ST. LOUIS — Representatives of NorthSide Regeneration, the sweeping and controversial plan to rebuild north St. Louis, on Thursday told the city that the development has nailed down financing for a long-awaited $20 million, three-bed urgent care facility.
The notice, if accepted by the city, will secure $6.42 million in tax subsidies for the project. NorthSide said it will start construction next week.
But it was not clear if the city would accept NorthSide’s letter as proof of financing, as required under the development agreement with the city.
The letter was sent by NorthSide’s lawyers on behalf of two banks, in Union and Washington, about an hour west of St. Louis, and does not detail loan amounts nor include records of the transaction. Instead, the letter, written on Bank of Washington letterhead and signed by a United Bank of Union representative, says simply that the banks “have closed on the loans providing the financing for the road and infrastructure improvements and the hospital facility.”
“All necessary project funding is in place,” it continues, “and disbursement has begun.”
A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office said the city was “reviewing to determine if the letter and what they indicate they have done meet the conditions required by the ordinance.”
NorthSide, first pitched by developer Paul McKee more than a decade ago, once envisioned the renovation of hundreds of acres of north St. Louis. In 2009, the city approved a massive tax increment financing district for McKee.
McKee first proposed the three-bed hospital in 2017, and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen last year amended the agreement to add new investors and extend deadlines.
In all, Eric Schmitt has received some $150,000 in donations from Paul McKee’s lawyers, the developer’s family and their companies and the Bank of Washington, which holds much of NorthSide’s debt. Last year, Schmitt settled a state lawsuit on favorable terms to the developer.
But in 2018, Krewson tried to cancel the district due to a lack of progress. McKee’s legal team persuaded aldermen to approve subsidies for the medical facility.
NorthSide missed its first financing deadline, but top city leaders, including Krewson, in February gave the project an extension — to Thursday.
Controversial developer had until Dec. 31 to prove it could finance hospital project. Now it has until August.
Clayton law firm and longtime McKee attorneys Stone, Leyton and Gershman sent the letter to city officials.
NorthSide said the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, which has financed other NorthSide buildings, is also helping to finance this one.
NorthSide is calling it the Homer G. Phillips Hospital, the name of a former north St. Louis facility that trained Black doctors and served Black St. Louisans during segregation, and says it is just the first stage of the project.
NorthSide and Ponce Health Sciences University, a private, for-profit institution with a main campus in Puerto Rico, announced a second phase in March: A teaching hospital for the planned $80 million Ponce Health Sciences University MD Medical School.
Plans call for construction to begin late this year and opening with a freshman class of 150 in fall of 2022.
The school has a satellite location downtown in the Globe Building owned by Stone Leyton principal Steve Stone. Dr. David Lenihan, president of Ponce Health Sciences University, will serve as board chairman of the new three-bed urgent care.
Lenihan is also a Republican candidate for Missouri State Senate in south St. Louis County’s first district.
If completed, the hospital would be the second NorthSide project.
In April 2019, NorthSide opened the GreenLeaf grocery store and a gas station just north of downtown on Tucker Boulevard.
Northside also credits its land assemblage — for which the state gave it $43 million in tax credits under a controversial and now lapsed program — was instrumental in drawing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to north St. Louis.
The Ponce university health campus is planned across Cass Avenue from the NGA, on the former Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex site.
Under its development agreement with the city, NorthSide must complete the three-bed urgent care by Sept. 30, 2021.