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Kroenke, partner want tax dollars for huge Maryland Heights development

Kroenke, partner want tax dollars for huge Maryland Heights development

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A business partner of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is seeking to develop 1,800 acres of Maryland Heights flood plain into a vast retail, entertainment, office, residential and sports district.

The City Council on Thursday night began the formal process that would allow for tax incentives to aid in the redevelopment, voting to advertise a request for proposals.

The development would be one of the largest, if not the largest, mixed-use ones in the region.

Kroenke attorney Alan Bornstein, a key member of the billionaire sports mogul’s staff, pitched the project to a Maryland Heights economic development committee in January, just days after he helped move the Rams to California.

Officials insisted on Thursday that the city would be just as open to any other proposal as Bornstein’s.

But Bornstein is the first since 2008 to come forward and offer to redevelop the area, even though the city has been trying to redevelop it for more than a decade, City Administrator Tim Krischke said.

Krischke said he thinks it’s a good thing for the city that Bornstein has shown an interest in redeveloping the area.

After it’s done collecting all the proposals for the site, the council could decide to pitch in tax incentives to aid in the redevelopment — a likely move, considering smaller redevelopment projects for the city have gotten incentives.

At the January meeting, Bornstein told the committee that he already owned 425 acres of the proposed redevelopment area, had an additional 230 acres under contract and was in discussion with property owners to secure the remaining 1,100, according to meeting minutes.

He also suggested that the project would require significant tax incentives, saying that a “public/private partnership would be necessary,” according to the minutes.

Krischke said there’s a good chance the City Council will eventually decide to dole out incentives for whatever redevelopment project is chosen.

“It’s premature to say,” he said. “This is an oddity. This is an extra-large project.”

The city’s last big redevelopment project, a rebuilding of a campus for World Wide Technology, was significantly smaller, and it got three different kinds of incentives: tax-increment financing, transportation district funding and community improvement district funding, Krischke added.

An 1,800-acre development also would be far larger in size than similar developments in the St. Louis area.

NorthPark, by developer Paul McKee’s McEagle along with Clayco, covers 550 acres in north St. Louis County. The project includes Express Scripts facilities, a hotel and a million-square-foot distribution center under construction for Schnuck Markets. NorthPark is getting tax-increment financing.

Also getting TIF help is Premier 370, a business park in St. Peters. The project, which has struggled to attract development, covers 850 acres, including a city park and a 140-acre recreational lake.

J. Wayne Oldroyd, Maryland Heights’ director of community development, said the Maryland Heights request-for-proposals will be advertised in St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago. Proposals are due by April 29.

It is possible another company could submit and win the council’s vote to become the district’s master developer, Oldroyd said. But that company would then have to work with Bornstein to get hold of the land, or hustle to persuade farmers to sell to it to them instead of Bornstein.

Kroenke, Oldroyd said, is an investor in Bornstein’s proposal. But Oldroyd didn’t think Kroenke’s recent run-ins with Rams fans and public officials will cause a problem for the development. “I do not believe that’s an issue in Maryland Heights,” he said.

The city has been working on the plan for 15 years, Oldroyd said. The Howard Bend Levee was built to protect the adjacent farmland and allow for just such a project.

Oldroyd said he had never heard of another development of this size. “It’s a major development for the region, sure,” he said.

The idea, he said, is to build a “town center” of sorts, with retail, office space, entertainment and sports venues — yes, perhaps even a Major League Soccer stadium.

“You have access,” he said, “and the land to create a facility like that.”

Bornstein did not reply to phone calls seeking comment.

Only three people came to Thursday’s council meeting to express concern about the redevelopment and Bornstein’s proposal.

David Stokes, the incoming director for the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, said he thinks it’s “preposterous” that the city would think of allowing such a project in a flood plain and support it with tax money, especially in light of the damage done in parts of the region by flooding in December.

“The idea that you would subsidize 1,800 acres of flood plain development, well, it’s always a terrible idea,” he said.

Mayor Mike Moeller said he’s not concerned that the flood plain would be in danger because it’s protected by a levee. The city’s been set on putting some kind of development in that area for a long time, he added.

Another Bornstein and Kroenke project already seeking TIF help is Westside Marketplace in Rolla, Mo. TIF of about $30 million is included in the $92 million proposed retail development covering 150 acres, said City Administrator John Butz.

The Phelps County TIF Commission is holding public hearings on the request and could make a recommendation to the County Commission by late winter, Butz said.

He said Thursday that at a hearing Jan. 27, a Rams fan expressed concern about the “detrimental effect” Kroenke had brought on St. Louis and Missouri by relocating his NFL team to Los Angeles.

Tim Bryant of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Kristen Taketa is the K-12 education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Related to this story

Tax increment financing is a popular and often used economic development tool that unfortunately is being used and abused to the detriment of taxpayers in many St. Louis municipalities. There is no shortage of economic impact studies — from the left, the right and those in the middle — supporting TIF reform in the St. Louis region. They correctly conclude that, most of the time, the only winners in a TIF controversy are developers of suburban box stores who are allowed to defray costs and risk on the backs of taxpayers.

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