Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MERGER OF BOTTLE DISTRICT, NORTHSIDE IS BLOCKED; Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. Sways Votes against Bill, Says He Wants More Details from Developer McKee

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MERGER OF BOTTLE DISTRICT, NORTHSIDE IS BLOCKED; Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. Sways Votes against Bill, Says He Wants More Details from Developer McKee

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS - An unusual thing happened Friday at City Hall: The Board of Aldermen put the brakes on a big-dollar development deal.

In a tight vote after an hour of debate, aldermen shot down a bill that would add the long-stalled Bottle District site into the redevelopment plan for Paul McKee's massive NorthSide Regeneration plan, and let McKee tap nearly $1.5 million in state tax credits.

The tally was close - 6 in favor, 8 against, with 15 members either abstaining or not in the room - and the measure could be revived next week if one of the "no" votes has a change of mind.

But for now, it stands as a rare rebuke of incentives for a high- profile project, the kind of thing that typically sails through the aldermanic chamber with little dissent.

The opposition stems from concerns about the hurried nature of the bill.

Alderman Scott Oglivie pointed out that NorthSide's massive redevelopment plan - which the board passed in 2009 but has been hung up in lawsuits almost ever since - is due to go before the Missouri Supreme Court next month.

If McKee loses, he may have to repay some of the nearly $30 million in Distressed Areas Land Assemblage tax credits he has already received. So waiting for a resolution of that case might be wiser than helping him draw more, Oglivie said.

"Why do we have to do this now?" he said. "The real story is that McKee wanted to apply for land assemblage credits."

But it was Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. - whose 3rd Ward includes much of NorthSide's two-square-mile footprint, though not the Bottle District - who swayed several votes against the bill Friday.

He wanted to know the project's specifics, and asked that the bill be tabled until he could talk with McKee.

"No one has ever sat down with me and said what they were trying to do," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with just holding this bill."

The bill's sponsor, Alderman Tammika Hubbard, argued the move was an important step toward coordinating the two projects, redeveloping neighborhoods in her 5th ward just north of downtown, and bringing in much-needed jobs.

"I stand in support specifically of job creation," she said.

And time is of the essence, said Alderman Fred Wessels. He said McKee needs the bill passed this year to get the tax credits, and city officials ought to support him.

"This is a high-risk project for the developer," Wessels said. "If they can get some money from Jefferson City, I'm all for it."

It is not unusual for complicated incentive packages to get a last-minute rush at the Board of Aldermen. In July, for instance, members were told that delaying tax breaks for Ballpark Village could jeopardize that entire project, by making it miss fast- approaching deadlines for state incentives. That measure passed 25- 2.

In this case, the Bottle District bill is essentially a redo of something the aldermen passed in December, when McKee proposed buying the long-empty site north of the Edward Jones Dome from Clayco and developer Larry Chapman. …

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