St. Louis aldermen approve NorthSide plan -

St. Louis aldermen approve NorthSide plan

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- City leaders voted Friday to support a developer's proposal to transform crumbling sections of north St. Louis by building new business centers and homes. The 15-year project has been touted as including green parks, green energy and more.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed two related measures Friday, designating a redevelopment area and adopting a redevelopment plan.

The votes weren't the final step in the process, but "a big first step," said St. Louis Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin, who represents neighborhoods that could see significant improvement from the project. "Not only can we do it, we deserve it," she said of the project, one of the nation's largest urban redevelopment efforts.

A Missouri-based developer, Paul McKee, has been the driving force behind NorthSide Regeneration, a roughly $8 billion project to redevelop parts of a 1,500-acre area. He quietly bought up property for about five years, upsetting some residents who felt he wasn't being up front about his plans and wasn't doing enough to maintain the property. They felt they weren't getting satisfaction as grass grew high and vacant buildings fell further into disrepair.

Two aldermen on Friday, Antonio French and Terry Kennedy, said they couldn't support the city measures because of McKee's approach before he opened up about his plans earlier this year. French said other developers are buying property elsewhere in north St. Louis, and he wants them to know they should be direct about their plans and consider residents already living in the area.

"The way that this was done damages these neighborhoods in the short run," French said.

Ford-Griffin said the plan requires grass to be cut once every 30 days, vacant buildings to be secured according to city code and a designated person the public can call with concerns. Developers must collaborate with neighborhood organizations to recruit minority contractors on the project, she said.

McKee still needs to come back to city officials with specifics on his first phase of development. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The plan that passed Friday generally approved tax increment financing, in which taxes generated by new development will help pay for infrastructure in the neighborhoods being redeveloped.

McKee has said he needs the city to guarantee part of the roughly $390 million in tax increment financing for the project, but aldermen have not yet been asked to consider that issue. He's also seeking state tax credits and federal funds for aspects of the project.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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