TIF panel approves controversial University City redevelopment plan

University City is looking to add a major development to the western section of Olive Boulevard, but not everyone is happy. Credit: KMOV

University City is looking to add a major development to the western section of Olive Boulevard, but not everyone is happy.

University City put out a request for proposals last year to develop the section of Olive Boulevard just east of I-170. The goal they say is to create a vibrant and stable neighborhood in a part of the city that has long been neglected.

But those that work and live in that area disagree with that description.

“It’s not just a house, it is my home and I don’t want to go anywhere,” said Jinette Anderson.

Anderson lives on one of the residential streets within this redevelopment plan. The developer Novus has put together a plan that includes a big box store yet to be named, a luxury apartment building, office space and several other retail and restaurant spaces.

Their plan says development named University Place will serve as an “entryway to the City.”

Novus has developed several other shopping centers in Kirkwood, Webster Groves and Rock Hill and they hope to create a unique corridor for University City.

But if you drive down Olive Boulevard you’ll find a lot of uniqueness. You can jump from one international cuisine to the next without leaving the strip mall.

“We have really loyal customers, people who love the Caribbean, who love Caribbean food,” said Easton Romer who owns De Palm Tree Restaurant.

For 13 years, Romer has served up what his customers call the best jerk chicken around and he hates to say goodbye.

“Truthfully, heartbroken. This isn’t the first time hard working people developed a neighborhood and then someone comes in a demolishes it,” said Romer.

But University City leaders say they hope to help businesses within the development plan relocate.

“Our goal is to not lose any business so our goal is to see what other options are,” said Gregory Rose, University City’s city manager.

They could have an option to move back into the redevelopment but that would mean remaining closed for quite a long time.

While Anderson says she was not thrilled with the offer presented by the developer for her home, others in the neighborhood were.

Rose said they do not plan to use eminent domain but it is on the table.

Novus went before University City’s TIF council Wednesday night to present their plan to get tax incentives. The project could cost nearly $190 million and they are seeking up to $70.5 million in tax breaks.

But Rose says money derived from the TIF will be used to go back into projects along the Olive corridor.

If Novus’ project is approved, they hope to start construction in 2019 with an opening date set for 2020.

For more details and to look at the proposal go here.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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