NorthSide Continues to Push Plan with Yet Another New Development Vision

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NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015

The NorthSide Regeneration project was always supposed to take a generation to complete. It’s massive, complex, and expensive. Yet, basically a decade into the process there’s virtually nothing to see. Renderings, visions, marketing brochures have all come and gone.

Carr School, Clemens Mansion, residential infill, job hubs, a Schlafly Brewery, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA)…rumors, proposals, and hopes. But anyone assuming that NorthSide, in its current form, is dead, couldn’t be more wrong. Time, effort, and ideas continue to seek a start.

The Veterans Landing, a development anchored by the old Cass Bank building near the foot of the Stan Musial-Veterans Memorial Bridge has a website and site plans. That project aims to create a hub for military veterans in St. Louis. According to the project website, all entities will be managed and created by veterans and their families. The bank building would house an events center, resource hub, food bank, and more.

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015{Cass Bank would become a hub for veteran’s activities in St. Louis}

In the latest marketing materials, the Pruitt Igoe site is shown as the new home of the NGA. There’s a “Food Hub” that shows a location for “Schlafly Bottling”. Carr School is part of some ill-defined incubator. There’s a “Healthcare Village”. This could be seen as progress, or a peek at future development, but just like past visions, it looks and feels half-baked.

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015

Some images are several years old. The resurrection of severely dilapidated Carr School seems more far-fetched than ever, seeing a marker for “sausage production” produces a laugh. The “Proposed NGA” at Pruitt Igoe is one-fourth the footprint we know the city is pitching. The retail hub on Jefferson has been pitched for several years. The Veterans Landing website is very amateurish. There doesn’t appear to be significant new investment behind any of this.

Will NGA ultimately choose Pruitt Igoe and the area to the north as its new headquarters? Will Schlafly bring its beer production home with a new facility in the city? Will Clemens and Carr find new life before they succumb to the next heavy rain? NorthSide has yet to get any money flowing from the city approved $390M Tax Increment Financing package. But what if it does?

New North google earth{a view of just how big the NorthSide Redevelopment area is}

There was plenty of reason to be cynical when NorthSide first came to light. The project itself has produced many more cynics since then. However, it’s not cynicism or pessimism that screams caution, but experience and reality.

Yet, NorthSide hasn’t and can’t completely shed its allure. We want to believe the numbers and narrative (see more below). It’s fun to believe we can remake 1,500 acres of central St. Louis City with a grand plan. It’s exciting to think it’s possible to rebuild a swath of urbanity that took a century to develop, and a half century to become devastated. Whether ultimately a success or failure, NorthSide will produce important lessons for St. Louis and American urbanism. This is why despite the uninspiring monotony of the process, we continue to watch.

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015
{a new building is shown at Tucker and Cass}

Other images showing proposed development within NorthSide:

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015

NorthSide Regeneration - January 2015

From recent NorthSide promotional materials:

Goal: 43,000 construction jobs, 22,000 permanent jobs

Facts: 15 years in the planning, 1,500 acres, $105 million in private investment, $390 million TIF approved, Partners with City of St. Louis

Key Components: 3.5 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of business and technology space, 2 million square feet of retail space, 240 hotel rooms, $35 million recycling center, 3,000 residences (new and renovated, all of which are market-rate real estate, not government subsidized), 16,000-square-foot Urgent Care Hospital with children’s health services and food educational learning center

The NorthSide retail strategy:

Destination and Traffic Hub: To capitalize on the 82,385 cars that pass along I-70 each day and those that travel to/from downtown St. Louis, this retail hub will feature quick grab-and-go food, coffee, grocery, sundries and other services appealing to the average commuter. Additionally, to capitalize on the nearby sports stadium and entertainment venues, the merchandise category offerings will feature destination-oriented and first-to-market restaurants and entertainment.

Neighborhoods: Two significant intersections exist on the eastern side of the project area: Cass Street & Jefferson Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Jefferson Street. Both are located in residential areas that will be adjacent to new industry and jobs. Merchandise and services will focus on grocery, pharmacy and services needed by the average family on a daily basis.

