Destruction, not Development: A look at the history of terror and disrespect in Paul McKee’s plan for North St. Louis

There has been a lot of talk about Paul McKee’s Plan for North St. Louis in recent weeks.

It is after midnight now, and as I went to check The Post-Dispatch‘s headlines one last time for the evening, I saw that the big story for the next day is already up. Paul McKee met with the P-D’s editorial staff to discuss his plan for North St. Louis, because supposedly Paul “I’m Having A Public Meeting–JUST KIDDING!” McKee will finally be meeting with us Near North Siders en masse this evening. And hey, it only took well over five years for him to work up to having the courage to look us in the eye. Never mind that he has proven that he is literally powerful enough to buy and sell our homes and those of our neighbors–apparently us disenfranchised lil’ Near North Siders are terrifying baddies and he could not possibly have met with us about the future of our own neighborhoods before now. I tooootally know how he feels–sometimes when I have done something to hurt somebody’s feelings, I wait over five years and tear down a bunch of buildings around that person’s home before I feel comfortable meeting with them in person, too.

I have a lot of thoughts about this plan. Some of them are nuanced, and some of them start with F, and some of them are nauseous, acidic feelings that churn deep down in my gut. But more than anything:

Please, please, let us not forget the enormous human cost that Paul McKee’s project has had on North St. Louis. Please, do not get caught up in talking exclusively about “development” when the human rights violations have been so numerous and heartbreaking.

For those of us who live in Paul McKee’s project area (which only constitutes part of North St. Louis), McKee has dragged us through over five years of pain and deceit.

(Here is a great primer on the basics of Blairmont, if you would like one.)

Despite being incredibly rich, powerful, and prominent, Paul McKee deliberately concealed his identity from us in his purchase and neglect of properties. Rather than buying properties in his own name or that of his development company McEagle, he instead used a quirk of Missouri law to register numerous corporations in such a way that it was virtually impossible to tell who had registered them. He gave these corporations names made up of mish-mashes of area street names in an attempt to make it really hard for us to figure out who was buying up and neglecting so many hundreds of properties in our area. He hired Eagle Realty to help buy and “manage” properties. One of my closest friends desperately needed permission to dig up a McKee vacant lot in order to get sewer service to her home, and she had to call Eagle Realty three times a day for over a month in order to get them to even call her back.

Even after Old North residents finally uncovered documents (disclosure reports relating to McKee’s position on a bank board and campaign finance reports) indisputably proving that the family of corporations known as Blairmont were McKee’s doing, he persisted in telling us that he was not Blairmont. At this point, I am told that he lied about this to my neighborhood organization, a reputable decades-old organization that is in the middle of a wonderful multimillion dollar development project (not their first such project).

In the Post-Dispatch piece, Jake Wagman and Ken Leiser say about McKee’s secrecy, “He said he was just trying to keep prices in check.” The words that I am told McKee used to explain this phenomena in private conversation with members of my community likened the purchase of real estate to the purchase of a part of the female anatomy, noting that when people are aware you are buying, prices increase. As a North Sider, a woman, hell, as a HUMAN BEING, I am disgusted. When I hear McKee’s paternalistic, faux moral rhetoric about his development in North St. Louis and elsewhere, I am often reminded of the kinds of repulsive, hateful things he says behind closed doors. There is a profound gap between the values he professes in front of media outlets and the ones he reveals in private, to say nothing of what his actions toward my neighbors show his values to be.

Contrary to spin and to opinions professed by those who do not know North St. Louis, McKee did not come into a trashed area–I know, because I have lived up here for several years myself. And I’m told that McKee told other developers that once he actually got to know our community, he realized that he would have to create the conditions he planned to save us from.

McKee did not buy a bunch of trashed properties on trashed blocks. Sure, some of the buildings he bought were vacant, but many of them were not. At first, he just picked off that skim of actually neglected buildings and lots that owners actually wanted to sell. But soon, he ran out of such properties. His agents had to press harder. They began buying occupied buildings, their acquisitions sometimes resulting in abrupt and illegal evictions. In one case often discussed around the community here, McKee’s agents allowed a landlord to continue collecting rent after they had bought the building, and never informed the tenants that the building had been sold. The tenants found out when their utilities suddenly turned off. They had 24 hours to move, and all their possessions were out on the street (I personally saw their stuff on the sidewalk).

