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Developer’s ambitious plan would bring marina, resort to north St. Louis riverfront

An artist's rendering of the potential Lighthouse Point marina development north of St. Louis.
M2 Development Partners
An artist's rendering of the planned Lighthouse Point development north of St. Louis. The city will soon negotiate incentives for a Nashville-based developer to begin building on the plot of land north of the Chain of Rocks bridge.

The St. Louis Port Authority on Thursday passed a resolution that could bring a major Mississippi riverfront development to north St. Louis.

The potential project could bring the city’s first marina to the riverfront. It would also add a hotel, waterpark and indoor trampoline park to a 70-acre plot of land north of Interstate 270, just within city limits.

The resolution allows the developer, Nashville-based M2 Development Partners, to pay the city to negotiate incentives that would help the company buy and develop the land. The company could seek tax abatements and other incentives and ask the city to prepare the property, St. Louis officials said.

The resolution shows both city officials and the property developers are serious about the plan, said Neal Richardson, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation.

"This is a great step because this means that a developer is putting up funds to actually start putting this project into play long-term,” he said. “Typically when a developer does this it means they’re really serious about moving it forward.”

The proposed Lighthouse Point development would be similar to planned projects in Nashville and other cities, said Tim Morris, managing principal of M2 Development Partners.

“Utilizing the waterfront to revitalize and redevelop is becoming more and more thought through,” he said. “In Nashville, the river there is primarily like here in the Mississippi, a lot of industrial. With the growth of Nashville, everyone is looking at the riverfront and asking: Why aren’t we using that for recreation?”

The stretch of relatively quiet riverfront in north St. Louis is a similarly underestimated resource, he said.

“I think this is a trend where people are going in and looking at the waterfront and how to best revitalize it,” he said.

St. Louis residents have called for a marina in the city. There are 21 marinas between St. Charles and Alton but none within city limits. But others have argued the river’s narrow channel and fast current near St. Louis, along with the Mississippi’s heavy commercial traffic, would make increased boating hazardous.

Morris told the Port Authority the canal upriver that ferries larger boats and barges away from the chain of rocks south of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, along with the downriver low head dam, make the stretch of water perfect for the city’s first marina.

“That the water slows down at the point of rocks, and there’s no real barge traffic coming through calms the water significantly and makes it a prime site,” he said.

M2 Development would buy the property from another development company, which has filled the property with dirt to raise it above the floodplain, Richardson said. It was formerly a golf course that was destroyed during the Flood of ’93.

The project could bring people to a part of St. Louis many don’t consider visiting, he said. He hopes the development will create a “resort-style, Branson environment” that attracts families for long weekends or vacations.

The site’s proximity to the future St. Louis Zoo WildCare Park is also a major draw, Richardson said.

“This is an area that is ripe for development,” he said. “I think having something like this in a more busy downtown area wouldn't feel right.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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