Do The Math: North Riverfront Stadium Site Produces $450K in Property Tax As-Is

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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!

{Stamping Lofts, a recent $9.8M residential conversion}

A new stadium has been proprosed for the north riverfront in St. Louis City. It’s uncertain whether it will be enough to keep the Rams in town and even less certain that a new stadium would get St. Louis a new NFL team, should owner Stan Kroenke pack up and depart for Los Angeles. The proposal would have the new “permanent” stadium and parking lots government owned and pay no property taxes.

The biggest direct loser in this transaction would be the struggling St. Louis Public Schools. 57.6% of property taxes goes to the SLPS. Whenever we trade property tax for sales tax (SLPS gets 2/3%) and earnings tax (SLPS gets none) or good vibes, or civic pride, public schools lose. Or the rest of us have to make up the difference. The same issue applies to the Zoo-Museum District, which supports the St. Louis Zoo, Science Center, Art Museum and Botanical Garden with property tax revenue in St. Louis City and County.

{J. Kennard & Sons Carpet Company Warehouse $16,313 property taxes/acre}

The present conditions are described as blighted, which gives license to clear-cut the area, removing any and all buildings. Today, the site of the proposed stadium, as is, generates $450,000 in annual property taxes. The Shady Jack’s block of 1400 N Broadway generates 3.2 times as much property taxes per acre as the big box Target department store at Hampton Village in south St. Louis City. The most productive parcel in the area is 1430 N Broadway at $92,557/acre.

The property tax receipts generated today are substantial. If the current development pattern could be expanded, even in a very modest fashion, it’s not difficult to imagine revenue doubling, or more. There is great potential in what currently exists on the site. If subsidies are to be use to increase sustainable development, we would be wise to encourage more of what we have.

{the Shady Jack’s block generates $38,677 property taxes/acre}

It’s often said St. Louis has no mountains and no coastline. What we do have is a riverfront. This area is one of the few places that could be developed into a neighborhood for those drawn to water. In fact, there are plans in being developed now for a very different future for this area. A $300,000 study is looking to revitalize the area into a livable community.

Creating a vibrant, dense, livable neighborhood there could take a generation or more. It’s a big challenge in a region that continues to see slow growth and keeps undermining existing investments with massive infrastructure subsidies on the edges of the region. Smart investment here could put such a project on the fast track. To start, the blighting effect of the highway is an obstacle for neighborhood creation that should go.

It boils down to what kind of city we want. Do we want the big, sooner-rather-than-later solution? In a city that can’t add land area, is this worth the sacrifice? Instead of low density development patterns, shouldn’t we be trying to build more “city” there? That’s the only way we can afford all the infrastructure and services we demand.

The math makes very clear what type of development pattern is economically sustainable. If we can resist the temptation to be awed by whatever the next big shiny object may be, we may be able to focus on building a better city. If we chose, we can build a place where people want to live, and where revenue from development pays for itself. We’ve done it before.

NFL stadium proposal - St. Louis, MO{proposed NFL stadium plan would generate property tax revenue of $0/acre}

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  • mpbaker22

    Hi Richard. Curious how you did this and figured it out? I only came up with about 360K in real estate taxes.

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  • Soha

    Interesting article from a viewpoint I wasn’t even considering. Just wanting to say thanks for writing!

  • South City

    There is a reason that area hasn’t been developed… People are all about saving the buildings, understandable. The problem is the buildings haven’t been rehabbed for a reason…money. Unfortunately our city has found a way to neglect those buildings to where they are in such bad shape that it makes no sense to save them from a monetary stand point. There is a lot of risk there, the reward is truly unknown. Personally, I believe the stadium should be built, save what is save-able. The waterfront could become a vibrant place.

    • John R

      These buildings on the whole are in decent shape and are far from Cupples 7 type problems. Plus don’t be blind to the rehabs that already have happened.

  • Devin in South City

    “Creating a vibrant, dense, livable neighborhood there could take a generation or more.”

    This is a great summary you also included in your post about the NGA site on the north side. I suppose people who have been in the city for generations, and more crucially, us folks who will probably be here for the next generation, need to cultivate this “generational speed” mindset. Of course it’s hard to win reelection without something shiny built in your four years. I look forward to the day we realize we can’t afford disposable stadiums, neighborhoods, and cities.

  • AB

    If the plans were to proceed forward, It seems to me that they could keep some of the perimeter buildings, incorporating them into the stadium decor to enhance the stadium grounds into something that has a st Louis historical flavor & uniqueness in conjunction with the new modern aesthetics. We don’t have the palm trees of California but we do have characteristic brick structures where some of them could be utilized into the stadium plan with some creative thinking, rather than having them all demolished for surface parking lots.

