Hospital plan gets aldermen's approval

Hospital plan gets aldermen's approval

CITY HALL – The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has voted to approve a revised development agreement for a hospital project on land connected to controversial developer Paul McKee Jr. 

The board voted 23-2 with one voting present on Friday for changes for the planned $72.9 million Healthworks Hospital Project on the old Pruitt-Igoe grounds.  

Among other things, the bill moves back financing deadlines spelled out in two original ordinances, passed in 2017.

The first phase calls for the construction along Jefferson Avenue of a three-bed hospital with a 24-hour emergency room. The developers must provide evidence of financing by December 31, 2019, and must substantially complete the first phase by June 30, 2021.  

That phase includes new road and infrastructure projects throughout the old Pruitt-Igoe site. Up to $4,636,000 of the $6,420,000 of TIF assistance for that portion could come from revenues from all of the Pruitt-Igoe area. 

The 2017 ordinances called for financing for the initial phase to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017, and completion of  most parts of that portion of the project by Feb. 28, 2019.

In the new bill, the developer and co-developers must provide evidence of financing by December 31, 2021, for the expansion phase and must substantially complete the expansion phase by June 30, 2023. That phase includes about 103,000 square feet of hospital and other medical facilities. 

The $1,580,000 of TIF help in the second phase would come from only the hospital area. The developer was to complete financing by Dec. 31, 2018. 

The main developer, NorthSide Regeneration, is led by McKee. Because of delays in NorthSide’s progress, the city revoked its master developer’s agreement. The city counselor has said that makes the project null and void, Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corp., said recently. Others give different legal opinions, Williams said.

In extensive debate at Friday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, many proponents, including many from the north side, stressed their area’s lack of medical resources. The project would go a long way to fill those gaps, they said. 

“This hospital is going to be bigger than Paul McKee,” said 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd. “This is about saving the lives of black people.”

But others had concerns, even while most of the aldermen wound up voting for the bill.

Twenty-Fifth Ward Alderman Shane Cohn, who voted “yes,” nonetheless said he was concerned that much of the tax increment financing for the first phase would come from the entire 1,500-acre TIF area.

Seventeenth Ward Alderman Joe Roddy noted the problems he once had in getting anybody to develop property in his ward, which includes the Grove and parts of the Central West End. He said he would have been happy to have anybody come in, even if that person wasn’t particularly liked. 

The same might apply with this project, Roddy said.

“Who am I to sit down in my neighborhood and say, ‘Your judgment isn’t as good as my judgment?’”

Roddy chairs the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee, which held a hearing on the bill.

The  boundaries of the area generally are North Grand Boulevard and Glasgow Avenue to the west, Natural Bridge Avenue and Palm Street to the north, North Florissant Avenue and Interstate 70 on the east and roughly Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Delmar Boulevard on the south. 

All aldermen voted for final passage except 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer and 24th Ward Alderman Bret Narayan, who voted no; 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice, who voted present; and Second Ward Alderwoman Lisa Middlebrook, Seventh Ward Alderman Jack Coatar and 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg, who were absent.

In talking about why she had voted no, Spencer mentioned the track record of the developer.

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