And the entire package of public subsidies balloons out to $180 million. I believe that makes it the second-largest subsidy package we've ever approved."

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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