Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday PD details McEagle's grass roots approach

An article by Tim Logan in today's Sunday Post Dispatch details the ongoing effort of McEagle to build community support for its proposed NorthSide plan.

The article describes a low key, high impact effort whereby McEagle principal Paul McKee is holding ongoing small group meetings with neighborhood residents, businesses, and elected officials. The neighborhood meetings are leading up to scheduled public hearings starting later this month where the city's TIF Commission and Board of Aldermen will consider McEagle's request for a record-setting TIF agreement.

Logan details a slow but steady conversion of near northside stakeholders in support of the McEagle plan. Concerns remain, especially with regard to ongoing property maintenance and the possibility of eminent domain, but overall, according to the story, residents, business owners, and elected officials are growing in their support of the plan.

Logan notes that McEagle's website has not been updated in months, and that the twitter and online discussion forum are inactive. Given the growing traction for the NorthSide plan, without the use of an active internet-driven, electronic community engagement effort, it appears that McEagle planners have concluded that their best approach to winning support for the NorthSide plan is by following the direct route of holding steady, face-to-face meetings with locals.

The article does not go into specifics regarding historic preservation or the definition of legacy buildings targeted for preservation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NorthSide Updates

It's been quite some time since we've updated this blog, so just to let everyone know this site is still active, we are giving a brief update post.

The TIF Commission of the City of St. Louis set a date in September for a public hearing. The hearing was moved to an evening time slot in response to public input. The meeting will be held at 6:30 PM on September 26.

The public's concern over the maintenance of McEagle properties in the redevelopment area remains. The developers are proposing historic rehab and preservation of select older buildings. They are calling these properties "legacy properties".

To date there has not been a list of legacy properties made available for public review.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Northsideregeneration forum taken over by spam

Spam posts have taken over McEagle's northsideregeneration forum site.

Efforts to open a community dialogue at McEagle's Northside Regeneration website forum page have failed to develop. This week, the only activity on the forum has been spam posts about things like how to catch a cheating spouse or how to increase the income of your own personal business.

Since the site went live on July 7th, there have been no responses from McEagle officials to any questions or comments raised by the community.

In the meantime, community residents continue their push for a local set of redevelopment goals. Representatives of the Community Benefits Alliance appeared on KWMU's St. Louis On The Air program with Don Marsh yesterday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Drug ring busted in JVL area

The Post Dispatch is reporting that the St. Louis Police Department arrested 14 violent offenders accused of operating a crack cocaine ring in the JVL neighborhood, site of much of the proposed NorthSide redevelopment.

Meanwhile, an anonymous commenter at the Ecology of Absence blog is suggesting there is a connection between Paul McKee's efforts to improve the community and these arrests. Does anyone have information to validate this claim?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New organizations/forum groups established

The NorthSide plan is generating lots of online interest.

Hat tip to Ecology of Absence for alerting the community at large to the "NorthSide Community Benefits Alliance" group.

Another group, Summer of Solutions, has produced a lot of online content and discussions about the NorthSide plan.

Both forums are linked on the right side of this page.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What is "OSB"?

People interested in the advancement of St. Louis need to keep up on the terminology.

St. Louis has lots of acronym named organizations, but lately I've read about one involved in the NorthSide effort that I've never heard of before. It's called "OSB" and it sounds like it has something to do with property maintenance.

Can anyone explain what "OSB" stands for and what it does? Is it a public or private entity? A division of the City of St. Louis or McEagle affiliate? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!

Mum's the word at McEagle's NorthSide forum

So far there have been practically no comments or questions from the public nor official responses from McEagle reps at the NorthSide project forum. Not much of a forum yet. If you care about what happens, post to the forum!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Discussion forum live at NorthSide website

Initial discussions concern property maintenance and community engagement. Must register to participate in forums.

McEagle's NorthSide forum site

Internet finds

Click on this link and scroll down the page for views of two interesting before and after scenes from within the NorthSide redevelopment area.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Clemens House new city headquarters for McEagle?