    • John R

      AB,

      I made a comment below that it appears HOK intentionally planned for demo as incorporating historic buildings like the company did with Camden Yards would be a mortal sin of “doing the same thing twice.” The horror! The horror!

      Here is the news segment where they mention that:
      http://fox2now.com/2015/02/01/the-st-louis-design-firm-behind-falcons-and-rams-stadium-proposals/

      However, I heard Gov. Nixon mentioned at his news conference they were open to preserving more buildings. Let’s hope so.

  • Mike F

    Well, FUCK! BoA passes eminent domain. At least my own alderman, Shane Cohn, voted against it. Thanks, Mr. Cohn, for what it’s worth.

    More civic management by self-flagellation. Why is this town so full of effing idiots?!

    Just. So. Fucking. Angry. Right now.

    *sigh*

    • Adam

      Wait… eminent domain for the NORTH RIVERFRONT? or are you talking about the proposed NGA site?

      • Mike F

        What an oops…No, you’re correct, the NGA bill, BB263. The stadium site apparently doesn’t even have a bill number yet, as so far that I can tell from the Board Bill page.

        Still, passage of this one still produces the same reaction I will likely have when/if the stadium site BB passed.

        Both represent the tired old idea of slum clearance.

        (Note to self: inner monologue, editing, then post)

    • Adam

      I don’t think the stadium plan has gotten to the point of eminent domain yet…

  • Guest

    I’m curious if the opinion of the “urban grid” folks would change if the project included burying the highway there like the big dig (obviously better project management required) or replacing with a boulevard? Is that even possible there? Is the highlighted path from the Dome to the proposed stadium under the highway?

    • Tim E

      Not sure if I fall into the urban grid folks but demolishing the raised section of I-70 in favor of a blvd (thinking shore drive in Chicago) makes so much sense to me, both as some one trained as civil engineer (talk about offering multiple ingress/egress options on peak event days while the loss of time for thru traffic is minimal and cost of maintaining for MoDOT drops like a rock) and as a wanna be arm chair developer

    • rgbose

      The Metrolink tunnel makes burying difficult.

  • A.J. Wilkes

    Can we pay for the stadium with an excise tax on legalized marijuana? Maybe make those warehouses around the stadium the zoned growing warehouses? I mean there’s already a team called the “Maple Leafs.”

    • jhoff1257

      Well the Maple Leafs are an NHL hockey team based out of Canada. So I’m not really sure how that fits into an discussion on a proposed football stadium in St. Louis. Plus the Maple Leaf has been the symbol of Canada since the mid 1800s and has never really been associated with marijuana.

      Other then that, I completely agree with legalizing marijuana.

  • Sam

    Let the rams leave. Rather than an NFL stadium, build a Soccer Stadium on the riverfront with 30K seats. Attract an MLS team (should be easy with the rams gone and given St. Louis’s soccer history).

    • Chaifetz10

      The issue has always been finding an owner who will pony up the money for a team. That’s what St. Louis needs for any chance of an MLS team.

    • Tim E

      Chaifetz10 has it right, first and foremost you need an ownership group that can raise the +50 million franchise fee (Chifetz10, do you know if the fee was raised even more? want to say $100 million for the Miami franchise but don’t believe that is correct). However, I do think having a first class open air stadium in place or broken ground is going to make it a lot easier for some local power brokers to come together.

      • Chaifetz10

        LAFC paid $110 mil for their expansion fee.

  • Bryan Kirchoff

    I appreciate the author’s enthusiasm, but I suspect if the North Riverfront were a viable prospect for redevelopment in the foreseeable future, it would have already happened a while ago. St. Louis’ fundamental problem is that is a slow-to-no growth metro region, so developments tend to simply rearrange the people and dollars already in the area.

    Regarding the point about school funding, I have no doubt it is true, but a companion point should also be raised: If you go to the Missouri Comprehensive Data System website, then to the section for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, you can conduct a guided inquiry on various school district statistics. One statistic, expenditures per average daily attendee (which I take to mean dividing the school district’s total expenditures by the average number of students in school per day over the year), yielded a rather surprising result: The Festus District spent around $7000 per ADA in 2013. Wentzville spent around $9000. Webster Groves spent between $11000 and $12000. Given the worse performance of SLPS, how much lower was its spending? Actually, it spent $14000 per ADA. For additional reference, Ferguson-Florissant spent between $11000 and $12000, and Riverview spent around $9000. My point is that I am sure SLPS would be in a difficult position to accept further cuts at this point, but it also seems the tie between student outcomes and school budget is tenuous.

