ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – A plan by a St. Louis alderman is in the works to revitalize Natural Bridge Avenue in North City in the hopes of creating jobs and lowering crime.
Take a drive from Fairground Park west to Shreve on Natural Bridge and you’ll pass vacant lots, boarded up buildings and a few liquor stores. Alderman John Collins-Muhammad who represents the 21st Ward says the community deserves better.
“There is nowhere for the people to go in our own community, nowhere to get a bite to eat or buy a dress or a tie or not even a birthday card for their mother if they want to,” said Collins-Muhammad who was elected in April.
He’s proposed a redevelopment area to encourage infill development and rehabilitation of the current buildings through a 15 year tax abatement.
“If we don’t have any development in our community you see a suffering community and that’s what we’re in right now,” he said.
He points to places like South Grand who have successfully turned streets into shopping and dining destinations thanks in part to tax incentives.
While there has been heated debate recently in St. Louis about TIFs and tax abatement. The group Team TIF who has raised many questions about transparency and the frequency of giving away tax payer money, they said this is a good example of it’s use.
“While I don’t specifics of the whole project, this is exactly the kind of place where it should be used,” said Glenn Burleigh, a member of the Team TIF group.
Collins-Muhammad says its going to take incentives to draw in business owners and developers.
“It’s just an investment, it’s an investment saying we care, people in my community want a place to eat to, people in my community want a place to go get gas.”
Already he says he’s talked to a laundry mat and other retailers who plan to move back to the shopping center at Newstead and Natural Bridge.
Murphy Benard is the manager at the Metro PC Store. It’s one of the few businesses left in the shopping complex.
“Anything that’s positive and helpful will be good,” said Bernard.
He said he doesn’t have a full count on what it could cost, but says it wouldn’t put a new burden on tax payers.
“There’s two sides, you have to be fiscally responsible but you also have to be socially responsible,” said the Alderman.
A Blighted Study and Redevelopment plan went before the Planning Commission Wednesday night and Collins-Muhammad hopes to put a full plan before the Board of Aldermen in the next few months.
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