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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Land Trust" Discussions Should Cover All of the Facts

Expect much discussion of the near northside and "land trust" development in the next few weeks. This discussion could draw attention to the failure of our city's current charter to handle large-scale redevelopment in a responsible and compelling manner. The discussion might point to the wonderful development opportunities inherent in vacant land. The discussion could lead to a plan for action acceptable to many parties.

However, don't be sidetracked to the point that the facts become overwhelmed by rhetoric:

- This is a discussion started by the news that in the last four years Paul J. McKee, Jr. has accumulated over 400 parcels in a concentrated section of north St. Louis.

- Many of the properties of the project are in violation of city ordinances.

- The city of St. Louis fronted thousands of dollars to board up, demolish and otherwise maintain property owned by McKee. While the fees are reimbursed, due diligence for maintenance and security have been lacking.

- The agents working on the acquisition project utilized secretive and questionable means, did not conduct due diligence in answering concerns from neighboring property owners and did not disclose the name of the actually responsible parties to community leaders and property owners.

- The property acquisition has included multiple cases where properties sought by other developers were purchased -- including properties in known redevelopment areas.

- City officials have not yet responded to concerns of citizens and community leaders who have asked "why has this been allowed to happen?"

- Hundreds of mostly poor African-American residents have been relocated from Old North St. Louis, JeffVanderLou and St. Louis Place. (Some of this may have been inevitable, given housing conditions under prior owners.)

- Historic properties like the James Clemens, Jr. House (in danger of roof collapse) and the Brecht Butcher Supply Company Buildings (under demolition) have been allowed to deteriorate under this project.

- No legal policy directed the purchase of these properties.

Obviously, the language used by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and mayoral chief of staff Jeff Rainford in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch article is encouraging as far as development of the Griesheimer amendment is concerned.

As far as dealing with "Blairmont," that work has yet to be done. McKee's ambitious project may turn out to be a mixed blessing from which good can come. Hopefully a full discussion of developing a "land trust" will include the facts of record in the "Blairmont" matter. Only then can everyone work together to create sensible policy for the near northside and for large-scale land acquisition.


Anonymous said...

The whole point of the land trust concept was to be able to assemble large tracts of land our of the "jigsaw" puzzle of ownerships.

Given that the puzzle is "coming together" under the ownership of McKee, we have our land trust...and the trustee isn't the city of St. Louis or a nonprofit organization, it's Paul McKee.

Unknown said...

Im not sure if my eyes were deceiving me, but when I drove by the James Clemens house yesterday I saw a for sale sign on the front wall. Is Blairmont looking to dump the property due to the recent publicity?

Anonymous said...

As the PD column suggests, there is precedent for the land trust idea in the eventual land trust concept that emerged from St. Louis 2004. In that case, the state tax credit (which I don't believe has been funded for a couple years) is oriented towards commercial/industrial property and job creation and is overseen locally by RHCDA. While the land trust is not the "creative or comprehensive" solution that I would have picked to provide incentives to residential development, some form of local oversight is warrented--preferably through some local board. A requirement for its use to be convergent with local planning may also strengthen its use by coordinating its application with existing city plans and redevelopment ordinances. Additionally, the 75 acre size limit seem arbitrary and out of scale with the city. The Pruitt Igo site is only 35 acres; something at that scale seems appropriate. Finally, the 5% owner-occupied acreage is not sufficient; if the intention is to preserve existing investment--and at the same time, in my opinion, provide some mechanism to sort out areas where this form of land-banking is not necessary from a development perspective--city blocks should be protected from use of this credit where the occupancy of parcels is over a certain percentage.

Will Winter

Michael R. Allen said...

Will's points are excellent.

The reason for 75 acres could be to reward developers who acquire large parts of McKee's Blairmont holdings. If the city tells McKee to shove off, any developers seeking to do work on the near northside will have to buy McKee out. That won't be cheap.

Or, if McKee continue to do acquisition in the area now that his name and game are public knowledge, prices his companies pay will be much higher.

No matter what, the value of this land has now increased due to media coverage.

Michael R. Allen said...


Read this for more information about the for-sale sign:

Or call Eagle Realty. They would know the details better than almost anyone.

Anonymous said...

No comment yet from Lewis "Building One St. Louis" Reed or Jim "Honest Guy" Shrewsbury.

Guess that shows how seriously they take the Fifth Ward.

Anonymous said...

To quote ABB --
This shit has moved past the mockable stage, chil'ren!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to deflate one of the internet myths, but the current holdings of the company in question come no where near 1000s of acres, much less 75. There is a lot of additional privately owned property out there to assemble the 75 acres that McKee wants. At a time when the housing market is slowing in most cities, does St. Loius really need the sort of political and economic dislocation that it would take to achieve this mythical number of 75, only to see ultimately see the project stalled or reduced? If the market is there for Wingheaven III on the near north side, it would seem that the Pruitt Igo would be a good place to start, with WH IV following when the targets have met been?

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A land trust is an agreement whereby one party (the trustee) agrees to hold ownership of a piece of real property for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary). Land trusts are used by nonprofit organizations to hold conservation easements, by corporations and investment groups to compile large tracts of land, and by individuals to keep their real estate ownership private, avoid probate and provide several other benefits. A community or conservation land trust is an organization established to hold land and to administer use of the land according to the charter of the organization. sportsbook. A land trust is a useful way to manage complex divisions of the Bundle of Rights that people can own in real estate, and can be used to manage something as large and complex as a multi-state REIT, or as common and small as a single-family home.
Corporations sometimes set up land trusts when they want to compile large tracts of land without arousing suspicion or alerting people to their plans (which would cause the asking price to rise). For example, the land for Walt Disney World near Orlando Florida was put together by using many land trusts to buy smaller tracts of land. http://www.enterbet.com