It's a possibility. The Clemens House needs a use and at some point, McEagle might want a local office for the NorthSide project.

The Clemens House would be a great location, in the heart of the area in a rehabbed historic building. Or maybe something smaller, but local to the neighborhood?

A local office would give the developers a place to house maintenance crews, a management office, a conference room, and, important for community engagement, a convenient location for St. Louisans to meet and work with the NorthSide developers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

STL: Most change resistent and nonprogressive US city?

Reading the comments section following Tim Logan's latest Post Dispatch article on NorthSide sheds light on one of NorthSide's greatest challenges: St. Louis' resistence to change.

Half the comments having nothing to do with the project, but rather the historic problems of north St. Louis. Many St. Louisans do not believe anyone would move to North City.

While NorthSide faces challenges of obtaining substantial private financing, community support, and political support, how does the project overcome the negative stigma of North City?

Monday, June 29, 2009

McEagle releases NorthSide YouTube video, launches project website

McEagle has released a new YouTube video about the NorthSide project. In the 7 minute, 41 second video, Paul McKee describes his intentions for the Clemens House, his anticipated construction start date, and the need for community, financial, and political support.

YouTube NorthSide video, chapter one

McEagle has also launched a project website:

The website is still under construction. Check back periodically as the site becomes fully operational.

Too big to fail?

When magazines and universities do their 2009 year-in-review lists, one of the things they're sure to write is that we never want to hear the expression "too big to fail" again. What with Citi, AIG, Chrysler and GM, we've had our fill.

But what about McEagle and NorthSide? Are they "too big to fail" as well? Maybe by December, St. Louis will be getting tired of NorthSide. Or maybe more people will be on board with the project. We're just going to have to wait to see what happens.

Tim Logan of the Post Dispatch has a story in today's paper detailing more of the background on the proposed NorthSide plan. Logan poses the question: is NorthSide too big to fail? There's no guarantee the project will be a success, but if it's not, we all lose.

What are the ways you see the project succeeding, and what potential challenges do you see getting in the way?

Friday, June 26, 2009

NorthSide's first course

Not much has been heard from NorthSide's promoters in the past few weeks. We have never received a return call from the community engagement office. The developers are most likely working to get some of their first initiatives off the ground.

If you were advising McEagle, what key first steps would you recommend? What specific tasks would give you added comfort with the project? How does McEagle start broadening community support for their vision?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

McEagle seeking stimulus funds

The Post Dispatch ran an in depth article Sunday, June 21, about McEagle's push for stimulus funding for the NorthSide development. The article pointed out the many competing projects seeking funding, and the difficulty of making the case for NorthSide as a shovel ready project.

McKee is hoping the city prioritizes NorthSide for stimulus funds, which he says will reduce the amount of local funding required to rebuild infrastructure in the project area.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Other mega project comparisons

San Francisco's Mission Bay:

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency info

Marketing info

Mission Bay Wikipedia site

San Francisco's Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard:

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency info

Marketing info

Bayview - Hunter's Point Wikipedia entry

Denver's Stapleton:

Discover Stapleton

Marketing info

Analysis of the built environment

What are the lessons learned from these projects which might aid the NorthSide effort?

NorthSide's McEagle raises the bar

The fact that McEagle has spent tens of millions of dollars on predevelopment costs for the proposed NorthSide project demonstrates that the city's overall position in encouraging redevelopment efforts is strengthened.

For years, it was commonplace for developers in St. Louis to ask the city to put in up front money and assume predevelopment risk. McEagle's predevelopment investment in NorthSide demonstrates renewed private sector confidence in the city of St. Louis, and raises the bar on other potential developers considering city projects.

Developers will be expected to have their money and time invested in a project before the city considers their plans. McKee has well established NorthSide in this regard.

With reportedly $46,000,000 in out of pocket costs already invested, McEagle is very much at risk on NorthSide. With so much private capital invested, the city has a great opportunity to influence the planning and implementation of the project.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Radio contact

The two calls I have placed to the community engagement coordinator for the NorthSide project have not been returned. When calling, I requested copies of the notes from the small group breakout sessions and a copy of the power point presentation from the May 21, 2009 community meeting.