The Peninsula: The “mall-like” development along Market Street will capitalize on the already strong offices, government buildings, hotels, park/fountains that exist on the boulevard. The vision of a high-rise (office, high-end hotel and amenities) that will counter-anchor the boulevard (opposite the Arch) will be the center point of the Peninsula area commanding superior panoramas of the city. The intersecting street that runs north/south, 20th Street, will feature anchor and big box retail offering excellent visibility and access from I-64 featuring 90,937 cars daily. Ancillary uses such as restaurant, entertainment and services will fill in adjacent retail areas.

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  • The thing about the “renderings” that irks me to no end — and I’m talking primarily about the Cass Bank one up near the top — is the continual conniving about what is planned there versus what actually will be. If the renderings become real for that stretch, then that’s great! — we will have successfully created a streetscape that connects downtown to the Near North, rather than further isolates each. But you all know as well as I that what will likely be built (and what is likely being pitched) are several single-use, car-dependent, deep-set plots that in no way encourage downtowners to look northward or northsiders to connect southward.

  • jhoff1257

    The more I think about this plan, the more I think it should be split up into smaller parts. I think part of the problem is that the city has given a huge swath of itself to one guy and no matter how experienced McKee might be, it would be very, very difficult for any experienced developer to pull off a project of this size. It’s not like building a huge suburban enclave on farmland in St. Charles County. There are huge obstacles to overcome for an area like the North Side. With development beginning to spread outside of Downtown, especially to the West, you have to wonder if maybe the area west of Union Station and the Bottle District might have started seeing some development or at least some proposals if they weren’t bogged down by the larger North Side project.

    Makes you wonder…

  • Patrick Kleaver

    Thanks, Alex, for the latest information about Northside Regeneration. I lived in what is now called Old North St. Louis from the 1950s to early ’70s, so I have a particular interest in that part of the city. Of all their previously planned development, the only thing that I think we’ll see actual concrete poured for is a small urgent care hospital that they recently got permission to build.
    Early last year the students at St. Mary’s High School won a contest to design a “Welcome to the Northside” entryway and signage to be erected near Cass Ave. and Tucker Blvd. in fall 2014 – that never happened. A grocery store was to replace an auto repair shop and a 120+ year old house about a block south of that intersection – the shop and house were torn down, but no grocery was built. It’s nice that the latest plans call for utilizing the old Cass Bank building – some years back Pulaski Bank had a branch (originally their headquarters when they first started) in what had been a beautiful city library building almost cater-cornered from Cass Bank – that building was torn down to make way for a strip mall. Just a few blocks farther north (on Howard and Tyler Streets) are old residences that are falling apart and are listed by the city as owned by Northside Regeneration. St. Louis has long been known as “the city of plans” – I just hope this latest incarnation of Mr. McKee’s vision will result in actual construction.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    I have to chuckle a bit about the generally negative tone of the commentary. So what exactly is the alternative to Mr. McKee’s plan? Further, people assume the rich have infinite amounts of cash and therefore only ask for tax credits out of sheer greed, even when that assertion is unsupported by any credible information on Mr. McKee’s finances or the expense of the project. Is not this case exactly what TIFs were created for? Heck, even if Mr. McKee expected the City of St. Louis to lay out 100% of the funding for rehabilitating North St. Louis, have we not been clamoring post-Ferguson that such is exactly what cities should spend their money on? (Incidentally, tax credits are not a case of the government actually laying out money, even though we talk about them as if they are a budget expense. The are a case of government forgoing revenue because the taxpayer is engaging in a behavior the government wishes to encourage or thinks it would otherwise have to do itself.)
    If Mr. McKee’s plan is unsatisfactory – it would be interesting to survey the populace of North St. Louis as to whether they would prefer jobs or the current intact street grid – there is plenty of North St. Louis left over. This internet community should pool its resources, lure some other investors of means, and buy several parcels. Then we can undertake the doubtlessly simple work of rehabilitating an economically devastated area, all the while enjoying the barbs of anonymous blogsphere critics.
    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

    • Alex Ihnen

      Bryan, I think much (and my) negativity isn’t as much based on the proposed plan as it is the seeming inability for much of anything to happen. If that top image could really be built out? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Do it. One thing to remember, this site is built around the idea that development proposals need public input, and the interest of many here are the smaller details many don’t often concern themselves with. There’s value in that discussion, I believe. There are some things I’d rather not see built, but much of of the commentary is meant to improve proposals. So, point taken, and thanks for reading.

