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$210 million bond issue for St. Louis convention center finally moving ahead

$210 million bond issue for St. Louis convention center finally moving ahead

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Proposed America's Center upgrades

A new pavilion and green space on Ninth Street would be added just west of a new ballroom in America's Center downtown if the region proceeds with a $175 million plan to upgrade the facilities. (Rendering courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission).

ST. LOUIS — Bonds to finance a $210 million expansion of the America’s Center downtown may finally be issued after months of disagreement over which city office would control the lucrative offering.

The city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment — made up of Mayor Lyda Krewson, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green — on Wednesday approved the financing agreement for the city’s share of the bonds.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council introduced legislation to approve its half of the bonds.

The city and county will each pay $6 million a year from hotel taxes for 40 years. Those payments now service the debt on the Dome at America’s Center, built for the NFL Rams when they played here. That debt will be paid off next year.

The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which operates America’s Center, first unveiled the plan, then billed as a $175 million expansion, in October 2018. The city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority spent years acquiring parking lots and garages along Ninth Street to make way for it.

Wednesday’s action by the city’s top fiscal board came over a year after the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved the financing package. The County Council gave its initial endorsement to the plan back in April.

But Green took issue with Krewson’s plan to use the redevelopment authority to issue bonds rather than the St. Louis Municipal Finance Corp., which Green’s office has historically controlled. The two offices reached an agreement in late October to allow Green’s financing entity to issue the city’s $105 million half-share of the bonds.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a $750,000 contract with Employment Connection as part of the Cure Violence initiative officials hope will prevent murders in the city's most violent neighborhoods. 

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