Among the challenges of my job are the Hobson’s choices those moments when I have to choose between two really bad options or make a decision when there really isn’t any alternative to a bad option.
There’s a good example on my desk right now.
One City Center is the office tower that sits on top of St. Louis Center. Both One City Center and the mall are horrible eyesores across the street from the convention center in the heart of Downtown. They are drags on the revitalization of our central business district and our convention industry, which together generate a large part of the tax base used to provide services in our neighborhoods.
Pyramid now owns the mall and is preparing for its redevelopment.
One City Center, though, is half-empty, encumbered with a bad mortgage that can only be prepaid with a penalty, and owned by a man who will neither improve the building nor negotiate its sale on reasonable terms. There is also a good possibility that it will end up for sale on the courthouse steps and that its redevelopment could be delayed for years.
Enter Pyramid, again.
Two bills currently before the Board of Aldermen will help Pyramid get this problem property back into circulation as an asset to downtown and to the City, turning a serious liability into an opportunity to attract new jobs.
If Pyramid can purchase the building, the City will execute a redevelopment agreement that will use tax increment financing to cover roughly 40 percent of the transaction’s $36.7 million cost. The TIF amount is higher than usual, delivered earlier in the transaction than usual, and most unusually backed by the City. In exchange for these major concessions, Pyramid will be required to give up control of the building quickly (in months, instead of years) if it misses tax payments, and its ability to sell or re-finance the building will require the approval of the Board of E&A. If Pyramid can’t purchase the building, there’s no deal.
St. Louis Center and One City Center are the two remaining major problem properties in the core of downtown. If we do nothing, the office building will continue to fester, drag down our downtown office market, and become more and more deteriorated as a speculator milks both the building and our city. But if we work with Pyramid, with the proper protections for the City, we can fix the mall and the office tower.
That’s why we’re making this particular Hobson’s choice.