A recent article in the Post-Dispatch reported on the city’s plans to spend more than a billion dollars on a new football stadium, a MetroLink expansion, and setting up land for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The mayor’s office hopes these expenditures will create:
“anchor investments” to leverage future development, combat crime and wipe out concentrated poverty.
Creating development and wiping out concentrated poverty are lofty goals, but are city’s plans to create “anchor investments” likely to be successful?
History says no. Saint Louis is no stranger to urban regeneration projects, or “anchor investments” for that matter. From 1992 to 2002, the region “invested” almost $1.5 billion (in present dollars) in the original MetroLink and a football stadium (the Edward Jones Dome). Neither of these projects created much ancillary development, and from the 90s to the present day Saint Louis City has continued to lag behind the rest of the nation in population growth and economic vitality. Nor should anyone have expected them to. Economists agree that football stadiums do not boost urban regeneration, and that rail transit provides (at best) incremental improvements in transportation and station-adjacent property values, not civic renaissance.
Saint Louis officials may have learned that they are not one massive redevelopment project from jump-starting an economic revival. Unfortunately, the conclusion they appear to have come away with is that they are many massive development projects away from success. After all,
- The MetroLink did not go far enough.
- The Edward Jones Dome has no brew pubs or bike paths.
- The Arch grounds aren’t pretty enough.
- There are “gaps” between redevelopment (i.e., tax break) districts.
Just a few billion dollars more, and the city will finally be business and millennial friendly. All this while city’s business code remains an antiquated mess and the taxicab commission files an injunction to shut down Uber.