ST. LOUIS • The Board of Aldermen on Friday granted the St. Louis Cardinals and the team’s development partner, Cordish Co., $16 million in tax incentives as the team looks to build a second phase of downtown’s Ballpark Village.
Included in the package is a 1 percent sales tax on purchases made within Ballpark Village.
Friday’s 16-7 vote came near the end of a three-hour meeting in which several aldermen left early, getting a head start on their three-week holiday break. The bill needed 15 votes to pass.
The $16 million in tax incentives comes on top of the $49 million the city granted the Cardinals in 2012 as part of Ballpark Village’s first phase.
The second phase is expected to be a $220 million expansion, including an office building, a retail center and a 29-story apartment tower. Work on the projects could be finished by early 2019.
Last month, Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III defended the team’s request for public help. He said the project wouldn’t be feasible financially without the tax incentives.
“There are a ton of infrastructure requirements and the rents you can get from those uses in the current markets do not justify the investment to the developer in this current environment,” he said. “So some incentive is required to get the return to an acceptable level to make the project a go.”
With Cardinals executives looking on during Friday’s board meeting, 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie repeated critiques he’s made for the past several weeks — namely asserting that the city is misplacing its priorities in granting tax breaks to a billion-dollar organization.
Sharon Tyus, the city’s 1st Ward alderman, called on the Cardinals to build it without taxpayer money.
She questioned whether $16 million in tax incentives would truly be a deal-breaker for an organization worth an estimated $1.4 billion.
“This may be good for downtown and the Cardinals, but it’s not good for the city as a whole,” she said.
The bill’s sponsor, Jack Coatar, 7th Ward alderman, has argued that the Cardinals are, essentially, creating a new revenue stream for the city.
By turning what are currently parking lots into apartments, offices and shops, the city stands to gain millions in new tax revenue, he has said.
Additionally, the St. Louis Development Corp., a city agency that determines which projects are worthy of receiving taxpayer help, graded phase two as a viable project.
SLDC estimates that new tax revenue generated once the project is completed will add roughly $5 million to the city’s general fund in the first 10 years. The city’s school district stands to gain more than $3 million during the same time frame.
The bill also contains an idea proposed by mayoral candidate and 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French: $250,000 in tax revenue generated annually by Ballpark Village will be diverted into the newly created Small Business Grant and Loan Fund.
Money in the fund will be used to provide grants and low-interest loans to help new small businesses open in low-income areas.
Mayor Francis Slay is expected to sign the bill.