Jacology: TIF’s And Northwest Plaza

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(KPLR) - It all started when middle class people, mainly middle class white people began moving to the suburbs. Cities across the United States were stuck with acres of abandoned, blighted properties. They used urban renewal to bulldoze them. But that left a problem. You had a lot of vacant land. But nothing was being developed on it.

So folks in California came up with an idea in the 1970's. It was called tax increment financing. TIF for short. The idea was simple. You lure private developers to come into an area. You tell them that once their development is up and running, they get to keep a chunk, an increment of the taxes it generates. You tell them they can keep 100 million or 200 million or 300 million in taxes.

One problem. To do this, the government has to declare an area is blighted. Which was a no-brainer in a lot of inner city areas. But then developers began demanding TIF's to build in locations where they were going to build anyway. Take the re-development of west county center. The city of Des Peres used a TIF. To do that, they declared parts of Des Peres blighted. Des Peres, with a median household income of $106,000 dollars, is many things. Blighted ain't one of them.

Which brings us to another mall. The mall previously known as Northwest Plaza in St. Louis County. It was one of the area's first super malls. Now it's abandoned. The suburb of St. Ann is holding a public hearing Wednesday on a TIF for a developer to come in and try to re-hab the zombie mall.

There are lots of cases where a TIF should never had been used. But northwest plaza seems exactly what TIF designers had in mind originally. Let's see if government and developers can get it right this time.

I'm Charles Jaco and that's Jacology.