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Commentary Detail

Near North Neighborhoods Standing Strong
Commentary by: Michael Allen
Aired November 11, 2009


On October 30, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a bill giving developer Paul J. McKee, Jr.ís Northside Regeneration LLC development rights over a wide area of the city. Another bill enables a $399 million tax increment financing deal. Legislation in the early spring will deal with specifics, but itís now official: McKee has redevelopment rights.

Yet the last thing that residents and property owners should do is panic. Sure, some eminent domain remains possible, but the reality is that the NorthSide project is still a tangle of unknown outcomes. Without the city guarantee McKee wanted, the tax increment financing will be difficult to monetize. Significantly, McKee will not be able to swiftly acquire property as his companies once did.

Yet of late, McKee has disavowed having all of the development answers for his project area. Anyone who has studied the history of development projects in the city knows that none on a massive scale has been successful. McKee has a long road ahead, and it wonít lead to the total development control he once sought. The redevelopment agreement expressly allows the city to enter into other redevelopment agreements within the McKee project area.

This is good news for Old North, St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou. Those whose approach is sensitive and communitarian should not shy away from further investment. Residents and business owners should make their ongoing commitment strongly known. Their neighborhoods must withstand the vagaries of redevelopment. Momentum to develop the physical and social capital should not be abated. Redevelopment rights come and go, but the neighborhoods will always belong to the people.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Michael Allen

Michael Allen

Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.

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