Do the Math: QuikTrip Plans to Replace Buildings at Chouteau and Jefferson

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Jefferson_Chouteau outline_no logo

The Grim Reaper constantly lurks in our city, threatening to destroy the productive development patterns of the past with the scythe of 20th century ideas of progress. Before doing more of the same, let’s do the math!

A QuikTrip gas station is proposed for the intersection of Jefferson and Chouteau. It would occupy 1.5 acres of the block formed by Ohio, Chouteau, Jefferson, and LaSalle. In total the parcels currently generate $11,677 in property taxes on 1.25 acres, or $9,341/acre.

I’ll use the QT on Gravois for a comparison. That station sits on 1.33 acres, generates $19,197 in property taxes, or $14,444/acre. So just in property taxes its productivity would rise 54%. And part of the alley would be vacated, so a little less maintenance for the city.

Jefferson and Chouteau QT with Reaper

But 85% of the land is vacant. Regrettably some buildings along Chouteau were demolished just a few years ago. Let’s compare the productivity of the developed portion. They occupy 0.19 acres and produce $8,137 in property taxes, or $43,053/acre. These modest buildings are nearly three times as productive as the QT on Gravois.

What about sales and earnings taxes? That information isn’t publicly available like the property taxes information. In addition the earnings tax is under threat every five years as it’s existence is required to be put put to a vote. There are two functioning businesses in the buildings already generating some earnings tax. Regardless, the retail function of the QuikTrip could occur in a traditional building. Given that fuel consumption is flat at best, the fuel taxes generated will simply be cannibalized from elsewhere.

Also, a gas station is much less flexible to repurposing if it closes, while a traditional building can be adapted for many uses. Instead of one gas station and convenience store, a set of buildings can provide a variety of shops, offices, and housing, adding vibrancy to the neighborhood and value to surrounding properties.

Many of our neighborhoods are scarred with closed gas stations and the related environmental problem laying underground. Capital is afraid of opening that Pandora’s box. Often brownfield tax credits are needed, which lays the liability on the taxpayers of the state.

Even if the sales and earnings taxes are overwhelmingly higher, the biggest loser is the struggling St. Louis Public Schools. 57.6% of property taxes go to the SLPS. Whenever we trade property taxes for sales (SLPS gets 2/3% in sales taxes) and earnings taxes (SLPS gets none) the schools lose. Or the rest of us have to make up the difference (same goes for the Zoo-Museum District).

Worst of all, this intersection is a gas station on the identified locally preferred alternative for the proposed North/South MetroLink light rail line. The line will enhance the value of the buildings already there and encourage traditional development on the vacant land, bringing returns to the city. A light rail station will do nothing to enhance a QT. A gas station there will squander public money and hamstring transit oriented development efforts with a new rail line.

We can’t afford to build this way, especially in a city that can’t add land area. Instead of a QuikTrip, we should be trying to build more of what’s there. That’s the only way we can afford all the infrastructure and services we want.

2/11/2015 – Updated calculations to reflect information from site plan

QuikTrip proposal site plan - St. Louis, MO{site plan – added 02/11/15}

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  • How long with that gas station be needed? Granted, St Louis has been really slow to embrace electric cars compared to the coasts but that will change. What happens in 5 or 10 years when that station goes out of business?

  • John R

    This QT proposal reminded me about the talk of getting a mixed-use redevelopment down the street at the Conoco and PraxAir sites…. anyone know if an active proposal is being worked on?

    • Presbyterian

      Last year, a member of the planning commission told me they were zoning it now for unspecified possible future development. Nothing specific at that point.

      • John R

        Thanks. I believe I recall interest from the Vin de Set owners in expanding their empire but didn’t know any specifics. Hopefully it happens…. Chouteau has so much potential…. really in time it should have rather seamless activity from downtown all the way to Kingshighway. SLU needs to do its part, though.

