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Incentives for entertainment venue in Midtown St. Louis get initial approval

The Armory
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Work is already underway on renovations to the Armory in Midtown St. Louis. Incentives for the project got first-round approval from aldermen on Friday.

A massive entertainment venue and residential development in Midtown is a step closer to receiving needed incentives.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday voted 19-4 with four aldermen voting present to authorize $4.7 million in tax increment financing for the proposed redevelopment of the Armory, a massive building on Market Street near Grand Avenue and Interstate 64. A final vote could come next Friday.

The bills caught the attention of City Hall watchers for several reasons. First, the original proposal for the Armory included an office component, but that fizzled when the proposed anchor tenant, WeWork, launched a failed public offering in 2019.

A second, and to some observers more interesting, reason was the name on the legislation. The Armory is in the 17th Ward, represented by Tina Pihl. But 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis was the sponsor, which many saw as a violation of aldermanic custom.

“If this happens over and over in terms of having a free-for-all, you will not have the strength to advocate for your residents,” Pihl told her colleagues. “This is setting a precedent.”

Finally, the legislation did not include community benefits that Pihl had been negotiating with Green Street, including a contribution of $470,000 to St. Louis Public Schools.

“We need to put something in writing and hold the developer accountable,” Pihl said.

Davis said such an arrangement with SLPS was not legally possible.

“You cannot go out and negotiate for them,” she said. “And it cannot go in a board bill.”

Davis said she stepped in to sponsor the legislation because the incentives are time-sensitive. Work on the renovation is already underway, and the developer hopes to open the entertainment venue in December.

Spire rate increase

Aldermen on Friday also adopted a resolution asking the Missouri Public Service Commission to “closely examine” a rate increase from Spire, the region’s natural gas utility.

The company in April requested a $151.9 million rate increase, or 11.2%. That’s on top of a December increase that boosted rates by about $1.52 a month.

The rate case “poses risk to St. Louis residents and consumers, at a time when they already face increased rates of inflation and energy burden,” the resolution reads.

Aldermen noted that Spire customers already have to pay at least $22 a month before any gas is delivered.

Follow Rachel on Twitter:  @rlippmann

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