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A familiar, small step forward for Ballpark Village

The city's Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority has restarted the clock on the construction of Ballpark Village.

The members today unanimously approved a package of incentives that will allow Cordish Companies to use some of the additional tax revenue the project will generate to finance the bonds needed for construction. If every phase of the project is built, the state and city subsidies could total almost $189 million.

This is the same step DESA took in 2008. Then the economy tanked.

Cardinals president Bill DeWitt said today that the sale of the bonds is still "dependent on market conditions." It sounds a lot like something he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch back then.

So what's changed? Why start the whole process over again now?

"What gives us confidence this time is improved market conditions in the bond market, and some additional commitments by the developer to sweeten the pot on financial commitments," DeWitt says. A subsidiary of Cordish appears to be providing some financial backing to the bonds.

The first phase, totaling about $150 million in construction, will include 225,000 square feet of office space, 100,00 square feet of retail (including a ESPNZone-like restaurant called "Cardinal Nation") and all the infrastructure needed at the site.

Financial firm Stifel Nicolaus is widely expected to move its headquarters into the new building. That's about six blocks from its current location.

But Rodney Crim, the president of the St. Louis Development Corporation, says the city and state won't be subsidizing the movement of businesses from one office building to the other.

"The whole philosophy here is that you start the project and people know it’s real and then when we’re working with RCGA and others to attract businesses to the region they say, oh that’s a great site. And then it also, within the region, people want to move up," Crim says. The developer says other tenants interested in the site are not from St. Louis.

The process is far from over. The Board of Aldermen still have to sign off.  So do Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and Board president Lewis Reed - and Green is already expressing concerns about the scope of the incentives.  The Missouri Development Finance Board has to weigh in as well.

When all that's done? They still have to sell the bonds.

You can view the full presentation given today below:

Ballpark Village Meeting Presentation

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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