On Wednesday, land developer Paul McKee announced a plan to build a food market in St. Louis as part of the NorthSide Regeneration Project. The city could certainly use more businesses and jobs, but locals are skeptical about this plan. Paul McKee has promised a handful of big projects on the north side over the years. To date, he’s yet to lay a single brick.
McKee is asking the city for handouts to complete this new project: at least $5 million in new market tax credits. To date, the city has authorized McKee to take almost $400 million dollars in TIF handouts. McKee’s promises for the north side go back at least to 2009 and include plans to build a hospital, office buildings, retail stores, and homes.
Rather than start any of these projects, McKee’s regeneration project has stalled and held out for more and more tax incentives. In the past two years the regeneration project has been delinquent paying taxes and has had financial problems resulting in foreclosures.
Shelia Rendon, a homeowner who lives in the community Paul McKee has made so many promises to, questions why the city continues to work with Paul McKee. “The community lost faith in him a long time ago,” she told me. Sheila would like to see development in her neighborhood, but not at the expense of the people who already live there.
Unfortunately, the only north side development project associated with McKee that seems to have made any progress, relocating National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) to north St. Louis, would come at the expense of the existing community. Relocating the NGA to the north side would require using eminent domain to kick St. Louis residents like Sheila out of their homes. This is something members of the community strongly oppose.
The fact that the city government keeps awarding tax incentives to these development projects leaves residents like Sheila shaking their heads, “The city does not need to keep pouring money into projects for Paul McKee. It needs to invest in the existing community.”