    • Luftmentsch

      How are tax credits different from “laying out money?” Mr. McKee will sell most of his MO state tax credits to companies trying to lesson their tax burden. The latter will pay less in taxes. The state will be that much poorer. In essence, the state has transferred resources to McKee (however indirectly) that would otherwise have gone to fund schools, roads, health care, etc. That is a budget expense – however fudged and however tucked away.

  • WhoTheHellPaysTheseArtists?

    I love how racist these renderings are.

    You can’t ignore social reality, and the reality is a large portion of the county is racist and will never move to the city. So at least half of the people in this renderings should be BLACK. None of the “ambiguous race” shit, lets be true to north city.

    • matimal

      There are people who live in neither St. Louis city nor St. Louis County. THEY are who the city wants.

  • John R

    Although not directly involving Northside Regeneration per se, McCormack Baron just received a nice $500,000 HUD grant for developing strategies to improve the sizeable O’Fallon Place a.k.a. Preservation Place housing development in Carr Square that MB manages. Hopefully some good outcomes will result from that. And the more McKee can involve MB in the larger area the better… I’d love to see MB bring some of that North Sarah Apartments style mixed-use, mixed-income new development that is has been building in the Vandeventer neighborhood to within the McKee footprint.

  • kjohnson04

    We really hate St. Louis’ timeless grid, don’t we? Every proposal that comes in seems to be determined to replicate suburban street designs in a urban environment. It doesn’t work, it will make it harder to get from point a to b (you know, what streets are supposed to do…).

    Additionally, far too much parking. What do we need with all the parking Downtown, if we are just going add more adjacent to Downtown? Revitalize the Near Northside with buildings and parks, not parking lots. Is it so hard to comprehend?

    • John R

      Include the stadium plan in that street grid destruction…. I believe that is about another 90 acres or so that would be wiped out.

    • Ryann

      Having lived in Saint Charles my whole life I know very well what suburbs look like (and how hard, or impossible they are to walk from place to place), and most of these renderings are exactly that, suburban. I would love to see some renderings that show smaller “community” stores that are able to be walked to without walking through a sea of asphalt.

    • matimal

      It’s a strange process of correlation that happens to people. They think “if places with lawns, large parking lots, and curvy roads have low crime that means that lawns, large parking lots, and curvy roads must CAUSE low crime.” It’s the kind of thinking that happens when people don’t have to take these things seriously because they are supported by the suburban industrial complex.

      • JZ71

        No, it’s the correlation between the city and the adjacent north-county demi-cities, their aging housing stock, failing school systems and, yes, large African-American population that many people believe “must CAUSE” a high crime rate. It’s classic fight or flight, and flight wins out – and, yes, people do “take these things seriously” . . .

        • matimal

          you are talking about something different, race, class, and poverty….I’m talking about popular perceptions of physical space, not people or people’s actual physical conduct. Apples and oranges.

          • JZ71

            No, it really does go both ways. There are plenty of dense, non-suburban neighborhoods, in many cities, that are viewed as “safe”, if not safer as some (many?) suburban ones. People aren’t stupid – urban scale or suburban scale doesn’t define safe or unsafe, crime stats and property maintenance play a much bigger role, along with the adjacent businesses. Is it TitleMax and Family Dollar or Starbucks and Trader Joe’s? Are there bars on the windows? Plywood?! Multiple vacancies? Yes, there is usually a correlation between poverty and increased crime rates, especially violent crimes and street drug crimes. But, again, poverty can (and does) happen in both dense and suburban neighborhoods. If people saw all suburban neighborhoods as safer than dense, urban ones, we wouldn’t be talking about the challenges and issues in Ferguson or north county (or meth labs in Jefferson County). Just because reality doesn’t match your narrative is any reason to ignore it!

