McKee Seeks to Add Bottle District Site to NorthSide Development

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As reported by Tim Logan at the Post-Dispatch, developer Paul McKee is seeking to add the 17-acre Bottle District site immediately north of the Edward Jones Done to his NorthSide development (board bill embedded below). The biggest lure may be a $51M TIF ordinance for the site currently sitting dormant. According to the P-D, the site could also become eligible to claim state tax credits equal to half its purchase price. If the deal can be closed, it will be a very heavily subsidized bargain.

The initial Bottle District plan was announced with much fanfare in 2004. The site was to be home to a bowling alley, go carts, numerous restaurants, 500,000 sq. ft. of entertainment in all. Also in the plan was 250 residential units, a concert venue and a full-service grocery store. Things got out of control with renderings appearing from Daniel Libeskin. Seems a bit unrealistic, doesn't it? Certainly any new plan will be quite different than what was once envisioned. Several ideas have already come to downtown since 2004 and also-dormant Ballpark Village stands as a better opportunity for new office, restaurant and entertainment development.

{the Bottle District viewed for the north with McGuire building in foreground}

The hope is that a deal may kickstart development at the site, but the question remains: what can and will be built at the Bottle District? Given its isolation due to the barriers of the convention center and dome, as well as I-70 to the east, the site may best be suited for a somewhat suburban corporate campus (think Wells-Fargo in Midtown). Perhaps a new Rams stadium? If Kroenke wants, or thinks he can get a new open air stadium, the Bottle District is the most likely location. But none of this works with the elevated lanes of I-70 in place.

Without a development plan and financing in place, the subsidized transfer would push the site no closer to development. It is rumored that casino magnate Steve Wynn toured the area a number of months ago and couldn't envision a workable solution. The McGuire building on the site was more recently set to become artists lofts but failed to secure financing. The primary issue cited: immediate proximity to I-70.

Generally, a property changing hands results in hope for development, but given the potential low-low cost here, the site could continue to sit for years. And until the presence of the urban Interstate is resolved, the property will likely overpromise and under deliver, whether in the hands of McKee, Kroenke or any developer you can name.

City to River boulevard site plan
{the Bottle District may benefit more than any other site with the removal of I-70 – new Mississippi River Bridge approach is shown at top of image, yellow = vacant lot, purple = existing buildings, orange = "new" land – site plan from City to River}

NorthSide business centers
{the NorthSide Regeneration plan with planned employment centers in yellow }

{once-proposed Libeskind designed towers at the Bottle District}

{one of the early site plans for the Bottle District}

City of St. Louis Board of Alderman BB216 – Bottle District/NorthSide

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  • dylan

    What an interesting development in this story. Can’t help but wonder if the Bottle District/Near-North Riverfront wasn’t the crown jewel McKee was after the whole time….

  • Rick

    The photo of I-70 cutting through the northern half of downtown is compelling.   

  • Kmurph42

    I feel like so many of downtown’s problems could be fixed if only I-70 were completely rerouted over the new bridge…

  • Held Over

    That map with the purple and gold lots looks most promising.  That would expand downtown attractiveness and add lots of money to the tax base.  Who owns all of that?  McKee?  Can’t the city tell him, “you break ground, we’ll start giving you money” or something like that?

    • There are a LOT of different parcel owners on the Near North Riverfront. Take a stroll through the neighborhood via the St. Louis Assessor’s Real Property Appraisal Page sometime (

      It’s such a delicate balance now as to what will propel the area from the brink and what will drive home the final nail. A cheap mega-block warehouse or office park which is inconsiderate of the area’s history and architecture would certainly stifle the slow but steady progress being made. As would any additional demolition. Unfortunately, until I-70 is gone, those are the only types of things that would be considered for the location(s)…

      • This ought to work:

  • Douglas Duckworth

    I don’t know why the City would give more land to someone who hasn’t built anything.  

    Then again I don’t understand why not one elected official has came out on the record for removing the highway. 

    Perhaps St. Louis is too conservative for good ideas and plans like what Libeskind  and City to River proposed.  

    • Alex Ihnen

      Doug – what do you say to the issue of lack of demand? If there were a market for this land (or much of what McKee has purchased), such assembly by one person wouldn’t be possible. Obviously the City is trying to move toward development, any development. I don’t know that this does that, but waiting for another buyer may not be any better.

  • Not mentioned here is the suspect timing of the bill’s introduction. From the Post-Dispatch Story:

    “The bill, filed at McKee’s request by Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, would give NorthSide rights to the Bottle District’s $51 million tax increment financing package, if the sale went through. It would put NorthSide and the Bottle District into a joint “reclamation area,” which might also make the Bottle District eligible for state tax credits McKee has tapped to reimburse half the cost of buying land for NorthSide.”
    Reed filed it because there is currently no alderman for the 5th Ward in which both the original Northside Redevelopment site and the Bottle District reside. That’s right — there is no representative of the people in this district to speak on there behalf and listen to their concerns.

    What better time to make another land-grab, right? Only this time it wouldn’t be a covert parcel-by-parcel snatch, but a “city-backed” purchase of a previously designated TIF zone. My guess is that McKee (and complicitly, Reed) are doing this because the incoming candidates for the 5th Ward aren’t in either’s pocket.

  • Guest

    Great post.  Seriously why can’t the powers that be see the benefit of removing this freeway.  When can we starting thinking and planning for people that live Downtown?  Instead of people that live 30 miles away and only come downtown for a football game.