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University City And Developer Give Olive and I-170 Project Another Try

Business owners in Jeffrey Plaza on Olive Boulevard say they have not been receiving updates about a proposed development that would displace them.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A high-profile development in University City is back on track.

A new deal for a project at Olive Boulevard and I-170 between the city and Novus Development will be presented next week to the city council.

A previous deal between the two fell apart this year after a consulting firm made a mistake about how much revenue the city would receive through a special taxing district. The latest deal was reached after months of negotiations and calls for a $70.5 million tax increment financing district to support the project.

It includes $15 million over 20 years from the developer to help residents in one of University City’s poorest areas.

“During the last housing crisis, housing prices, particularly in St. Louis and University City as well, took a significant hit,” said University City Mayor Terry Crow.

“Most all of University City has recovered from that crisis except for the neighborhoods that are north of Olive,” he added.

The new deal involves a lower upfront payment from the developer, but the city will still pull in money to help with infrastructure, housing needs and safety for the community’s Third Ward, which is the area north of Olive Boulevard.

Even with an agreement back in place, there are still steps that need to be completed before any shovel goes into the ground.

City Council has to sign off on the deal. And the developer still has to reach agreements with property and business owners in the affected area.

University City Manager Gregory Rose is the city’s lead negotiator on the deal and said the mayor and council have made it clear they do not want to use eminent domain to secure property.

“So we are encouraging Novus to work very hard to try and resolve those issues for what's a fair price for businesses and what's a fair price for residential housing,” he said.

Rose added that most affected property owners and many of the businesses are on board with the redevelopment project.

“We have 54 businesses roughly that Novus has already has contract agreements with. I believe there is about 108, from what I recall, total,” Rose said.

One of the contentious issues surrounding the project for months has been the fate of businesses in Jeffrey Plaza, which is considered the region’s unofficial Chinatown. Many owners are uncertain about their futures if they move.

Rose said they will have their rent payments subsidized over a period of two years. He added those businesses are a key part of University City’s culture.

“We like how University City is today,” he said.

“It’s very diverse both ethnically, economically, religious. We embrace that,” Rose added.

He said the city will work very hard to retain restaurants that bring added diversity to the area.

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Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.