One element of the state’s laws governing tax increment financing is the requirement that public, which pays the taxes and benefits from the development, gets a chance to speak out about it before a TIF is granted. Yesterday, the City’s Tax Increment Financing Commission set public hearings for three very challenging projects in the City, representing more than $60 million in new development.
4900 Manchester at Kingshighway: This proposed new 50,000 sf warehouse and manufacturing building, to be developed by David and Bob Glarner as an addition to an existing building on the site, will serve as expansion space for Boxes, Inc. and for the St. Louis Science Center. Boxes currently occupies space in the existing building. Boxes will add 50 or so new manufacturing jobs as a part of the expansion, and will maintain its existing location further west on Manchester. The Science Center, recently named one of the Top Ten science centers in the country, currently operates student programs in the existing building. The new Science Center space will be used to warehouse Science Center exhibits for which the Oakland facility no longer has room. (These Science Center programs are pretty important. The City’s broad-based life science industry makes science careers good future prospects for our kids. The programs are like brain bait for the kids.)
Council Plaza: Rick Yackey, in partnership with John Cook of the eponymous School of Business at Saint Louis University, is turning his attention to the low-rise commercial portion of the Council Plaza complex, recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an early example of a comprehensive mixed occupancy trade-union-owned development. Yackey and his partner plan to convert this long-neglected building to retail/restaurant and student housing uses. They are working closely with SLU and will add significant site and access enhancements to the property, and make long-needed repairs to the underground parking facility. The parking facility has been in serious need of repairs for some time. The City’s Fire Department no longer uses the roadway over the parking structure to access the buildings at the rear of the complex due to “concerns about the roadway’s structural sufficiency.” Yackey also has the Council Tower high-rise property at the rear of the complex under contract and plans significant improvements to that structure as well, including replacing the missing bricks that have been falling from the east wall mural for several years and stabilizing the bricks that have not yet fallen. The Council Tower property also suffers from a variety of interior issues which Yackey will address. (Kohner Properties has already acquired and rehabilitated the other high-rise structure in the complex.)
Forest Park at Spring: Some of the several McGowan brothers (of Washington Avenue Loft District success) are expanding their efforts west to the property on the northeast corner of Forest Park Boulevard and Spring Avenue. For some months, passersby have watched as the “modern” façade has been removed from the building, revealing its original historic character. The McGowans removed the façade even though they do not yet own the building to enhance its eligibility for listing on the National Register. The building has now been listed. The McGowans plan to develop the property as rental residential loft apartments and retail, and are discussing occupancy of the retail space with one of the City’s successful minority entrepreneurs.
To me, these projects demonstrate that development is continuing in the City even with the slowdown in the national economy.