The North Side’s Unlearned Lesson
Many Saint Louis residents are familiar with the empty promise of the NorthSide redevelopment project and how it hasn’t achieved any actual redevelopment. The City of Saint Louis has authorized roughly $400 million dollars in tax increment financing (TIF) for Paul McKee’s envisioned development, yet despite the project’s collapse it seems the city hasn’t learned its lesson.
Earlier this month the Saint Louis Board of Aldermen’s Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee voted 4-3 to approve the release of a $2.8M TIF note and to establish a community improvement district (CID). This decision would impose an additional 1% sales tax in the area to assist with the development of a $20M grocery store and gas station that Paul McKee announced back in March.
Both residents and city officials pushed back on this decision in part due to their frustrations with NorthSide’s history, and in part because the CID would increase the burden on residents in the area who may not be able to afford it. The proposed CID would bring the area’s sales tax up to 9.679% (Missouri’s average is 7.86%).
When we consider how heavily subsidized the development already is, the argument for a CID becomes less convincing. The development’s costs are estimated at $20M. Considering that $10M of funding is coming from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, $5M from New Market Tax Credits and $2.8M from TIF, the project is almost entirely being taken on with funds from taxpayer pockets. Is such heavy incentive use appropriate for a venture that includes a dime-a-dozen gas station?
The Northside Regeneration fiasco has received a staggering amount of incentives and has little to show for it. The bills in question now move on to the Saint Louis Board of Aldermen to determine whether this development needs yet another subsidy.