While I am still waiting for feedback from project representatives, perhaps others have had responses. If you have dialed the community engagement telephone line for NorthSide, please relay your experiences here. For this thread, anonymous comments will be removed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

"Atlantic Yards" is a multi-billion dollar urban redevelopment proposal, this one located in Brooklyn, New York. Follow the "Atlantic Yards Report Blog" for similarities and comparisons to the NorthSide project in St. Louis.

To explore best practices and lessons learned from other large scale redevelopment efforts, please forward information and/or links about such initiatives and we will add them to the links section here at NorthSide blog.

Hat tip to Michael Allen for the referral to the Atlantic Yards Report.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Divergent views

Last Thursday, Paul McKee, principal for McEagle Properties, developers of NorthSide, was in the studio for an on-air interview at KMOX. Mr. McKee gave a broad overview of his vision for NorthSide, emphasizing the job creation oppportunities, the scale of the redevelopment, and his passion for the total project.

The hosts were guest hosts filling in for KMOX regular morning show host, Charlie Brennan. A caller congratulated McKee for his vision and willingness to attempt such an ambitious project in north St. Louis. Then he went on to chide Charlie Brennan for apparently criticizing some of the McEagle's activities on the north side.

A project of such massive scale is bound to generate controversy, concern, and a variety of opinions, both pro and con. What is the role of critics in this process?

Are they naysayers, unwilling to take a chance on the city, or back McEagle in its ambitious efforts? Or do they raise important issues to be addressed as the project moves forward? What will come of their concerns?

There is an ironic twist to this situation. In general, St. Louisans are loathe to change and are prone to naysaying. There is frequent skepticism about the possibility of good things happening in St. Louis.

Against such a long history of public doubt, Paul McKee presents his NorthSide vision to the general St. Louis community. Pro-city people want good things for St. Louis. They are not against progress. They want population growth, economic development, and reuse of abandoned and underutilized sites.

How does the positive energy of those supporting the revitalization of St. Louis mesh with serious concerns and divergent viewpoints about the NorthSide plan?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Community Involvement or Community Engagement?

There's only so much that can happen through blogging, twitter, and facebook. At some point, you need to be involved if you want to make a difference.

The role of the public in the NorthSide project is still evolving, depending on what happens with the developer's own processes and the City's public hearings and project reviews.

On May 21, approximately 300 people attended a community meeting to learn more about the proposed NorthSide project. The meeting was held at Central Baptist Church, 2843 Washington Avenue.

Speakers included Alderwomen Marlene Davis and April Griffin as well as representatives from the development team. The meeting also marked the beginning of a community engagement process.

The audience was broken up into small groups for roundtable discussions, described on the meeting agenda as "an opportunity for residents to identify concerns, best practices, and unanswered questions".

To organize the small groups, audience members were each given a different colored paper card. I was given a blue card, and instructed to join others from the audience with the same blue cards. Each group was assigned a meeting facilitator. There were probably ten or so such small discussion groups. We were sent to rooms in other parts of the building.

Our group was made up of a mixture of residents from in and around the NorthSide project area as well as from other parts of the St. Louis metro. I felt bad for our facilitator, because when we arrived, the room was not ready for us. There were an insufficient number of chairs and no easel in place, so the facilitator had to search for chairs and figure out a way to prop up his note pad.

We burned about half of our allotted time getting the room ready. By the time the discussion started, participants felt rushed to get their ideas presented. Then we were pressed to narrow our concerns to the top three. Our group did not feel comfortable by such a limit.

When time ran out, we had generated about two pages of notes on a 2' x 3' sheet of paper. After the small group discussions, all the people were reconvened in the main meeting room to hear reports from the facilitators from the various breakout sessions.

Our facilitator went last. His report was very brief and general, with little reference to the specific concerns mentioned from our meeting making it back to the full audience.