  • rgbose

    Some sales tax does go to the SLPS, 2/3%

  • Adam

    it seems that Crown 40 has contributed to Ms. Ingrassia’s campaign as well. Again, per a comment on UrbanSTL:

    by CityResident » Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:39 am

    Looks like Crown 40 and QuikTrip have donated to her campaign.

    I look forward to attending future public meetings to state my opposition. There will be a cultural resources review to approve the building demolitions. Also there will be a liquor license hearing to approve liquor sales at the QT. We need to be at both of those.

  • Imran

    It was brought up here that the average citizen in St. Louis is not informed enough about urban issues. So how about Nextstl printing up a concise flyer with compelling imagery and info to educate the lay person regarding a development proposal? It could be mailed to addresses within a certain radius and maybe, just maybe change the conversation at local ward meetings. Kickstart it or something. I promise to contribute.

  • Chris Zoellner

    You are missing some math as well as some vital information…The QT should generate about $3 million in taxable sales. The current businesses do not generate that much nor would any replacement generate that much given the layout of the buildings and lack of parking. For the record, dentists, while necessary for the community generate zero sales tax revenue. Will some of that sales come from other C-Stores? Yes, but those are mom and pop franchise operators that do nothing for the community nor generate the jobs and security a QT would long term. In regard to sightlines, if you look at MODOT, STL COUNTY and STL CITY requirements for an intersection such as that with that level of daily traffic count and speed of traffic the current configuration of the SWC does not meet traffic engineering standards. The site in St. John…QT typically will hold off selling or marketing their former locations until which time the new store has operated for a while to make sure they don’t need it to expand further. Also, in regard to contamination the Federal Government changed the parameters for storage tanks back in the late 90’s and required all gas stations to have double hulled pvc or fiberglass storage tanks with redundant vapor controls on all operating gas stations. This eliminated the 80 year old steel tanks that have rusted underneath us and caused contamination. That is why you saw a bunch of stations close in the late 90’s as they couldn’t afford to change to new tanks. Finally, and something everyone is missing, is that C-Stores are getting larger to accommodate multiple fuel options in the future including electric stations. The industry is changing for the betterment of the future and green energy. This is a step in the right direction on many fronts.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Any chance you work for or with QT? There are some good points here and a full picture of revenue is needed. Retail items, including gas, donuts, etc. are going to be substitutes for like purchases elsewhere. I think those who do not want to see yet another gas station in town have reason for this. And I’m sure MoDOT and the streets departments would love to clear as many buildings near busy intersections as possible. That doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for adjacent neighborhoods or the city. Gas stations are a necessity, but no one has chosen not to live in the city because gas was hard to find. Local businesses, those “mom and pop franchises” add substantially more to a neighborhood and city than big chains like Qdoba, Starbucks, McDonald’s etc. Perhaps more than anything, people don’t like this because our city doesn’t have a development plan. It’s always haphazard and unclear. Stuff like this pops up a lot and people act like some corporation is doing everyone a big favor by suburbanizing the city.

      • matimal

        I know what you mean Alex. Why would QT need PR people when it’s got Chris Zoellner. Then again, maybe it actually does have him. They’re getting their money’s worth if they do.

    • dick

      Thanks QT pr guy, I believe the phrase is “get bent”

    • rgbose

      Thanks for the info. Of the $3M what percentage is grocery items? What percentage is fuel?

      Do you have a site plan? Or know the exact land area QT plans to occupy?

      I think the prevailing traffic engineering standards have done a lot of damage to the city, this situation case in point. I’d prefer to lower the design speed instead of removing the buildings. That results in cheaper infrastructure and more economically productive and desirable places. How will the traffic situation change if Metrolink comes?

      The all around safest thing to work for is more walkers and fewer drivers.

      Mom and pop places should be promoted by public policy because more of the wealth created in them stays in the community.