    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

    • rgbose

      As I said in the post we keep undermining property values in built places in favor of greenfield devel which has over supplied what little growth we do have. That waste of resources kept them from going to places that would have had a higher return and would have spurred more growth in the region.

      I wonder about the spending per student numbers. The county has a special school district which takes on the most costly students. Is that cost included in those county district numbers? Do city students have access tot hat special district or is the SLPS serving them, which could account for some of that differential in cost?

      I agree it’s not all about money, but less money won’t help, and since schools are one of the two big reasons (crime) people don’t move to the city, should be of greater focus than a stadium.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Just in the last year, Bissinger’s Chocolate has made a huge investment in the North Riverfront. The Musial Bridge has been open about a year. The $500M casino is just a few years old, the $10M Stamping Lofts investment was made in the last couple years. Shady Jack’s didn’t open that long ago…there is investment here.

      • John R

        I would have had a lot more respect for Peacock (and Nixon) if he would have held his press conference in the Caramel Room instead of Union Station, recognized the significant investments being made in the area, and touted a thoughtful site plan for the stadium that included historic preservation as an important value.

        Also, as soon as this fall the new Central Riverfront Trail will reach up to the Union Electric Building and North Riverfront trailhead and GRG will be making additional significant improvements in the area in the coming years as it fulfills its obligations to the citizens. For Nixon to say that the area will look exactly like it does today in ten years if there is no stadium is pure b.s.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Well said. Your idea would have added more context, been more truthful, and perhaps attracted more supporters. In the end, I don’t think the general public is their audience.

          • John R

            After seeing this spot from FOX2, I’m wondering how much HOK itself is to blame for the anti-preservation site plan.

            http://fox2now.com/2015/02/01/the-st-louis-design-firm-behind-falcons-and-rams-stadium-proposals/

            Perhaps I am misunderstanding Ms. Nolan, but I believe she is saying, “sure, incorporating historic buildings like we did for Camden Yards was cool in the 90’s but not for Saint Louis today. Shifting the stadium a bit to the north and saving the Broadway buildings and the Stamping Lofts would have made this plan so much better.

          • John R

            oops… I forgot to enclose the quote at the end of the sentence.

          • Alex Ihnen

            That’s a rather painful spot to watch. There are all the buzz words but no apparent understanding of the city and urban planning.

          • John R

            It is painful. I also really, really want to know if eminent domain will be used if necessary to move this demolition plan forward. I envision some kind of protest march from the riverfront then down Cass to Jefferson in our future.

  • Fart Fartington

    So in this author’s mind, in the early 90s we were all set to usher in a new era of prosperity in St. Louis but the Rams came in and ruined all that.

    Okay, I get the argument that on paper these stadium projects often don’t make sense. But let’s quit acting like all we have to do is kick sports teams out of the city and it’s going to reverse 60 years of decline and white flight. Give me a break.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not sure anyone is trying to kick the Rams out. Some believe that giving $400M+ to a multi-billionaire for a seldom used professional sports stadium isn’t a smart use of limited resources.

    • Sam

      How many buildings were destroyed in the 90’s for parking structures and lots? I dont think the author ever mentioned the 90’s are a period of positive growth, and if asked he would probably condemn the foolish destruction of useful capital stock

    • rgbose

      I’d prefer the Rams stayed. But with any plan it has opportunity costs that leaders have ignored in the past (In all these grand fixes, beyond just stadiums)) and from what the Governor said yesterday still ignore.

      • Alex Ihnen

        All the big silver bullet projects have been squeezed and twisted to appear like financial wins. But consider that downtown STL has seen over the past two decades: Revitalized Union Station as festival marketplace, St. Louis Center Mall, Convention Center, hockey arena, clearance for Gateway Mall, baseball stadium, $380M Arch project, $500M casino, $500M bridge, now a $950M football stadium? If a couple billion dollars in projects produces what the downtown (and city) we have now, shouldn’t we at least consider that what we’ve been doing isn’t working? Or should we conclude that we’re just a couple more billions of dollars away from success?

    • Guest

      Ummm…”build us a new stadium we’ll go gonzo over or we’re out of here” doesn’t exactly sound like they’re being kicked out. Let them leave.
      Sure, I’ll give you a break. If you’ll educate yourself as to what makes cities successful these days then justify destroying more of our urban fabric for a bunch of “pros” acting like spoiled brats.
      60 years of decline and white flight? Where on earth have you been the last 20?

