Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Louis CBA campaign takes shape

People living in and around the "massive" NorthSide redevelopment site in St. Louis have begun a CBA campaign, seeking to have the developer's promises put into writing and to obtain important development amenities. More than 9,000 people live in the redevelopment area, and neighborhood activists say that they should "get more of a say in the $8 billion, 15-year project".

Paul McKee and McEagle Properties, LLC, the NorthSide developers, have not yet begun to negotiate with the North Side Community Benefits Alliance. Although McKee has met with small neighborhood groups to hear their concerns, he believes that "bringing an outside third party to the table would complicate matters.... There can't be two different conversations going on at the same time.... You have to be respectful of the aldermen and the political process."

The alderman who represents most of the area, April Ford-Griffin, said that the city will want to know that the developer understands the community's concerns. However, she explained that the aldermen can't put too many specifics in the project plan, since much of the development will be determined by the market.

The North Side Community Benefits Alliance lists its priorities on its website, although it has yet to draw up a formal list of desired community benefits:
Community Development

Community-Centered Planning and Development: We want public meetings where the developer comes to us, listens to us, and creates a plan that includes our input. Citizens must be part of the decision-making process from conception through completion.

Prioritize Affordable Residential Development: We expect that the City of St. Louis will pass inclusionary zoning ordinances, with a set percentage of affordable new construction or rehabbed homes and multi-family housing, including setting aside foreclosed homes as affordable housing opportunities.

Protection from Eminent Domain Abuse: We expect there to be no eminent domain of occupied housing, whether owned or rented, or of operating businesses or institutions or their holdings. Any occupied building that becomes vacant will be considered occupied for 18 months for the purposes of eminent domain.

Neighborhood Development Advisory Boards: We propose the creation of Neighborhood Development Advisory Boards to act as liaison to the St. Louis Preservation Board, so that the Preservation Board understands and acts on the community standards of each affected neighborhood.

Neighborhood Control of Preservation and Demolition: We propose an immediate moratorium on demolition north of Delmar, and meaningful neighborhood control of preservation and demolition.

Predevelopment Neighborhood Maintenance Fund: We expect that if the city funds or finances a "transformational" development project, it should also establish a Predevelopment Neighborhood Maintenance Fund to protect existing property values in the development footprint and ensure that current residents are not dislocated as the result of negligent property maintenance during the transformation process.

Protections of Housing Conservation Program: We call on the city to rectify the Housing Conservation District ordinance so that our beloved North Side neighborhoods are no longer redlined from city services such as proactive lead abatement, effective problem property policies, building division code enforcement, and pre-occupancy health and safety inspections for all properties.

Assistance to Stay or Relocate: We understand that even the most careful development can bring rising costs to current property owners and renters who wish to stay. We expect that any tax abatements offered to developers will also be offered to current property owners and that rent ceilings will be established for current renters.

Ecomonic Development

Affordable Commercial/Retail Development: We expect that the City of St. Louis will pass inclusionary zoning ordinances, with a set percentage of affordable commercial and retail spaces to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that will make our neighborhoods successful long-term.

First Source Employment Guarantee: We expect that local residents will have access to the new jobs created within the redevelopment area.

Local Needs Guarantee: We expect a city mandate that any developer proposing to transition our communities will attract and/or create businesses that address local needs.

Street Grid and Transit-oriented Development: We believe that maintaining and restoring our walkable urban street grid is essential to residential and commercial development. Public transit routes should also be considered as a fundamental part of any urban plan.

Equitable Investment of Public Funds: Before local, state and federal funds are allocated to private development projects, we advocate for a citywide impact analysis to ensure we don't continue, as a region, to simply enrich the more politically powerful areas of our community at the expense of the less powerful areas. We expect transparency, accountability, and equitable development from companies and non-profit organizations receiving taxpayer funding or financing.

Equitable Distribution of CDBG Funds: We expect that the use of Community Development Block Grant funds in North St. Louis will meet the "Four Tests" to show a measurable benefit to low- to moderate- income (LMI) residents: 1) housing benefit, where at least 51 percent of the created housing is affordable and occupied after construction by LMI residents; 2) job creation or retention, where 51 percent of the jobs are filled or available to LMI residents; 3) the limited clientele test, where a service benefits a specific group that is 51 percent LMI; or 4) the area benefit test, where general improvements in a primarily residential area are clearly designed to primarily meet the needs of 51 percent of area LMI residents.
Pictures and information about the history and architecture of the North Side (which is home to many rundown but beautiful historical buildings) can be found at the Built St. Louis site.

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