    • moe

      Why is it that one cannot have a disagreeing position from that of the author? I find it odd that while trying to promote better St. Louis, people shut out those with a view contra to what their “better St. Louis” should be.
      My impression was that the writer was anti-development (no viable solutions offered other than to just save the building) and the loss of property tax income, using the City School System as a pity ploy. Yes, the schools will lose their revenue from this spot, but it also ignores the other income from the proposed QT….ie. sales taxes and earnings taxes (all the article states is that the information is not readily available). If one wants to complain about the loss of property tax income, then one most also address the excessive, and far more damaging, use of TIfs.

      • Adam

        it’s. another. gas. station. within 1.5 miles of like 6 other gas stations. Mr. Zoellner’s position is one that’s been demonstrated ineffective over the last 70+ years. as in all the other places where this type of blight is built, it’s not going to lead to any sort of long-term enhancement of the area. if anything, it will lead to further clearance for the type of sh*t development that Mr. Zoellner represents (take a look at his profile linked above), i.e. fast food, gas stations, and strip-mall out-parcels. is that really the type of development the city needs? if it were we’d be thriving at this point as it’s all over the damn place.

      • rgbose

        The alternative is build more of what’s already there. In order to maintain the infrastructure and level of services in the city we’d like to have we must seek and insist upon higher productivity development patterns wherever possible.

        TIFs and tax abatements often get criticized by me and other authors on nextstl

    • Adam

      “The current businesses do not generate that much nor would any
      replacement generate that much given the layout of the buildings and
      lack of parking.”

      The current buildings are able to house multiple types of businesses (a dentist’s office, for example) that are in much shorter supply in the city than gas stations. moreover, although these two businesses alone may not generate as much sales tax as a QT, developing similar buildings on the empty adjacent lots holds much more potential–both in terms of sales taxes and promoting additional development–than does a low-density gas station. period. take a look at any city that isn’t tearing itself down for parking lots and gas stations.

      “In regard to sightlines, if you look at MODOT, STL COUNTY and STL CITY
      requirements for an intersection such as that with that level of daily
      traffic count and speed of traffic the current configuration of the SWC
      does not meet traffic engineering standards.”

      the buildings were there long before the daily traffic count and speed of traffic were what they are now. the obvious solution is to calm the traffic, not demolish the city.

    • Chaifetz10

      Is this you?

      If so, are you brokering this site deal? Or are you positioning this as a benefit for future fast food and auto centric developments in this area?

    • Whoa! Hold on…

      Let’s assume $3 million in taxable sales is correct. What’s your sales tax? What’s your local share of that? Do the math — the city is not getting rich from this.

      And you acknowledge where the sales are coming from — they are not new, they are just stolen/displaced from somewhere else — but you casually dismiss that by calling those losing the sales “mom and pop franchise operators.” You’re joking, right?

      What is QT? Are you saying it is corporate instead of franchise and thus the jobs are better and the wealth stays in the community? That defies all logic.

      So what we have here is a transaction that devalues the property, thus reducing the tax base and forcing cuts to the budget or tax increases for others, while it also moves transactions from businesses with a tenuous local connection to a business with no local connection, thus all the wealth generated leaves the community.

      And this is a step in the right direction? No way. That’s crazy talk.

  • Adam

    A commenter over at UrbanSTL claims that Ms. Ingrassia’s Ethics Commission reports show that she has accepted campaign contributions from QT:

    “The bike lanes coming to Chouteau will improve the line of sight because
    the travel lane will be further away from the curb line. Also the
    statement that “most” of the parcels are contaminated by the old gas
    station is a flat out lie. Ingrassia is going to support this gas
    station because QT supports her. Just look up her reports filed with the
    Missouri Ethics Commission. They’ve donated to her campaign in the
    past… sure it was only $250, but still… how much will they donate
    once she railroads through this new gas station?”

    It’s all becoming clear now.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Why accept $250 from QuikTrip? Yuk.