After a while, McKee had acquired all the buildings in our area that anyone actually wanted to sell. In order to continue his landbanking, he had to target people who wanted to stay in their homes, in many cases longtime residents and households that had held blocks together for decades. Around this time, mysterious rumors about future eminent domain started to circulate, particularly around parts of St. Louis Place near the Pruitt-Igoe grounds and in Jeff Vander Lou near St. Louis Avenue. Some neighbors received deceptively governmental-looking letters about eminent domain in their doors. While no one could confirm actual eminent domain was officially going to happen, the ongoing sales of homes all around them to McKee’s corporations and the presence of his agents in the area (with briefcase and all) no doubt was enough confirmation for some homeowners. And certainly, the way eminent domain works, it’s ideal to sell the second that word starts getting around, rather than waiting around until everyone else has left and the official notice comes, at which point you will be able to get only a fraction of your property’s actual value back. And while we cannot definitively prove that McKee’s associates started the eminent domain rumors, there is no one else who would have any motive to have done so, and the timing was terribly convenient for it to have been a coincidence.

And hearing McKee and his defenders talk about burnt-out buildings and the like literally churns my stomach. Paul McKee deliberately created blight on the Near North Side. He wasn’t rehabbing his buildings or flower gardening in front of them. Helllllll no. Paul McKee purchased buildings and lots and then did zero maintenance, so that he could drive down property values and save himself a couple of bucks on buying property (Clearly, a multimillionaire who owns dozens of corporations needs that couple thousand bucks worse than all the individual home and small business owners in North St. Louis he was buying out needed it.) . And the neglect also served to make it increasingly difficult for those of us who have chosen to stay here. Imagine what it’s like to live in a paid-off house that your family has maintained for generations, and to watch in despair as adjacent properties go vacant, have the weeds grow several feet tall in the front yard, and then begin to attract unwelcome, illegal visitors at night. Imagine that grinding, lonely feeling, that constant worry–that’s the exact feeling that the Blairmont project cultivated to intimidate Near North Siders out of their homes.

What do I mean, he neglected his properties? I mean that McKee wouldn’t even board up or fence his buildings, let alone mothball or maintain them. Early on during his property acquisition, when he only owned a few dozen parcels, several hours of walking around St. Louis Place and JVL one afternoon netted me a massive spreadsheet’s worth of McKee property code violations several pages long. We tried reporting these problems to the city via the Citizens’ Service Bureau, but it was futile. In particular, I remember that my neighbors and I called the CSB at least a dozen times requesting the board-up of the doors of the regal Brecht Butcher Supply buildings, to no avail, and eventually part of the complex burned. Repeat that times dozens of city blocks, and you’ve got an idea what it’s like to live in Blairmontland. We cleaned his properties, mowed his properties, chased off the troublemakers that his properties attracted to our streets, and even had board-up parties, all at our own effort and expense; however, our resources were not sufficient to keep up with 900 parcels worth of neglect. There is something farcical about working class and middle class people who all have jobs and numerous other commitments having to band together in order to do basic maintenance on property owned by an uberconnected multimillionaire.

The city made cursory attempts at enforcing code violations against McKee, but he had enough money to keep paying the fines while doing absolutely nothing about correcting violations. The city tried to take him to court over the Clemens Mansion, but after so many continuances granted to McKee’s lawyers (the man himself never showed up in court), the case seemed to evaporate. It almost seemed as if McKee had a cadre of guardian angels looking out for him within the Slay administration.

So, there was the basic neglect of not boarding or fencing or mothballing or mowing anything, and then there was the metaneglect that ultimately came with it: brick rustling. Brick rustling, the illegal and highly dangerous practice of tearing down part of a building without the owner’s knowledge or consent, is Paul McKee’s gift to the Near North Side. Brick rustling was a minor problem before Blairmont, one that only people deeply into the worlds of architecture and demolition were aware of. But as McKee’s property ownership began to create extreme concentrations of vacancy in pockets of the Near North Side, brick rustling went from the stuff of an occasional, third-hand tale to a wide-spread phenomenon. There are definitely residents of this area who feel that McKee’s associates intentionally encouraged brick rustling, perhaps even giving thieves property addresses. While this would not be terribly out of line with McKee’s demonstrated ethics, I personally believe that brick rustling is something that McKee’s people did not intentionally support, but did nothing whatsoever to stop. I think rustling developed into a full-blown menace once brick rustlers noticed th the huge swaths of vacant buildings McKee had created and that (as a result) not enough people were around keeping an eye on things anymore to stop them. So, they brought their icepicks and their pick-up trucks and began hacking away at the physical fabric of our community, leaving behind the unsupported floors and internal walls of buildings hanging dangerously in the air, the left-behind hulks mocking our sense of dignity and agency in our own neighborhood. This was only an occasional problem before McKee’s neglectful practices turned it into an epidemic.

