Massive McKee Project Gets Green Light

ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – After more than three years of legal battles, the mega plan to rebuild North St. Louis is no longer “on hold”.

The Missouri Supreme Court gave the final “go ahead” for project, Tuesday.

Northside Renegeration, LLC. Developer, Paul McKee had been checking with the state high court month after month for a decision.

The 6-0, 15 page ruling overturned a lower court ruling in favor of 4 residents who sued to stop McKee from gobbling up so much of North St. Louis.

‘I was born and raised around the corner,’ said North St. Louis native, Maurice Jones.

‘There`s no schools here, no supermarkets, nothing,’ he said.

For the past decade, a new vision has taken shape; a plan to turn desolate neighborhoods into thriving ones; an $8 billion plan to transform 1500 acres over 15 years.

McKee has been buying up the properties, 2200 parcels so far.

The project`s been granted $394 million in tax increment financing, or TIF, through which property tax and sales tax monies will help cover the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure like streets, sewers, electric.

That TIF had the plan bogged down in court.  Residents argued the plan was too vague to qualify for a TIF.

The court struck down that argument.

‘Hallelujah, yes sir.  Yes sir,’ McKee grinned, during a rare interview with Fox 2.  ‘I`m Irish-German, so I don`t quit.  This is my city and I believe in it.  I knew I was doing the right thing.’

City leaders agreed having all of the small, mostly decaying, properties massed into one 1500 acre mega-site, opened doors for city growth that had been closed since the city started shrinking from more than 900,000 residents just after World War II, to roughly a third of that now.

‘There`s enough room up there for a football stadium.  There`s enough room up there for whatever retail you want to have your imagination dream about.  It could be a manufacturing plant,’ said Jeff Rainford, Chief of Staff for Mayor Francis Slay.  ‘Having large, developed sites, free of pollutants will put us in play for deals that up until now, we couldn`t even get in the front door on.’

An attorney for the city argued for the project before the state high court.

‘It`s like Swiss cheese,’ McKee said of the property acquisitions.  ‘You have to fill in the whole to be able to get a contiguous site.  But we`re on our way.  Finally we can have an open for business sign on the north side and we can deliver on what we`ve been promising the people for so long. The North Side we`ll lead St. Louis to greatness again.’

Jones applauded McKee and the Missouri Supreme Court.

‘When you look around there isn`t anything but vacant lots.  Here`s a developer who wants to do something and he has money, he has the connections and the backing to do it,’ he said.
The scope of the project is eye-popping:  1 million square feet of manufacturing; 3 million square feet of office space; 2 million square feet of retail, with 3,000 new housing units.

McKee would not be more specific, but said the project would start turning before the end of the year.

Follow Andy Banker on Twitter and Facebook:
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Email: andy.banker@tvstl.com

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