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City signs deal with McKee for land in NGA site

Paul McKee, Jr. of McEagle Properties, LLC. McKee released an open letter today to the people of St. Louis about his NorthSide development project. (St. Louis Public Radio)
(St. Louis Public Radio)
Paul McKee, Jr. of McEagle Properties, LLC. McKee released an open letter today to the people of St. Louis about his NorthSide development project. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Developer Paul McKee will not be among the landowners taken to court by the city of St. Louis in an effort to lure a federal agency to the north side.

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority reached a deal with McKee’s company, Northside Regeneration, this week. That includes the option to buy more than 300 parcels of McKee’s land within the proposed site of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

"We reached an agreement with Northside and final terms have been agreed," said St. Louis Development Corporation executive director Otis Williams following an LCRA meeting on Tuesday. 

The city had been negotiating with McKee for months. The developer was among 19 owners listed in eminent domain legislation that went before the Board of Alderman earlier this fall.

But the LCRA also exerted additional leverage by taking control of some of Northside Regeneration’s debt notes. The city bought the notes from an entity called Titan Fish Two in August for $5 million. It included almost 400 parcels of McKee’s land as collateral, as well as the direct sale of 46 parcels in the proposed NGA site.

The LCRA also took over Titan Fish Two’s lawsuit against McKee seeking $17 million in unpaid debt.

It’s not clear how the city’s control over the suit and McKee’s real estate collateral play into the deal. Williams said he can’t release the details of any agreements with landowners until the NGA chooses the north city site.

"We aren’t making any of those public until we have an approval from the NGA that it is our site. Otherwise we will not execute any of these agreements anyway," he said.

But Williams has said the city will drop the $17 million suit against McKee once the deal is closed. A trial set for last Monday was rescheduled for February 16.

"There’s a continuance. And we’ll continue to continue until we break escrow," Williams said.

The LCRA’s agreement with McKee also includes the developer’s option to buy the former Pruitt-Igoe site. Northside Regeneration has had the $1 million option since 2012, which is set to expire in January. Earlier this year the state approved McKee’s plan to build an urgent care hospital within the 33-acre area.

"We are continuing to work through the option on Pruitt-Igoe, so there’s more to come on that one. And it’s also involved in our agreement with the sale of the property, as well," Williams said. 

The NGA is choosing between four locations in the St. Louis region. The city’s greatest competition is from St. Clair County, Illinois, which is offering nearly 400 acres near Scott Air Force Base for free.

The agency’s director, Robert Cardillo, will make a final decision in April.

In the meantime, the city is expected to gain control over the last few parcels of ground in its proposed site soon. Williams said they’ll file suit in eminent domain proceedings against a few landowners by the end of the month.

If the NGA chooses north city, he said he expected the LCRA will close on all the land this summer. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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