      • matimal

        Can you get the Post-Dispatch, the Business Journal, or the TV stations to take this story and run with it.?

      • Adam

        yeah, the $250 in and of itself doesn’t concern me as much as the existing relationship between QT and the alderwoman, which will most likely lead/is most likely leading to further contributions in exchange for favors.

  • nikelosm

    According to her Linkedin profile, the alderwomen that sponsored this bill just so happens to be part of the “Local Leaders Council” of Smart Growth America, a coalition of organizations that advocate smart growth policy across the country. I guess the alderwomen believes membership within an advocacy organization, does not require one to support and embrace the ideals and principles of said advocacy organization. The irony hurts.

    Her profile on Linkedin:

    Smart Growth America Mission:

    Cognitive dissonance on full display.

  • disqus_ASi5jxROqf

    Although I am not a fan of Quiktrips taking all of the premiere corners for a neighborhood, I would like to add that all of the business in the current building are relocating to the former Long Elevator Buildings, 2209-2217 Olive. The city will have a net gain of RE taxes and a very vacant area of the city, with a potential trolley line, will have new development.

    • dick

      Ok christine, nice try

    • rgbose

      Great, so now the buildings on the corner can provide an opportunity for someone else to start a business.

    • Adam

      “The city will have a net gain of RE taxes and a very vacant area of the
      city, with a potential trolley line, will have new development.”

      how do you even respond to something like this? yes, a gas station is smart development along a potential trolley line. and, clearly, the answer to vacancy is to promote the lowest-density development possible. i truly hope this is not the alderwoman’s response, because if it is i’ve lost all hope.

    • Guest

      Just what I would want to see when I get off of a trolley: a gas station.

      • dick

        Honeslty, a qt next to a metrolink station would be better than the non existent retail around most station now.

  • dick

    Anybody get Christine’s copypasta? Its pretty funny. My personal favorite part is when the streetscape is described as “varied” (as opposed to hellscape I guess). Apparently the dental building is causing car accidents, so this is actually progressive legislation. “This is the only gas station I will allow to be built in the 6th ward”, my ass.

    • Adam

      the reasoning that the dental building is causing accidents is absolutely nuts, and if used here could subsequently be used to justify demolition at any number of intersections in the city, or in any other city anywhere. in reality, the guy who owns the dental building wants to sell his property to QT for a pretty profit; i believe he’s the one pushing the buildings as “dangerous”.

  • DomasB

    I think the essence of article is that we need to build more of what’s already there. How prosperous the block would be if we filled the whole block with the same properties, that’s a potential of over $74000 in property taxes.
    Two existing building produce half of QT property taxes. And there’s no way that in a city with stagnant population growth and decreasing driving QT would produce any new sales revenue.
    We should be having a discussion about how can we incourage existing pattern of development?

  • Mike

    Ah yes let’s keep useless buildings up just for the sake of having old shit around.

    • matimal

      Who decides what’s “useless”? You? What if someone else decides your house is useless and takes it in eminent domain?

    • dick

      Found the suburbanite who wants to bulldoze my neighborhood so he can get to south county 30 seconds faster.

    • rgbose

      The buildings are in use and more productive than the proposed replacement. That was the whole point of the post.

  • Matt

    Well this article is all fine and dandy iffffffff there were a huge line of people waiting to develop that corner, but at the rate the city is decaying we could be waiting years to develop that corner, and a Quicktrip would be supportive to the immediate surrounding area. So by my math if nobody wants to develop the corner for another 5 years then building a Quicktrip now will create more tax revenue over the next decade than waiting and hoping. Also Quicktrip is a blessing of a company to build in a community, they have high standards and every 10 years they rebuild or remove any trace of their existence, top notch company with regards to being a good member of local commerce.

    • rgbose

      If they’re going to move in 10 years and potentially take out other productive buildings then this is an even worse deal.

