Top Five Most Important Developments in the Summer of 2018: The St. Louis Region

5. Phase Two of Ballpark Village Finally Breaks Ground: 

bpv.pngBallpark Village stated its first phase of construction in 2013 and changed the landscape for pre and post game cardinals fans forever. Thousands of fans pack the first floor and upper balconies before games rivaling the atmosphere of any City in the nation. For the last five years the venue predominately attracts cardinals fans during the MLB season leaving the facility feeling empty and oftentimes unsafe during the winter and other offseason months. For this reason, phase one of the project effectively displaced existing dining and drinking establishments in the area and only had a small impact on overall tax revenues in the region.

Five years later Phase Two of the development has begun and the planned  29 story luxury apartment tower and 10 story office building should provide the population density needed to create year round demand for the main entertainment section. Year round patrons should significantly increase tax revenue collected within the development and should raise the property values directly surrounding the entertainment district and increase demand for other “neighborhood retail” such as a convenance stores, grocery stores, gas stations, retail banks, etc.

4. Tower Grove Continues to Attract Millennial Residents:

Over $60 million in total construction projects that will ultimately provide close to 300 luxury apartment units in the Tower Grove neighborhood have been underway during the Summer of 2018. These large-scale developments should be complemented nicely by dozens of small-scale residential redevelopments in the area ranging from a recently approved 20 unit apartment complex to single family homes.  Tower Grove has worked well with local developers to ensure quality residential developments are available to citizens of all income levels.

Millennials valuing walkability and diversity have spurred demand to live in Tower Grove creating the beginnings of the City’s first truly diverse population center since the Central West End. Collaboration between local developers and the Tower Grove community serve as a case study for how to revitalize urban neighborhoods using a long-term approach that values community buy-in through a residential first mentality.  Successfully restoring this vibrant neighborhood community in urban St. Louis City could mark the first step in reversing decades of population loss creating the stable base of property and sales tax needed to properly fund schools, police and other vital government services needed to sustain a municipal government over the long run.

3. Wesley Bell Elected County Prosecutor:

bpv.pngThe true agenda championed by Wesley Bell and the effectiveness with which he implements that agenda is yet to be seen. Bell’s lack of prosecutorial experience and track record as a municipal judge/prosecutor contribute to the legitimate concerns of Bell’s detractors who believe Bell to inexperienced to run one of the nations largest prosecuting offices.

The overwhelming support for Bell in the face of his lack of experience and questionable record as a municipal judge illustrate the desire of County residents to move in a new direction in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting and related controversies that followed. A more granular view of election results show that Bell received 40% or more of the votes in every part of  St. Louis County excluding deep south county. This vote illustrates that the majority of County residents (regardless of race, religion or wealth)  acknowledge and accept the fact that we can not move forward as a region until significant changes are made to our regional justice system to provide people from all racial and financial backgrounds with a fair shake.  The overwhelmingly decisive election of a political new comer to the office of County prosecutor is the first major sign that our region is ready for the change needed to make our region attractive to new residents and companies throughout the nation/world.

2. Steve Stenger Holds on by a Razor Thin Margin:

Despite the incumbant advantage and support of all major area labor unions approximately 1,100 votes stood between  Steve Stenger’s and his primary challenger and political newcomer Mark Montavani. Mantovani who openly supported the City of St. Louis’s reentry into St. Louis County.

Proponents of a City County merger have used scare tactics to stop pro-merger movements for decades despite the regions declining economic status. The fact that 49.7% of County primary voters supported a candidate who openly endorsed a City County merger combined with the election of pro-merge mayor of St. Louis Lyda Krewson shows the sentiment surround a City County merger has shifted drastically over the past year. Aligning incentives of the City and County is the only surefire way to minimize competition between local government entities in favor of a regionally focused economic development team that can compete with other large City’s for the nation’s top employers and brightest minds. It appears that residents of the St. Louis region have finally acknowledged that without a strong downtown our entire region will continue to decline negatively impacting everyone.

1. NGA Headquarters Relocation Threatened by St. Louis Board of Alderman:

 Decades of neglect have led to collapsed buildings, knocked out windows and visibly abandoned buildings throughout north St. Louis that more closely resemble war-torn Syria than they do a modern U.S. City.  Without anywhere close to the funds required to enhance schools, police and fire services in the region no amount of tax incentives have been able to spur meaningful development in the region. This all changed when the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency committed to invest $1.8 billion in a new headquarters in north St. Louis expected to bring over 3,000 high paying jobs. The NGA headquarters project was truly a godsend to North St. Louis that no amount of private/public partnerships or other incentives could replicate. This projects impact on the City of St. Louis is exponential large than that of any other development that has occurred over the past 30 years and ensuring the success of this project should be the number one priority of every St. Louis alderman.

Instead, the St. Louis Board of Alderman decided to enter into a public legal battle with North St. Louis developer Paul McKee that could threaten the viability of the entire NGA project. The City’s willingness to disregard legally binding contracts with private entities for political expediency and the navigate with which they form positions on important economic issues could create distrust between the City and potential job creators who are unlikely to relocate to the region without great trust and confidence that the City will enforce the legally binding agreements private entities base their entire relocation decisions on.  ramifications for decades regardless of the NGA project. Comptroller Darlene Green’s refusal to sign off on a legally binding agreement to improve the St. Louis Blues stadium and the Board of Alderman abruptly declaring developer Paul McKee to be out of compliance with his development agreement based on violations that have been overlooked for years are two high-profile cases that any company or developer considering St. Louis must consider before investing in the region. If this self destructive force within the Board of Alderman is not reversed it has the potential to negate all other positive developments in the region.

 

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