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McKee unveils $5.4 billion redevelopment at meeting Thursday

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2009 - By the numbers, Paul McKee's redevelopment project for north St. Louis seems staggering.

The head of McEagle Properties said the plan, which he hopes will be accomplished over 15 years, will transform about 500 acres of land to include 10,000 new homes and bring 22,000 jobs, plus the 43,000 required to build it. The price tag of $5.4 billion would include at least $1.1 billion in aid from Washington, Jefferson City and City Hall. McKee says he has already spent $46 million of his own money on the project.

The details, first reported by the Post-Dispatch and confirmed by McKee Thursday morning, should also be able to take advantage of expanded tax breaks passed by the Missouri Legislature last week, pending approval by Gov. Jay Nixon.

"It's very difficult to get people and banks to invest in things today," McKee said in a telephone interview. "The tax breaks are not going to shorten that 15 years, but they're sure going to give it a jump start."

After quietly acquiring property in the area for years, McKee has been raising his profile in recent weeks. McEagle unveiled some details of the plan in an invitation-only meeting last Monday, with no media allowed. Thursday night, a wider audience will learn more about the plan, then discuss it. McKee said the full presentation should be available online soon.

The project has been called Blairmont or NorthSide in various published reports, but McKee said Thursday it still has no official name. He referred to it informally as the regeneration project.

"We will come up with a new name at some point in time," he said. "It's just too early for that."

After Thursday night's meeting, the next official step is a formal application to the city for development rights in the area, what McKee said is the beginning of a process that will last several months. He also will ask for tax increment financing in an amount he said was still being determined.

Included in the project, McKee confirmed, will be:

  • Four areas that will bring retail, office and light industrial jobs to the area, which is bounded by Delmar, Grand, Palm and Interstate 70, primarily in the 5th and 19th wards.
  • New infrastructure, including sewers, sidewalks, streets, parks and green space.
  • Renewable energy sources to provide power to the newly built neighborhoods.
  • Police and fire stations, community centers and a trolley line that would connect with MetroLink.
  • Plans to refigure highway exits off Interstate 64 at 22nd Street and the new bridge over the Mississippi River to help connect the redevelopment project with other parts of the region.

Michael Allen of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis said that two obstacles stand in the way of translating McKee's vision into reality: government involvement and community support.
"McKee has a key piece of the puzzle, the vision and the ownership," Allen said. "But the incentive and planning side really rests with city government. I will be interested to see as this thing plays out how city government becomes pro-active in their response.

"The community obviously has expressed lots of dissatisfaction so far. All of these pieces have to fit together to make this a successful project, something that is not just a real estate model but is truly transformative."

McKee's McEagle Properties, based in O'Fallon, Mo., is best known for its WingHaven development in St. Charles County. It also did the NorthPark office, manufacturing and distribution project east of Lambert Field. McKee has played a major role in organizing the effort to lure a freight hub for China to St. Louis.

Thursday night's community meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Central Baptist Church, 2842 Washington Ave.

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.