          • matimal

            Viewed as safe by whom? That is the question. There isn’t one inform view here. There are indeed many in St. Louis who DO actually think that lawns and parking lots actually in and of themselves make a place less conducive to crime apart from any other concern. That is why they try to make St. Louis look like chesterfield. You are not talking about what I’m talking about.

    • JZ71

      Most of the big employers in the city – A-B, Ameren, Wells-Fargo, BJC, SLU, Wash U, Nestle-Purina – already disrupt the street grid, as well. The “timeless grid” works well for small-scale residential, it does not work well for many large employers, industrial/factories, warehouse/distribution, regional/big box shopping centers or many institutional uses, ALL of which bring JOBS! We need a mix of both types of infrastructure, at least until we embrace creating a much better, truly functional, public transit system. Most (90%+!) employees in the region DRIVE to their jobs. If they can’t drive to their jobs in the city, they’re going to drive to their jobs outside the city, in the county, in adjacent counties, or they’re just going to leave the region, period! Urban density happens when a lot of people are willing to pay extra to be in one, special place. Urban wastelands happen when people choose to leave and invest elsewhere.

      YES, we should give people the option to live on the grid, and not on a cul de sac, but that choice is driven less by design and more by jobs, schools and crime. YES, we should use transit more and drive less, but that choice is driven not by grid versus cul de sac, it’s driven by density. YES, we need parks, but if the choice is between parking and parks, “make it a park” is not always the best answer – we need jobs, not more vacant land. The world in 2015 and 2025 is (and will be) different than the world was in 1915 and 1925. We’ll never see the private vehicle disappear. We may see it become self-driving and/or a shared device, but it’s gonna have to be stashed, nearby, at both ends of the trip. We could operate everything 24/7, and eliminate rush hour and its congestion, and/or we could all telecommute, and never leave our homes, at all, but most people like to have physical contact with other people and shared time off. But, most of all, most of us want to be comfortable, and that means finding the best job we can, even if that means driving – most people won’t move to create a “better”, “more-responsible” commute, and most employers are conditioned to see employees driving – that status quo is going to be a really tough nut to crack!

      • kjohnson04

        Great points. I can’t add anything else.

  • tbatts666

    It looks like they are devoting more land to parking lots than buildings in a lot of these images. Isn’t that curious.

  • Have they considered an EPCOT style private community with a perimeter fence and metal detectors to keep guns out — just like EPCOT. If not, how will they convince anyone the area is safe?

    • jhoff1257

      I’ll nominate this for ridiculous statement of the day. I’ve driven thru the North Side hundreds of times, biked thru it, and photographed several of the neighborhoods (with no weapons!) and I’ve never once been approached or harassed by anyone. Most of the area in play here has been devoid of anything for decades. There really just isn’t anyone there anymore. Pockets of violence? Sure. An outright war zone as is depicted in the suburbs? Not even close.

      • Sorry if I offended. I’m just trying to think of ways around the 2nd amendment that has made gun violence routine in some areas. The Defense Mapping Agency needs to recruit the best and brightest. If the leaders of that agency think the best might be hesitant about taking a job in North St. Louis city because of all the gun violence, then there is no way they will locate there. Especially with current business as usual approach. What action do you gentlemen believe would be bold enough to attract the best and brightest to want to work in NorthSide development? Double their pay?

        • John R

          I’m sure perception would be a factor. but I think most would understand the site itself would be heavily secured and is essentially at the edge of downtown; its just a few blocks up Jefferson from the thousands of workers at Wells-Fargo Advisors, I imagine Jefferson & Cass would be watched like a hawk as well.

        • jhoff1257

          The thing is these 3,000 jobs already exist. There isn’t going to be much recruiting. And as John pointed out the site is rather close to Downtown and the massive Wells Fargo complex. Plus the NGA has already stated that there will be a perimeter fence with heavy security, regardless of where they relocate. I’m not sure if you’re aware but this post is about the larger North Side project that has been in the works for decades. It’s not about the NGA.

        • matimal

          Violence is a social problem, not a logistical one. Violence is not a cause of St. Louis’ economics, it’s an effect. A systematic encircling of criminals and their supporters in the heart of north St. Louis is the answer. This isn’t about guns, it’s about people. People are the issue. Identifying the people involved is the answer. This means going well beyond the criminal use of guns. There is a world of criminology research available online to make my point.