And there’s more to the neglect: Paul McKee’s holdings have a way of catching fire. Brecht Butcher Supply, Better Donut, the building on the northwest corner of St. Louis and Jefferson, these were probably accidents, albeit ones that were preventable via normal, legally required board-up.

One spate of McKee property blazes in particular were profoundly disturbing. A year ago, eleven buildings in a specific section of McKee’s project area abruptly burned in a four-day period. Of these eleven buildings, ultimately eight or nine of them turned out to be owned by McKee. The general consensus was that this was arson. Some argue that an arsonist just striking vacant buildings in the area would have had a high probability of randomly selecting mostly McKee buildings, but I counter that the 5th ward has one of the very highest concentrations of Land Reutilization Authority owned property in the entire city, and to the untrained eye, LRA and Blairmont buildings are more or less indistinguishable. That not a single LRA-owned property burned in these eleven fires is interesting. Investigations revealed that every single building had its gas shut off at some point prior to the fire. I walked through one of the buildings the day after it burned, and the fire had started on the top floor in classic arson fashion. The back door to the upstairs apartment was open, and because the building was not fenced in thanks to its neglectful owner, the person who set the fire could have fled in virtually any direction.

The area where the first ten Blairmont fires occurred in May 2008 was bounded by St. Louis, Glasgow, Hebert, and Jefferson, Glasgow being one of the boundaries of McKee’s property purchasing area. This part of town was in the heart of the part of the project area that McKee hopes to demolish. One additional fire happened outside of the boundaries of the first group, but still well within McKee’s planned clearance area and on a McKee owned building, 2206 Hebert. That was no average house fire–that building burned and took two of its McKee-owned neighbors with it. The fire produced such a huge plume of smoke that I actually thought a very large nearby church was on fire when I first saw the smoke from the roof of my apartment.

I have to say, standing on my roof and watching 2206 Hebert go up in smoke three blocks away broke something inside of me. And it’s hard for me to infer that these fires, which happened so neatly inside the Blairmont project area, happened for any other reason than to elicit that feeling in me and my neighbors. (Well, that and to get rid of a few pesky historic buildings on the cheap.) I believe that they were intended to instill terror in us, and to break our spirits. To an extent, it worked. I feel frustrated admitting this, but…. yeah. There was no moment of snapping, no blind rage, just the knowledge that some feeling of agency, ownership, hope, and faith was permanently gone.

These burnt-out shells, these brick-rustled shipwrecks, and the hundreds of mostly black families driven out of their homes in the city and into the county: These are Paul McKee’s destructive legacy in North St. Louis. He talks about plans, about looking 15 years into the future, but he has already spent five years demonstrating in detail what he thinks of the Near North Side and its residents. Actions speak a hell of a lot louder than words, and McKee’s presence in North St. Louis has spoken in evictions, demolitions, and flames.

At a meeting last week with Near North Side residents (Yet another instance of McKee claiming he’d speak with us and then abruptly changing his mind), a representative for McKee made a prolonged, ridiculous PowerPoint presentation about North St. Louis so cartoonishly dire that you’d think it this land had been cursed since it first emerged as a land mass on the tectonic plates. The presenter even tried to make the claim that the 1866 cholera epidemic was mostly a North Side phenomenon (I call bullshit), but I think it’s pretty obvious what the real plague on North St. Louis is. Before anyone talks about development, we need to remember the toll that Paul McKee’s property ownership has taken on hundreds of people in North St. Louis up to this point. This is destruction, not development.

After so much destruction has been wrought on our area, clearly we need to pick up, rebuild resources, and move forward. I feel that McKee’s destructive, deceitful legacy with us shows that he is not the man for the job. If eminent domain is used, let it be used to turn his properties over to those who would actually redevelop them. I know this will never happen, but I still want to state for the record that I do not feel this man is competent or trustworthy as a developer for North St. Louis. No plan should require such widespread secrecy and fear to succeed, and no plan should involve the many thousands of residents of our area giving up our self-determinacy to a malicious outsider who has for years neglected not only our own plans for the area, but our very right to safety and sanity in our own homes.

