Look Here, Please
Tonight at 7 p.m., at Zion Lutheran Church, developer Paul McKee and alderwoman April Ford-Griffin will make a presentation about the $8 billion proposed redevelopment of Saint Louis’ north side. Part of that redevelopment would involve the NorthSide Regeneration company acquiring more than 2,400 properties. On the list are a number of churches, as well as owner-occupied homes.
I hope that the mainstream media will cover tonight’s presentation. The development is contentious, not least because it is very large and involves an application for $410 million in tax increment financing (TIF) from the city, but also because of current residents’ worries that the company will use eminent domain to take their property (there is, in fact, mention of using eminent domain in the NorthSide Regeneration company’s TIF application).
There is also the issue of whether a city agency was somehow complicit by holding on to vacant property in the north side for more than a decade in case a developer came along, rather than putting the property up for sale.
These issues have been brought forward several times by the North Side Community Benefits Alliance (NSCBA), a group of north side residents determined to be involved in the redevelopment process. Although the group is new, it has done a lot to publicize this issue. Recently, the NSCBA held two community forums. At the first, Saint Louis TIF commissioner and Saint Louis School District Board of Education member David Jackson spoke. At the second, Christina Walsh, of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice spoke. Both speakers were noteworthy, yet both forums were mostly ignored by the press.
To his credit, Don Marsh, host of “St. Louis on the Air,” did have NSCBA members on his show, and when one of the banks holding more than 400 mortgages of McKee’s north Saint Louis properties was seized by the FDIC, KMOX contacted NSCBA’s vice president, Barbara Manzara, for quotes.
It is likely that a number of community residents who oppose the proposed development will attend tonight, which means that reporters could hear both their concerns and McKee’s responses without filter. I didn’t think that media needed a nudge to cover this side of the issue, but here it is: This is important, and this is newsworthy.