I think it's ridiculous that I even need to say this, but… here's my NorthSide disclaimer: Of course not all the affects of Mr. McKee's entrance into North St. Louis have been positive. Problems persist and I am fully supportive of those who seek to improve the development proposal and address property maintenance and other issues. Whew, now on to the point of this post.
Paul McKee is doing some essential, difficult work in North St. Louis. He's assembled enough land to entice businesses and developers to consider investing. Whether or not McKee develops this land our not, his holdings would likely be transferred in groups large enough to develop. The city has struggled with this issue for decades. It's simply not possible to entice enough single-home renovators or builders to make a dent in the thousands of vacant homes and lots in North St. Louis. And many businesses need more than a single 25ft x 150ft lot on which to build.
In addition, Paul McKee has brought an awareness to North St. Louis that hasn't existed for years and years, unless we're talking about crime. Now there is at least an idea that there is opportunity in North St. Louis, that it isn't a lost cause. Some realized this years ago, but the idea has now reached a much larger audience. Again, whether or not McKee achieves his vision, more eyes are open to North St. Louis.
Lastly, the boogiemen of blight, condemnation and eminent domain are being discussed, and hopefully understood, by more people. I do not suppose that I can offer the best legal definition available of either term, but here are some basics:
Blight: many factors are considering when determining if an area is "blighted," including: arrangement of lots, condition of infrastructure including streets, sewer, electrical service and more, diversity of land ownership resulting in difficulty assembling property, incompatibility of residential and industrial property and crime. All the properties in an urban renewal site need not be substandard in order for the site to be considered blighted. No precise aggregation of the above is needed to determine blight. In this sense it is a political determination and varies greatly from city to city and state to state.
Eminent Domain: A government power to take private real or personal property, with "just compensation", for the benefit of the general public. This power can be delegated to private entities such as public utilities, railroads and individuals. The formal act of exercising the power of eminent domain to transfer title to the property from its private owner to the government is know as condemnation. This may happen if a property owner and the government cannot agree upon compensation. Some claim that eminent domain is unconstitutional, but it is in fact derived from the 5th Amendment which reads in part, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
So thank you Paul McKee, whether or not you succeed.