A Tired Tale of Incentives
According to an article from the St. Louis Business Journal, the developers behind the Iron Hill complex (a 14-acre development with office, retail and multifamily components) are seeking more than $80 million in tax incentives. The proposed funding would come via a tax-increment financing (TIF) subsidy, a community improvement district (CID), and a transportation development district (TDD)—the trifecta of tax subsidies in Missouri.
This is a tired tale here in St. Louis; developers say they have a great idea and a great plan, and then turn to the government instead of the market to finance their idea. Government officials pick winners and losers by offering advantages to some and not others.
We can point fingers at the developers and say they should seek private investors, but they aren’t the only ones to blame. The various incentive and subsidy programs in St. Louis have created a situation where bargaining for handouts during the development process is the norm. You can’t blame developers for seeking the best deal they can get. It might be too much to ask developers not to reach for the millions of dollars offered to them; we need to get the government to stop offering!
In this particular case, there may actually be good news. Though the St. Louis City TIF Commission approved a motion for a public hearing for this project, there was some resistance from commissioners, and that’s what we need to see more of at the hearing. Good projects shouldn’t need to rely on handouts to be successful, and developers certainly shouldn’t assume taxpayer money will be gifted for private projects. Developers and government officials should allow projects to face market forces on equal footing to see which projects are truly demanded in the St. Louis market.