Board of Aldermen gives initial passage to NorthSide TIF bills
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has given initial approval to two bills giving tax increment financing to Paul McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration project. Both bills need another vote to go to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s desk.
Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed presides over the debate over tax increment financing for the NorthSide Regeneration project. Reed voted for Tammika Hubbard's bills, which need a final vote before they go to Mayor Francis Slay's desk.
Today's action is an important milestone for McKee’s ambitious, controversial and long-delayed proposal to redevelop parts of north St. Louis, essentially ending the legislative battle over the project.
In an interview, Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, D-5th Ward, said Friday’s vote “was a long time coming.”
With the exception of Alderman Sam Moore, the 4th Ward Democrat recovering from a car accident, all the aldermen whose districts include parts of of the NorthSide project voted for Hubbard’s bill. That included Hubbard, Alderwoman Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward, Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, and Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr., D-3rd Ward.
Hubbard's bills passed two days ago out of the board's Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee. While most bills wait a week before consideration, the board voted to take the legislation up a week early.
McKee has said numerous times that Hubbard’s bills were crucial to jump-starting the project. He’s told reporters and the city’s TIF Commission that he’s already had interest from retail and industrial businesses to set up shop in the NorthSide footprint.
McKee’s proposal would use $390 million in tax increment financing as part of a 23-year, $8.1 billion redevelopment of 1,500 acres in north St. Louis. McKee’s plan had been tied up in court until earlier this year, when the Missouri Supreme Court threw out St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker’s ruling. (See a timeline of the development.)
Tax increment financing will be used to improve infrastructure -- such as streets, sidewalks and sewers -- for the site. Among other things, Hubbard’s bills would “activate” two parts of the NorthSide’s redevelopment area. Two other parts of the TIF area were activated in 2009.
The first bill to activate the two portions of the TIF area passed by 24-3. Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, Alderman Tom Villa, D-11th Ward, and Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, voted against it.
Another bill to make changes to the NorthSide redevelopment agreement passed by a 24-2 margin, with Tyus and Villa voting against it.
“I was just glad we were finally able to push it through because we owe it to the citizens of north St. Louis,” said Hubbard. “We definitely need jobs for the redevelopment area – and that’s what’s most important.”
Bosley, who had earlier expressed opposition to the TIF agreement, echoed Hubbard's sentiments.
“It’s going to enhance the property value of the city of St. Louis and everything around there,” Bosley said. “There is nothing ever that can be done so well that nobody can find a problem with it.”
Eartlier this week, Bosley said his opposition to the project faded after “taking a ride” around the NorthSide footprint with McKee earlier this month.
During debate today, Bosley suggested detractors of McKee’s project should also “take that ride.”
During debate, Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, proposed two amendments moving up a deadline for McKee to list buildings within the NorthSide area that will be rehabbed or weatherized. The first amendment moved the deadline to July 2014, while the second moved it to late December 2014. Both of those amendments failed to be adopted.
After the board adjourned, French said the board should have been able “to add some deadlines to identify the buildings that are going to be rehabbed.” He also said that he wasn’t surprised by initial passage of both bills.
Villa said he voted against both board bills because he questioned whether McKee could be successful. He went onto say that the scope of the project “is really gargantuan,” adding that he questions “the developer’s ability to be able to finance the project.”
Still, said Villa, “I wish him well,” but “Do I question whether he can get that entire project done? Yes.”
For her part, Hubbard said that she believes McKee “can deliver.”
“When you look at 60 years of blight within an area in several neighborhoods, everybody was on board that there needed to be some change," she said. "The way to do that is to have development and jobs.”