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University City TIF Commission meets on big-box development

"Don't tear down our community to bring in others - you won't have any middle class left," said Damon Page as he comments on presentations given to members of the University City TIF Commission regarding a big-box development on Olive at I-170 on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Photo by Robert Cohen,

Bill McClellan’s May 26 column (“Lifting the veil on Paul McKee’s ‘transformational’ plans”) about how Paul McKee’s north St. Louis developments turned into a fiasco could also apply to University City’s proposed $200 million development around Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170. It is a fiasco in waiting.

The development, which would cover 50 acres, would cause nearly 70 homes to be torn down in a largely African-American area. Many small but thriving businesses on Olive, mostly owned by minorities, would have to relocate. No doubt, a certain number would never reopen.

Hardly anyone has anything good to say about the development. Among comments posted on news articles: “It is unimaginative with a sea of parking facing Olive and McKnight.” “It would completely destroy the character of the neighborhood.” “It is categorically stupid.”

The developer wants $70 million in tax increment financing, and the University City TIF Commission is expected to give it to him. Many residents believe the project was decided some time back in a manner that avoided public input.

Values that have long been cherished in University City — citizen participation, diversity, inclusion and concern for all — are being trampled on by city officials. They are blinded by dollar signs.

The Olive-170 development is a bad deal for residents and small businesses that will get kicked out of their homes and buildings. It is also a bad deal for University City. You don’t build up a city by tearing it down.

Tom Sullivan • University City