    • matimal

      whose “they”? Where do you live, Gary? You seem delightful.

  • STLExplorer

    Shop n’ Save, Circle K and Hardees are in one of the plans too! Just what we need to reconnect Downtown and the Northside!

  • Jason

    Wait a second. $105million private investment? lol that’s f’in it!?!? $390m tif for a $105m in private money!?!?

  • Danny

    the autocentricity of much of this latest development “plan” is very disheartening, but i do want to say that two of the projects that seem to be blown off as silly here are actually vary close to coming to fruition- Carr School and Piekutowski’s sausage expansion are close.

  • matimal

    Maybe the answer lies in those from OUTSIDE St. Louis? Allowing this area to be treated as a well-connected local’s hobby hasn’t worked. Competition is the answer. Someone needs to compete with McKee.

  • John R

    public radio recently reported that the NGIA site plan in the works was now almost completely north of Cass and that P-I site would be targeted for mixed-use redevelopment along the lines of what was originally mentioned by McKee. And that the city was using eminent domain to acquire property north of Cass in the proposed NGIA footprint.

    • Db

      It’s a dog and pony show. NGA is down to scott AB and a site in Melville according to a few of their employees I talked to

      • jhoff1257

        As much as I’d hate to see the city lose 3,000 jobs, I don’t have much of an issue with the NGA going to Scott. It’s not a net loss to the region, which at this point in the St. Louis Area is far more important then any one municipality. Imagine them going to KC or Chicago. I’d prefer the NGA take over One AT&T Center, but short of that I’d prefer to see a security fortress in the suburbs. The North Side is in dire straits, but 3,000 jobs that already exist won’t help much. Outside of a few fast food joints and gas stations that might sprout up, I don’t see much else happening. It’s not like 3,000 people are going to pick up and move to the North Side.

        • kjohnson04

          Agreed. The workers will just use MetroLink (if they have any sense) to get to Scott. We could easily replace those jobs in pretty much any spot in the city. If we can survive losing 600,000 people in 40 years, 3,000 jobs is a cakewalk.

          • John R

            I believe Slay said that the city would lose about $2.5 million in payroll taxes (and of course no property tax) if NGIA leaves… seems like McKee’s earlier promises would have generated signficantly more than that between payroll and eventual property tax rolls. And then there is the question of the impact of a fortressed site plan and street grid closures upon neighboring redevelopment potential within Northside.

          • tpekren

            The site is not at Scott AFB. It is near and next to a new I64 interchange on a greenfield location. I highly doubt anyone will use metrolink. The perception is that being near Scott AFB has some value. I think is a bunch BS but a great photo op for Illinois politicians and a thankyou gift from POTUS to Illini Congressional delegation who would love the perception that they are bringing jobs to downstate Illinois.
            But then again, I don’t see MO congressional delegation willing to fight for keeping those jobs and therefore the tax rolls in the city.

          • tennisball

            yes and what what

        • I see now you’ve already conceded that there is no way NGA will locate in NorthSide given the current situation. In my comments earlier, I had not given up on them yet. So I think you are making my point that something more needs to be done to entice more than 7-11s.

          • jhoff1257

            I was under the impression that your earlier comment was with regards to the entirety of the North Side project. You didn’t really specify that you were speaking of just the NGA. I agree with the point we need to entice more then 7-11s and fast food joints but my issues with the NGA choosing to or not to move to the North Side has nothing do with crime, which is what I thought you were speaking to in your earlier comment. I haven’t conceded anything and I can’t speak to what the NGA will do. My point all along has been that a security fortress doesn’t have a place in an urban city. That type of land use belongs in a suburban area.

  • PaulMcWeeeeeee

    I’ll be excited when construction begins on the 22nd Street Blvd & 40 (or whatever it’s called). I exit on 21st and 40 to get home and can’t help but get depressed at all that ground that could go to great use! Hopefully, the Union Station redevelopment could jump start this phase.

    Sausage Production! Fish Farms! Milk Production! Oh my!