Starting next session it should be easier to find out how St. Louis aldermen vote on board bills. The Board of Aldermen Friday approved a bill to put a record of their votes online in a searchable database.
Right now votes can only be found online via a PDF of the city’s weekly journal.
“(The votes) are very difficult to find. For people to figure out when the vote happened, what the bill number was. It’s kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Alderman Scott Ogilvie, who co-sponsored the bill. “I just think we can do better. We have the unique responsibility in the city of making laws and we take votes on those, and they are part of the public record and we can just do a better job of archiving those votes.”
The board overwhelmingly approved the bill Friday with 26 ayes.
The plan is to put the final votes online with a link to the text of the bill. The votes would be searchable both by bill number and meeting date.
The spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay said he plans on signing the measure.
Aldermen also took steps to further development in the city Friday, approving a bill that paves the way for a strip mall in Alderman Sharon Tyus’ ward and taking a step closer to sending about $5 million in tax-increment financing to developers who plan to renovate the Missouri Theater building.
The TIF financing is one of the final pieces of the puzzle needed to renovate the long-vacant Grand Center building. The plan is to turn it into a hotel with additional retail and office space.
St. Louis Alderman Marlene Davis sponsored the package of bills that created the TIF district. She said Friday having a hotel right next to Powell Hall and the Fox Theater will be a major plus for out-of-towners attracted to the entertainment district.
“They won’t even have to have a car. They’re going to love that. So I think it’s going to be a boost. And then all the jobs involved. I mean when you look at servicing the building, the restaurants and other businesses that will move in. It’s just an add-in all the way around,” said Davis.
The Board of Aldermen has one more vote to approve sending the TIF funding to developer Steve Smith of the Lawrence Group.
Smith purchased the Missouri Theater building in December 2013, originally planning to convert the historic building into apartments and a B.B. King restaurant and venue.
Then Bull Moose Industries approached Lawrence Group about moving its headquarters from Chesterfield to the Missouri Theater building.
“They became a partner with us and we decided collectively that rather than doing apartments that we would do a hotel,” Smith said. “So to a large degree we had to start over with design and so that’s kind of what caused the delay.”
Smith said Friday that as long as financing proceeds as planned, Lawrence Group’s contractors should start work in May 2016 and be finished by May 2017.
The final $55 million project will include separate entrances for the boutique hotel, Bull Moose headquarters and a yet-to-be named ground-floor restaurant. Another restaurant and bar is slated for the roof.
The Missouri Theater building was built in the 1920s and used to be the home of the St. Louis health department. The theater itself was demolished decades ago.
“I really love bringing back these jewels of buildings that we have in St. Louis. St. Louis has such great architecture and such a wonderful heritage of beautiful architecture,” Smith said.
The Missouri Theater building is one of the few historic buildings still vacant in the Grand Center Arts District.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.