      Here’s some former gas stations:
      400 N SKINKER BLVD and 6185 MCPHERSON AV 0.57 acres tax exempt Shared parking WashU/church
      6001 WESTMINSTER PL 0.17 acres tax exempt vacant lot
      620 UNION BLVD 0.29 acres vacant lot $13,169/acre (empty lot almost as productive as the QT on Gravois?)
      1039 TOWER GROVE AV 0.145 acres vacant $7,316/acre

    • Mike F

      “Also Quicktrip is a blessing of a company to build in a community, they
      have high standards and every 10 years they rebuild or remove any trace
      of their existence, top notch company with regards to being a good
      member of local commerce.”

      QT’s MarketingPRopaganda director couldn’t have said it better. Although a current employee of QT may have been able to equal them.

      A “blessing”? Seriously, tho’, a blessing? What rot.

      • Adam

        ^ yeah, i had a good laugh at that too. again, sounds like a company PR rep. even if they did have high standards, the city is already overbuilt with gas stations. and unfortunately, they don’t remove every trace of their own existence, but they do a good job of removing any trace of what was there before they existed.

    • Steve Kluth

      I guess your myopic view hadn’t noticed that the corner is already developed. On the corner itself is a dental office run by Dr. Byron Duvall. Right next door is Tina’s Nails. I’m sure if you asked the business owners, they’d argue their businesses are doing just fine. OTOH, there is a large, mostly empty paved lot across the street owned by a rental business. Maybe QuikTrip should develop that corner as the business isn’t using that much of the property.

  • DomasB

    “According to its website, the company closes aging convenience stores as quickly as it builds new convenience stores, spending over $50,000 a year per store on landscaping, remodeling and maintenance. The average store age is just seven years old.”

    Lifespan of that kind of construction is 25-30 years. Now who’s not to say that QT will come up with Gen4 stores in next 10 years and close this one down. Open new one across the street and do nothing with the closed one. Great example in St.John.

  • Stltimm

    90% of the property is vacant/abandoned and currently has two building creating almost no sales tax as they are service related? Is there anything historically or architecturally significant about these two non descript buildings? Seems this development would create hundreds of thousands in sales taxes and strengthen the area.

    • rgbose

      Would it? Isn’t all lot of the sales grocery food which is taxed at a much lower rate? Aren’t those sales cannibalized from elsewhere?

      And all those sales could occur in a building that takes up much less space and could have multiple floors as well.

    • Adam

      “Seems this development would create hundreds of thousands in sales taxes and strengthen the area.”

      No, because the people spending money at this gas station will no longer be spending money at one of the six gas station down the street. The net gain in sales taxes will be zero. It floors me that people still think gas stations “strengthen the area” given that the worst parts of the city seem to have the most gas stations.

      “90% of the property is vacant/abandoned and currently has two building creating almost no sales tax as they are service related?”

      and so the answer is not to demolish the two remaining buildings that generate more revenue per square foot than a gas station and contribute to a pedestrian-friendly urban environment, but to fill the vacant property with more such buildings.

  • JDL

    I designed a park 2000 ft from there 30 years ago. The corner building was a hair products store then. The Lasalle St area was known for all its wholesale florists. The gas station would sure change that.
    Regarding the gas station long term effects–leaking buried gas storage tanks are always a problem with redeveloping these old sites. Promises will no doubt be made regarding “new improved” designs / installations, but even clean buried tanks are an impediment to reuse of the site 20 years from now.
    This corner would better serve the community with multifamily apts, etc. It is close enough to businesses north and east to be a viable site.

  • RyleyinSTL

    QT is building yet another new location at KHW and Sublette. Demolition of the old Ford dealer is nearly complete. Supposedly it will replace the other location a few blocks south and that one will be leveled at some point. I have not heard anything about what might replace that….something dreadful likely.