    • Adam

      Lots of straw here.

  • Guest

    So I am interested to see how all of this changes now that the substation has to stay. That is where the pedestrian bridge is correct?

  • Daniel

    I really like this plan with some caveats. Yes the Laclede Power building gets taken down but the stadium looks great on the riverfront and none of the rest of the buildings seem to be invaluable. The VIP parking structures are fine too and the fancy pedestrian bridge is okay but I would rather see that go over a new surface level memorial blvd and not a raised highway. Perhaps that would allow for a smaller footprint in the bottle district for future development.

    What I do not like is the vast expanses of surface parking. Why would you blow out a whole functioning block of buildings (shady jacks) for just 400 cars? The surface parking south of the stadium seems fine and could work as overflow parking whenever Lumiere place decides to hold up their end of the bargain and build something on their parking lots. And that little sliver between the rail and the river is not really anything so turn it into a parking lot and no one will shed a tear. The surface parking in the north should be cut in half and stopped at what I believe is Florida street. I think this would allow for much less of a “sea” of parking lots and also allow for some development around the stadium as opposed to completely turning the near north riverfront into a stadium complex. I think it’s a bit of a compromise but one that in the long term would make for quite the atmosphere.

    • Daniel

      If someone can overlay that idea I would really appreciate it

    • Fart Fartington

      A camel is a horse designed by committee. Think about it and you’ll begin to understand why your plan sucks.

      • STLEnginerd

        A camel is a horse designed by its environment. A regular horse dies in the desert.

    • Selfish, I know, but I only support the plan if they shift north a smidge to save/incorporate Laclede Power Co. in some way. I love that building so much for its history, its look and its location.

      In my head, I see it as a stop for a tourist-y riverfront trolley, maybe as a roundouse, with the history of STL trolleys/World’s Fair/etc inside and a signature Trailhead at the rear (sorry, Mr. Cassilly — not huge on what’s there now) connecting the primary riverfront to the northern section.

      By removing/relocating the medium security “work house” to the north, the team can still get its additional parking; and by realizing not all fans tailgate, they can further limit the footprint by installing a three or four story garage somewhere (partially below-grade, preferably) in the area, allowing them to save even more historic building stock.

  • Don’t visiting players also pay tax on what they earned that day playing in the stadium? Think the figure I saw was $750K per year, that would increase with the addition of an MLS team.

  • A.J. Wilkes

    “We’d get the money for it through taxing the player salaries.” That at it’s core seems like a weird anti-labor argument I have trouble wrapping my head around.

    And while that might work for the state, would an NFL team bring $12 Million in revenues to the city/county? Can we be reasonably sure the NFL will even exist in its current form in 30 years with the concussion problems coming to light? And even then, with giant HD televisions what difference does having a team in this city matter? It seems like there’s still a lot of Rams fans still in Los Angeles.

    • STLEnginerd

      I have some reservations but having an NFL team is worth something to
      the city. The real question is how much is it worth. Tax receipts is one of the harder numbers you can bank on.

      I really can’t imagine football being any less popular in 30 years than it is today but even if the NFL drops in popularity i think its a fair bet the MLS would rise to fill some of that void. Obviously we don’t have an MLS team at the moment but i think we have a lot better chance with a new stadium than without.

      I don’t LOVE the current plan. VanishingSTL presented an alternative that greatly improved the new stadiums relationship to the city with what i believe would result in a small difference in overall cost. (it might even be cheaper)

  • RealMath

    0.00045% thats how much 450K is of the City’s total budget….

  • JZ71

    One justification the governor gave is the NFL players pay $10 million, annually, in state income taxes, playing in St. Louis. I guess that would justify investing $500 million, plus, in tax dollars, to “keep” that revenue stream coming in! 😉

    • I think the point is that the State’s contribution will be continuation of the $12M they pay now on the dome each year. $10M of that is returned to the state in player income tax, and it will only go higher in the future. It would probably be easy to find that coaches, assistants, broadcasters, parking owners, etc. easily pay another $2M or more to the state in income taxes. That money leaves is the Rams leave. Apparently, every other NFL city has come to the same economic conclusion as the Governor, and decided it pays financially to keep the NFL in St. Louis. The city and county portions, $6M each, are paid by hotel and rental car taxes on visitors, just like the ones we will be paying to build new stadiums in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Indy, etc., when we visit there.

