Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NorthSide Plan Draws Heavy Fire at Public Hearing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NorthSide Plan Draws Heavy Fire at Public Hearing

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * A city development agency postponed action Wednesday on Paul McKee's ambitious plan for north St. Louis after neighborhood residents demanded a bigger role in how the project is shaped.

For nearly two hours at a hearing of the Tax Increment Financing Commission, residents criticized McKee for failing to include them, and at least one key alderman threatened to block the project unless neighborhood concerns are addressed.

Technically, the subject of the TIF Commission hearing was some relatively minor tweaks to the $390 million tax increment financing package the city approved for McKee's NorthSide Regeneration project in 2009, to account for the project's three-year delay while it fought lawsuits.

But, once the dry financial presentations were finished, the hearing quickly turned into a forum on how much community input McKee has or hasn't sought from the nearly 9,000 people who live in his NorthSide project area. The criticism highlighted the disconnect at least in the eyes of some residents between the developer's lofty vision for a 1,500-acre part of north St. Louis and what day-to-day life is like for the people there right now.

"I'm concerned that all the plans never say anything about the people who live in this neighborhood," said Calvin Jones, pastor of Union Missionary Baptist Church on Garrison Avenue. "If you want to plan, include us in the plan."

After the hearing, McKee countered that he had held more than 140 community meetings since he went public with his NorthSide plan four- plus years ago, and that he had strong support in the neighborhoods, even if it didn't look that way Wednesday.

"The community's made up of over 9,000 people. We meet with them regularly," he said. "The silent majority doesn't come to these meetings."

After Jones and a couple of dozen other people stood up and asked sharp questions about NorthSide, the alderman who represents the biggest section of the NorthSide project area took to the microphone. …

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