Local developer asks for $50 million more in tax funding for north side project

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by Craig Cheatham / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on February 12, 2013 at 7:59 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 10:22 PM

(KMOV.com) -- Paul McKee is one of the most prominant and influential developers in the St. Louis area. His company has also been a key player in trying to turn two different airports into hubs for international cargo. He has his critics, too.

McKee has conducted business at taxpayer’s expense, and many are wondering what they have to show for it.

To date, his company McEagle Property has received nearly $42 million in tax credits. Mckee says he sold those tax credits for 89 cents on the dollar to investors.

The investors used the credits to lower their tax bills, and McKee used the cash to offset his costs. Now, he’s in jefferson city, pushing hard to collect the tax breaks he claims to need to keep the massive northside project alive.

Years ago, McKee began buying northside property in secret, then, when it was finally revealed he was the owner of hundreds of rundown properties, he came under fire.

Eventually, McKee came forward and explained how he wanted to turn the low-end properties into a massive residential and office development that he insists will transform much of the city’s northside.

“We believe the northside is the gateway to the future of greatness for the city,” he said in a community meeting in 2009.

But critics weren’t satisfied, and many north side residents were upset that one man owned so many of their neighborhood properties; with plans to tear them down.

Mckee was also sued by residents, and those court actions increased the cost of doing business and delayed the project. One case is still before the Missouri Supreme Court.

Monday, McKee told News 4 the project will die if he doesn’t get an extension on tax credits that could bring another $50 million in taxpayer funding to his project. He gave the impression he expected to get the funding,

If the project fails, it wouldn’t be the first time McKee failed on a major effort in St. Louis.

He spent $683,000 on consultants who tried to turn MidAmerica Airport into an international cargo hub. Then, after disagreements with St. Clair County and a nasty lawsuit against the county, McKee pulled out of the MidAmerica project in 2007.

Months later, McKee and his associates pushed a similar plan with the same consultant at Lambert Airport, a propposal that could have brought millions of tax incentives to his developments near the airport, but that plan failed, too.

In the Metro East, a McKee development is off and running, also partly due to millions of dollars in tax incentives. But it appears the project in Shiloh, Illinois will avoid the massive headaches and lawsuits that have plagued McKee’s dream project on the northside, a dream that has become a developer’s nightmare at a major cost to taxpayers.

Matt Sczesny is in Jefferson City and will have the outcome of Monday’s meeting and what lawmakers have to say about the millions of dollars on the line for this project.  That will be tonight on News 4 at 10.

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