    Just because STL isn’t some boom town doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand the best for ourselves. The urban density, architecture and feeling of South City is what makes this place special. Suburban designed QTs, Wallgreens, Starbucks, Schnucks, etc., are destroying our community, or at the very least, turning it into something none of us are looking for.

    • Mike F

      Yeah, and re: S. Kings’way QT, they razed two occupied multi-family buildings to do it. So now we’ll have one (more) vacant lot and structure where other buildings once stood.

      Bloody stoopid of our civic management, no?

      • John R

        I’d also like to know whether the company that vacated the parcel at Kingshighway and McRee for the QT underway there was going to move to Kirkwood regardless. If not, we surely lost significantly more earnings taxes than what QT will bring.

  • DF

    I live near the area in question. A suburban style QT has no business at that intersection, which has sightline issues and viable existing businesses. There is a clean, well-run gas station two blocks east, and another several within a .5-1 mile radius. We don’t need this, or want it, nor do we need the resultant abandoned has stations scarring redevelopment and the built environment.

    • Mike F

      According to scuttlebutt, Alderman Ingrassia’s constituents “want” this QT (I am dubious of this claim), so please, contact Ms. Ingrassia at the link provided at the bottom of the page.

  • tbatts666

    I’ve heard about this kind of stuff through Strong Towns! This kind of economic analysis is so convincing!

    I think it would be nice to be able to have all of us applying this sort of thinking to our neighborhoods and communities. Richard, can you write up about how we can get to this public tax information?

    I actually have been really curious about the neighborhood around SLU’s health campus. There are so many vacant lots with these angry “No Trespassing” signs I suspect these are property tax free lots being landbanked by SLU).

    I would love to be able to access information about the taxes paid on the developed property to see just how big of an effect land banking might be having to the cities tax rolls.

    • rgbose

      You can play the game at home by going to the Assessor’s website.

      The crux of course is that we pay earnings and sales taxes as well. I’m told earnings taxes are confidential.

      Look on the back of your personal property tax bill for a breakdown of where your property taxes go.

      • tbatts666

        I reckon the traditional pattern of development also has a higher sales tax/acre and jobs/acre.

        Thanks rgbose, you’re a hero!!

        • rgbose

          I think you’re right. In the examples Chuck Marohn and Joe Minicozzi cite that include sales taxes, it’s still no contest.

  • Kevin

    Below is a clip from her 6th Ward website.

    “Economic Development:
    Providing support to current ward businesses and attracting new ones
    Working with developers to continue forward momentum on existing projects
    Undertaking strategic and creative projects supporting sustainable and smart growth principles”

    • Mike F

      “Undertaking strategic and creative projects supporting sustainable and smart growth principles”

      In the context of her sponsorship of this measure, BB249, this particular sentence reads like a sick joke. But then again, the “principles” previous are oriented towards the bidness community, so perhaps it should come as no surprise where her loyalties and sentiments truly lie.

  • Imran
  • matimal

    You win battles like this in St. Louis by playing dirty and pushing hard. If you don’t do that you’ll lose and end up with a gas station.

  • T-Leb

    Yes, focus on the environmental impact. At least dirt absorbs rain and prevents unoff and localized flooding. When QT moved in Maplewood and now it’s being repurposed, did they even remove the tanks? Nothing says this new QT would exist for very long, given example on Manchester. “Many of our neighborhoods are scarred with closed gas stations and the related environmental problem laying underground.”

    • Nick Eberle

      I recall seeing QT dig a gigantic hole where the gas pumps were located, and then filling it in. I cannot confirm that they removed the tanks, but I can’t imagine why else they dug would excavate.

      • rgbose

        Good to hear. Does QT put money away to pay for removal? What if they go belly up? I’d hate for the removal costs be socialized.

        • STLEnginerd

          I think that’s usually a requirement now. I don’t know if it’s actually set aside though or just an obligation that a company could dodge through bankruptcy

  • dick

    Fucking disgusting, Christine ingrassia should be ashamed