A consultant has been hired to facilitate community engagement. The facilitator gave out a phone number to call for follow up information. The facilitator promised that all calls would be returned. The telephone number for the community engagement consultant is (314) 758-4857.

I called the number to request a copy of the Power Point presentation from the meeting and copies of the unfiltered comments from the small group discussions. I have made two calls since May 22, left messages on the answering machine, and to date have not received a return phone call. Since the consultant promised to return all calls, I am keeping faith that my calls will be returned.

In the meantime, the role of the public in the future of the NorthSide project remains unclear. Community engagement and community involvement are not the same thing, especially when community engagement is being carried out by a private developer rather than a public body. At this time, no one knows what the developer plans to do with public input.

Recurring themes surrounding NorthSide to date are accountability and public involvement. The developer's efforts in these areas will be key to building community support for the project.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What a friend said

One of the nice things about the "big small town" feel of St. Louis is that it seems no matter where you go, you're always bumping into someone you know. It's a tight knit community.

So it was last night as I was putting away the music gear from our regular Sunday night ensemble work at a local church. There was a friend from across town sitting with another friend in the middle row of pews.

She's from another parish, so it was surprising to see her there. She wondered what was going on; she arrived at the end of Mass and the place was almost empty. I asked her why she was there, "to see the windows" is what she said. And so we had a few minutes to catch up on things.

She asked me about McKee. It's a topic of conversation, even in far South City. She comes down on the side of historic preservation, so she's concerned about what to expect given the way properties acquired by McEagle for the past few years have been poorly maintained.

It's funny how in this big small town, if you're around long enough, it seems like you get to meeting almost everybody, and knowing just about every building in town. At least it seems that way. Maybe that's just a sign we're all getting older?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sources and Uses

Everyone would agree that the proposed NorthSide project is a project of scale. "Getting to scale" is development terminology for having impact. It takes a lot of small projects to get to scale. Larger projects have the potential to drive change at a faster rate.

The public is getting its first look at the proposed development budget for the Northside project. Here are the numbers as provided in the original TIF application (link)

Every project gets down to the numbers. The numbers make or break any project. Sources must equal uses. If not, the project is financially infeasible. The developer's budget, as described in the TIF application and shown below, balances sources and uses.

Sources of Funds

Debt - $6,043,621,986
Equity - $1,686,440,886
Distressed Area Land Assemblage - $83,600,000
Brownfield Tax Credits - $25,666,039
Historic Tax Credits - $149,700,000
Other Incentives - $69,133,737

Total Sources - $8,058,162,648

Uses of Funds

Studies and Professional Services - $1,343,027,108
Property Acquisition and Relocation - $174,900,000
Site Improvement Costs - $998,800,000
Building Rehabilitation Costs - $299,400,000
New Building Costs $3,733,800,000
Civic Capital Costs $161,500,000
Financing Costs $1,011,164,184
Contingency - $335,571,355

Total Uses - $8,058,162,648

Revenue and Expenses

Looking at the NorthSide budget from a revenue and expense standpoint, projected profits are shown.

Total revenue - $8,309,493,543
Total expenses - $8,058,162,648
Profit before TIF - $251,330,895

TIF funding is necessary in order to increase the profit on the project into an industry standard range.

Profit before TIF - $251,330,895 (3.12% of project cost - better to put money in the bank)

TIF - $409,917,496

Net Profit After TIF - $661,248,391 (8.21% of project cost - within industry standard)

Nothing on the cost side of this budget stands out as particularly unusual. The numbers are big, but percentage wise, all of the costs appear to be proportionate to the scale of the project. Adding the $410 million TIF, the project return on cost is 8.21%, which is typical for real estate developments.

What is noteworthy about the budget are the numbers on the sources of funds side of the budget. Adding the $410 million TIF brings the public financing total to $738 million, or 9% of the total development cost.

Looking at it another way, the project generates just under $11 in private investment for every $1 in public financing. That is leveraging on a huge scale.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Community Involvement

The Post Dispatch cites "accountability" as one of the three main elements for guiding the Northside plan to success.

