Harbor San Carlos: the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time for the Wrong Price With the Wrong Developer?

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The St. Charles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to name Developer Michael Sellenschuetter as "preferred developer" for Harbor San Carlos. The vision, first proposed in 2006, is for a canal as an off shoot of the Missouri River, pedestrian bridges to a sometimes island in the river, retail, residential and a marina. The $1B project would cover more than 300 acres. The image above shows the site outlined in red with the canal drawn in its approximate location. The Ameristar Casino is to the right and the Family Arena can be seen on the far left.

KMOV has a video of the presentation to the City Council on their website (click image below). And in excellent Post-Dispatch fashion, one of the first comments on STLToday.com was by an "Underwhelmed" whose felt it necessary to state: "Sounds as if they are catering to the Mexicans in the area? Why not call it something American?" Keep it classy. According to the Post-Dispatch the name San Carlos pays homage to "San Carlos Borromeo, the city and county's namesake who was the patron saint of King Carlos of Spain. The area was under Spanish rule in 1791 when the city got the name, which in English is St. Charles." I'm glad that's cleared up.

Anyway, instead of writing a narrative of what's wrong with this proposal I'm just going to use bullet points.

  • Developer is seeking up to $125M in TIF
  • Developer claims that canal off Missouri River would be similar to the San Antonio, Texas canal walk
  • Money would be sought from US Army Corps of Engineers and economic stimulus funds
  • Project would be built in a significant flood zone
  • Developer believes the project would have a "national draw"
  • Project could take 15 years to complete
  • With New Town St. Charles roughly 1/6 built will there be demand for this project?
  • St. Charles has given a $55M TIF for a mixed-use development (Noah's Ark site) very near this site
  • Finally, developer Sellenschuetter appears to have a less than stellar development record and multiple news agencies are now investigating his ties to members of the City Council. Multiple lawsuits from homeowners and contractors from previous developments are pending.

I do have to say that I believe the City Council vote to be a moot point as the development is unlikely to be built. Of course less sane developments have been approved and the regional battle for residents and tax revenue make local approval of nearly any project unpredictable.

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