A former landowner in St. Louis' Bottle District who sued and won a total of $3.5 million for property taken by eminent domain more than five years ago has finally been fully paid.
A check for $2.28 million arrived Thursday, court officials said Friday.
"Finally they put up the white flag," said lawyer Robert Denlow, who represents the former landowner, Alton businessman Bill Simon.
The city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Agency paid $1.1 million of the total and the Bottle District developers paid the rest, said spokeswoman Ivie Clay. Clay could not immediately determine Friday afternoon whether the city would eventually be repaid by the developers.
A reporter's call to the Bottle District developers was referred to Clayco, where officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Denlow said that the years of delay in the case added roughly $600,000 in interest to the total owed.
Denlow said that Simon was "very happy" that the controversy was over, but had suffered by having the property taken and then being denied the full value.
Simon had originally been offered $523,000 for the roughly two acres of land located at the northern edge of downtown and bordered by Carr, Sixth, Biddle and Seventh streets.
Simon turned down the initial offer for the land, which he bought in 1999 as a long-term investment for his three daughters and has used for parking and Rams tailgating. Simon used the parking proceeds for charity. Simon
The LCRA filed an eminent domain suit in September 2004, intending to use the land for the now-stalled Bottle District development. As part of that process, a commission decided that Simon's property was worth $1,260,675 and that's what he was paid.
But a jury in 2008 thought the property was really worth $2,871,200. A judge ordered the LCRA to pay the difference, $1,610,525, plus $317,427 in pre-trial interest and $475 a day in interest after that. The jury's award was upheld on appeal, but the city still balked at paying, saying it was up to the developer. Simon then sued to force the city to pay up.
Denlow said that he recently targeted the city and the assets of the LCRA, suggesting that that had prompted the payment.
Ultimately, the city could not avoid payment by saying that the benefits of the condemnation went to the Bottle District developers, he said.
"Legally, the city owed the money because it's the city that did the condemnation and it's the city that turned the property over to the developer," Denlow said.
City officials could have protected themselves by ensuring that the developer had a letter of credit or some type of bond, he said.
"The real lesson is that the city should not partner up with a developer unless the city is fully protected," he said. "At the end of the day, the taxpayers were liable."