To date, the public has been largely outside of the process. McEagle has apologized for the secrecy surrounding the project for the past five years, but explains it was necessary in order to be able to purchase the land without driving up prices.

Moving forward, what role should the public have in the project? How does the public build in accountability standards and performance measures?

At the community presentation, part of the plan includes the formation of a self-appointed community foundation purposed with raising money and overseeing certain aspects of the planned revitalization.

What are your impressions and concerns regarding the role of the public in the Northside project, and what types of community involvement do you believe would help increase overall support for the plan?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Maintenance of Blairmont sites

One of the greatest concerns to date regarding McEagle's efforts in North City has been the care and maintenance of its holdings. Through various entities, McEagle has acquired hundreds of parcels both inside and outside of the proposed NorthSide project area.

Parcels include vacant lots and improved sites. Improved sites often include buildings in deteriorated condition. Vacant buildings have been subject to vandalism, brick theft, and possibly arson.

While these sites are vacant and many targeted for reuse, they are also within the context of existing neighborhoods and near the homes of neighborhood residents. Locals are rightfully concerned with how these properties will be maintained until they are set for redevelopment.

Preservation of historic buildings is high on the list of current area residents and others concerned about the planned NorthSide development. How would you rate the issue of overall site maintenance and preservation of historic buildings, and what recommendations would you suggest to the developers of NorthSide?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

PD editorial board suggests keys to NorthSide success

Public investment, private investment, and accountability. Paper calls for regional and state support.

NorthSide - Scale and Phasing

The NorthSide project is big. It is the largest community revitalization effort ever attempted in St. Louis history. In terms of property holdings, including city owned vacant lots and buildings, the project encompasses approximately 2,000 parcels and 500 acres. Given its size, issues of scale and phasing are signficant.

The major land uses of the project include four job creation centers and substantial new housing development. The other key components are infrastructure and utility replacement, and stabilization and rehab of historic properties.

Given the high costs, market realities, and overall project goals, what opportunties and concerns do you have re. the project's scale and phasing?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

NorthSide as Sustainable, "Green" Development

Besides promising $5 billion in planned investments, bringing 43,000 construction jobs, 20,000 permanent jobs and 10,000 new homes, NorthSide is promising to be "sustainable" and "green", both best practices by current development standards.

Green features proposed include a local energy grid, geothermal heating and cooling, public transit improvements, and much more. Plans for sustainability start with a jobs/housing balance within the project boundary.

Taking a severely depressed area of North City and renewing it as a model sustainable, green community has obvious appeal. However to get there, much will need to change. All new sewers will be built, and there will be limited use of eminent domain to assemble sites for job creation. A local taxing district would likely be established to fund community services within the redevelopment area.

For NorthSide to be a leader in green and sustainable community revitalization, what kinds of things would you like to see as part of the plan?

Friday, May 22, 2009

For starters - how do you like the name?

McEagle has named his plans for north city, "NorthSide". What do you think of the name?

At the local level, "NorthSide" is a source of pride. It's a place name attached very specifically to North St. Louis city.

However, at the regional level, the term "north side" does not have universally positive appeal.

For years, North St. Louis has been viewed by many as a heavily segregated, low income, high crime area.

Some people around St. Louis have been heard making statements such as, "I would never go to the north side".

Given the regional scope of the project, what do you think of the name "NorthSide" proposed for this project?

NorthSide Blog

STL Rising has started a companion blog to focus on the proposed "NorthSide" project in the City of St. Louis. NorthSide is a proposed $5.3 billion dollar redevelopment of the city's near north side, located in the 5th, 19th, 6th, and 3rd wards.

The project was officially presented to the general public last evening for the first time. Approximately 300 people attended a meeting where Paul McKee, Jr, and his consultant team described their plans for the roughly 500 acre area.

At this stage, the project is more a vision than a plan. This month, the developers plan to submit a formal proposal to St. Louis Development Corporation with more details, including a tax increment financing proposal.