By. Chris Stritzel
We have an issue in St. Louis, to much open space. Even though St. Louis ranks in the top 30 densest cities in the United States, we have tons of vacant lots from past (and failed) urban renewal efforts and buildings that have been neglected so much that the least expensive option is to demolish buildings. Infill is rare in the City and the projects that do come along are often small but significant. In the main urban center of the city, Downtown, parking lots are prevalent to where very few street corners are even urban anymore. Urban is considered buildings on all four corners. Downtown has only 9 of these (but 5 of them are completed by parking garages). It is a shame but the ever changing, and more positive, outlook on Downtown could lead to things that make Downtown denser than it currently is.
Several factors that can and lead to infill and new construction are as follows...
- Abandoned buildings are brought back to life
- Public Safety
- There is demand
In St. Louis, we have multiple abandoned downtown buildings with plans to be brought back to life. Those with increased public safety have lead to the massive number of people moving into Downtown. There is demand overall, but the remaining abandoned structures must be dealt with first, and we are well on our way. As that demand grows, there is no doubt developers have plans to build new things. They don’t have to bug big or tall, but just significant.
What I mean by “significant” is that the projects add DENSITY. Multiple parking lots are wide and long enough to support a building of 5-10 floors comfortably. However, in some cases like on Laclede’s Landing, Prime development land is sacrificed for a ampitheater on the Riverfront which hold back on density and new developments. Elsewhere in Downtown, like at 17th and Locust, companies are tearing neighboring buildings down form employee parking lots. The latest example of this is Aetna demolishing the building at 17th and Locust for a parking lot. It is a shame that the city would allow the demolition of a historic structure for a private lot. But money ultimately talks.
Open space is a disease here in St. Louis. We have to much of it. Many owners are unwilling to sell their lots. Eminent domain can be put to use, but that would be an over stretch of power and could potentially lead to costly legal issues and cases against the city and said developer. We can’t let that happen in any form, so what do we do about the open space in this city, and in particular, Downtown? Well, we have to continue promoting City development and that the more developments are made, the more people that come which translates into more revenue to get more cops and community policing efforts on the ground to reduce crime to start the process back over. It’s complicated, but could work if all sectors work together.
A way for the city to make some extra money on new developments is to institute a maximum 75% tax abatement for 10 years like Kansas City. You can still get great developments like this development at Barney Allis Plaza in Kansas City (see photo above). Developers who are willing to invest in our City also must make sure they pay to help improve this city to get people to use their developments. Developers who ask for handouts are hurting this city by not contributing to the Tax Base for, sometimes, a full 10 years.
That 75% maximum tax abatement should be implemented across the city. More tax money the better because that way it will help our most runs down the neighborhoods get a good footing at redevelopment. This whole story is about making downtown a great entrance into our city, and then using the reduced maximum tax abatement to improve the entire city overall. Implementing this would allow our Downtown’s surrounding area’s to redevelopment themselves thus leading to us our problems being solved in the process. We can be a strong city again if we put our mind to it and go Progressive on things, fixing the maximum tax abatement is one of them. Taxing ourselves to prosperity doesn’t work but reducing other things across the board will benefit us greatly without the need to hike taxes via a ballot initiative.
But in the end, this is only a opinion so I don’t expect it to change much at all.