Paul McKee Announces SouthSide Regeneration Plan

While still awaiting the Missouri Supreme Court decision on his $390M dollar Tax Increment Financing plan for the 1,500-acre NorthSide Regeneration (recently rebranded “New North”) plan, developer Paul McKee isn’t standing still. nextSTL has learned that McEagle Development will unveil its SouthSide Regeneration plan this week.

The new effort apparently has the support of the majority of the city’s Board of Aldermen and a bill supporting a new TIF will be introduced soon by Stephen Conway, Alderman of the 8th Ward. Conway’s ward includes Shaw and Tower Grove South as well as other neighborhoods. The more than 1,200-acre project area encompasses a similar footprint to New North. Stretching from the 21st interchange with I-64, New South includes large portions of the 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 15th wards, while touching others as well.

The challenge of aggregating land on the south side will receive additional help from City Hall. Approximately 200 existing LRA properties across south St. Louis will be sold to McKee. The city has also pledged future support and signed a unique agreement that gives McKee first right of refusal for the next decade to purchase any property the LRA acquires. Despite the initial investment and pledges of support, development will not occur quickly. “What you need is to pull a number of lots together to make it attractive to a developer,” McKee told nextSTL.

{New South encompasses nearly 1,200 acres of the City of St. Louis}

Alderman Conway is excited by the opportunity to work with McKee. “He’s a big time developer. He did Winghaven, that’s been a huge success,” Conway told nextSTL. “He has North Park and is kicking off his New North development soon. It was past time that south city get in on the game.”

While many consider North St. Louis more in need of development, South St. Louis has come under increasing demographic and economic pressure in recent years. McKee admits it’s also likely easier to turn a profit on development on the south side. Because of this, the TIF is estimated to be in the $200-250M level, somewhat smaller than that for New North.

Asked about the recent mayoral election and how that may have affected planning for his new initiative, McKee claimed indifference. Stating that there was little daylight between the positions taken by incumbent mayor Francis Slay and challenger and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, McKee did admit that having two south side candidates worked in his favor.

“What I think happens is that politicians naturally want development in their wards, in their neighborhoods. Slay and Reed, I believe, were jealous of our NorthSide success, in some respects,” McKee said. “They wanted something for the south side too. They see what we’re doing and say ‘hey, us too!’ ”

Reached for comment, Patrick Brown, special assistant to Mayor Francis Slay, echoed McKee’s comments. “We’ve watched McKee’s progress closely and while it can be difficult to see progress if you visit the north side and just look around, he’s very convincing in our meetings,” Brown said. “And let’s be honest, what else are we going to do? We need a really big plan to get something going on the south side.”

Since being purchased by McKee, several south city buildings have witnessed deterioration. More than a few were either recently rehabbed or being considered by other developers. Complaints have piled up, but often neighbors were unsure who to contact. McKee used names such as Winghaven LLC, A Better City and New South to puchase and hold properties.

{the building above was undergoing restoration prior to McKee taking ownership – it is now deteriorating}

McKee’s New North project is also awaiting the fate of the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act (DALATCA), the $90 million program created in 2007 to reimburse developers for assembling lots of parcels of land in distressed neighborhoods. Until now, McKee was the only developer in the state poised to make use of the program, which required the assemblage of 75 acres. While a Kansas City project may qualify for DALACTA this year, New South would give St. Louis two of three projects of this size.

Mayor Slay was not made available to comment, but reviewing his recent Twitter activity, nextSTL discovered that he may have been tipping his hand regarding a pending announcement. In Jefferson City to support DALACTA this past week, Slay Tweeted, “The City of #STL needs DALACTA. Not just a north city issue. Represents opptny for all of us. #fgs”.

New South encompasses some of the most distressed areas of south St. Louis, but also captures all, or portions of Shaw, Benton Park West, Northampton and Southampton. McKee told nextSTL that the mix of established and up-and-coming neighborhoods were part of the plan. “Quite a few south city areas are coming back, gentrifying in a good way. That might happen without me there, but why not take advantage of it? We know how to play the tax credit game. Why shouldn’t south city benefit too?”

Admitting assembling 75 acres of land in South St. Louis has been a challenge, McKee says that by purchasing land under a number of shell companies, he’s just passed the mark. And while his hiring of 17 top lobbyists caught the eye of many who assumed they were solely focused on preserving his New North effort, it’s now apparent that the real message focused on both north and south city. Apparently already under fire, the effort will be rebranded “New South”, with a PR effort and website launching this week. Asked why New South wasn’t simply appended to the New North development, McKee cited reality, “It’s clear that some latte sipping, stroller pushing types think investing in north city is a waste. I think they’ll like what I have planned for them.”

(for the record, this was the nextSTL April Fools’ Day post for 2013)