      I do not see why the older business and buildings cannot coexist with the stadium. The dome is surrounded by existing buildings now. And by 2020, I hope to have a car that will drop me off at the front door and go park remotely someplace cheap. Gigantic adjacent parking lots will then shrink to postage stamps.

      • John R

        The City’s portion is paid through general hotel and restaurant taxes, so it’s not all on overnight guests.

  • chaifetz10

    I say build the stadium, but ANY building that can be saved and not torn down for parking should remain. Incorporate them into the stadium if need be and build some great pedestrian walkways over the interstate to the Bottle District. Let that be the sea of parking.
    Can someone help me overlay the buildings that can be saved onto these parking maps?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Here’s the proposed stadium site with the extent of the parking outlined in yellow. A small shift would save the Laclede Power building on the riverfront, and it would seem retaining the buildings along Broadway and Cass would require only rethinking a portion of the parking proposal.

      • Tim E

        It seem that with slight shift you would also require less shift to align tracks further to the west instead of the goofy alignment in original alignments.. Also, Can anyone say Whistle stop!!!. Talk about an unique add on to the stadium design. A passenger station for game day events that might also include MSL games. Extend River Runner for MSL games with KC and add a whistle stop for games with Chicago.

        • jhoff1257

          Whistle stops probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Most Amtrak trains use the MacArthur Bridge that drops them right down into the Gateway Station. Passenger trains are only routed over the Merchants Bridge when the MacArthur is backed up. For those coming in by train they can simply get off at the Gateway Station, board MetroLink and walk the 4 blocks or so from the Arch-Laclede’s Station.

          • Correct — and personally, I cringe every time on Amtrak when our approach veers to the McKinley (edit: Merchants — too many “M’ bridges!) rather than the MacArthur. The MO side there is…not good, to say the least…as far as first impressions for visitors to the City.

            But who knows! Maybe this stadium plan DOES revitalize the whole area and the northbound approach becomes the preferable one in a few years.

      • Exactly. There is no reason the buildings can stay and make the whole site more interesting and valuable as real estate. If they think they will be able to force people to park at the stadium and pay high parking rates, think again. I’ll be happy to park across the river and take a water taxi to the game.

      • chaifetz10

        How do we get this in front of Peacock and the city? Why do we need to tear down all the buildings when it appears that there’s plenty of open land for parking anyways?

      • Tysalpha

        Guys, you’re forgetting, the NFL wants space for tailgating. They want to have game day visuals of people barbecuing on the back of their trucks for hours before the game. You can’t do that in a parking garage. That’s why the surface has to be cleared. It’s the only reason, and it may seem trivial, but I’d wager that it’s necessary for any stadium proposal to be effective.

        • Justin

          It appears from Alex’s picture above that there is already plenty of room for surface lots without having to tear down every building in the area. Furthermore, plenty of surface lots already exist on the west side of I-70. With some structured parking in place of some lots it would seem there would be plenty of room for tailgating. People could also tailgate on the uppermost level of a garage couldn’t they?

        • Adam

          Take a look at Cincinatti’s “The Banks” project. Or Soldier Field.

        • Tim E

          Seattle is another good one to look at on site that lacks a sea of surface parking lots.
          .
          This site could provide the best of both worlds if the powers to be get past the mindset that huge swaths of parking is the only way it works. Their is plenty room for tailgating & parking without having to tear down buildings as well as having desired infill and rehabs along Broadway comparable to Cupples Warehouse (think local developers and local businesses having a stake) as well as connecting with Laclede’s Landing. Heck, you can argue if things are done right that you will see more success here and in Laclede’s landing while Cordish/DeWitt continue to land bank Ballpark Village hoping that some one turns over their first born and or City finances them outright like KC did for Power & Light District.
          .
          As far as parking revenues go, St. Louis has had no problem getting a parking garage built if it wants to. Yes, cost is more upfront and you might need to have them on the periphery and or part of a Bottle Works development, etc., but the long term value of property in an urban environment property will always be vertical if your goal is growth in jobs and residents. Have to agree, after following blogs, that adding surface parking lots in an urban core is a really really bad idea even though I might disagree on how you discourage them.

      • Like I said upthread, relocate the work house (slotted behind Bissingers) and potentially the grainery/silos and you have the “needed space” for tailgate parking while still preserving some of the structures — specifically N. Broadway and Stamping.

        Additional building stock can be preserved if you realize that a large amount of attendees don’t care about tailgating. With that realization, a (partially buried) four-story parking garage gets more cars to the site while limiting the overall sq.ft. of necessary parking spaces.