Moreover, it has taken me hours to even be able to produce coherent, non-spittake thoughts on the fact that McKee is asking for over $1.1 billion in public money to complete this project, on top of the already written pretty much for McKee Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit. Excuse me, but you come into my neighborhood using corporations to hide your identity, you frighten my neighbors out of their homes, and leave a huge trail of destruction in your path, and now you seek an additional $1.1 billion in public funds, dear multimillionaire? AND we’re supposed to hand over the keys to our entire section of the city to you, and let you decide where to drive? I scarely know what to say to that, it’s so ridiculous and insulting. McKee smears phantom thousands of jobs all over this, but is terribly scanty on the specifics. He’s going to, you know, build stuff, and one time he talked to somebody from China, you know, trust him, he’s rich. What if I decide I’m the job fairy? Y’all, I’m gonna create like 500,000 jobs up in here when I wave my magic wand, I promise–all you have to do is give me $1.1 billion or more of your tax dollars. 3 or 4 of the jobs might even be permanent! I mean, look at how Paul McKee has managed the money he has already spent–rather than doing anything silly like buying a smaller amount of buildings and using the rest of his millions to at least keep them boarded up, he pressed on and acquired more more more until !!!!SCREEEEEECH!!!! he had no choice but to ask us for billions, because the poor fella is tapped out.

The fact remains that Old North St. Louis is an abundantly, sparklingly successful area, a neighborhood inhabited by several generations of rehabbers and a growing and diverse batch of newcomers. Do not let anyone tell you that the North Side is a wasteland. I have lived here for several years, and it has completely changed my ideas about what a neighborhood can be. In my time here, I have seen neighbors literally rebuild buildings that were missing walls or that had fallen into the streets. You cannot tell these people that something is impossible. City blocks that have been off the grid for decades are now occupied and rehabbed–I know, because my own block is one such phoenix. Neighbors up here care about each other. This is a place where people are on a first name basis with each other, a place of backyard barbecues and a thriving generosity economy. We have the city’s oldest ice cream parlor, a hardware shop, light industry, a brand new art gallery, a summertime farmer’s market, and a new coffee shop on the cusp of opening, just to name a few of the many projects happening here. Despite decades of redlining, widespread small scale development is already working here. Wasteland? Sure, you could describe it as a wasteland if you were not at all familiar with the area, or moreover if you had an agenda to push.

Paul McKee and his representatives have been very careful not to apologize to me and my neighbors for their profoundly dehumanizing treatment of us. I don’t know how healing, let alone development, is supposed to happen without a simple, sincere apology. The closest we have come was in the Post-Dispatch article, in a comment McKee made about the secretive nature of Blairmont: “If there’s anything to apologize for, it’s that…. But I didn’t know how else to collect all this land.” Wow, you have millions and millions and millions of dollars, own dozens of corporations, you’ve opened the first Catholic school in St. Louis in over fifty years, you own a private duck hunting club, you’ve built WingHaven and NorthPark, and you can’t possibly think of another way to buy land or make money? Would it really have hurt your profit margin that badly to have taken input from us at any point within the last five years? Besides the insulting illogic of McKee’s statement, the structure of the apology itself rings hollow: It’s “if there’s anything to apologize for,” not an actual apology. It’s on par with when someone unwittingly insults you, but insists on saying “I’m sorry you feel offended,” rather than a real “I’m sorry.” Paul McKee has many, many things to apologize to the Near North Side for, and he can start with the fires. Hell, he can start with, “I’m sorry.”

I am frustrated, also, that this is referred to as Paul McKee’s plan for “North St. Louis,” as if North St. Louis was one small, homogeneous area. McKee’s project area might fairly be called the Near North Side, as it is composed primarily of Jeff Vander Lou, St. Louis Place, Old North, and the Near North Riverfront. But it stretches all the way to the 64/40 22nd Street exchange Downtown, decidedly not part of the North Side at all. And McKee’s project definitely does not cover even half of the North Side. North St. Louis, like the South Side, is composed of several dozen distinct and varied neighborhoods. Old North and the Wellston Loop are as different as Carondelet and South Grand. McKee’s plan tends to be characterized as something that will cover the entire North Side, and it will not.

So, to what extent does McKee’s project affect the whole of North St. Louis, the whole of our city? The hundreds of families that McKee’s destructive practices forced out of the fifth ward may not be your neighbors, but in a city where this kind of treatment of human beings is not only allowed but encouraged to happen, no one’s home, block, or community is ever really safe. Yes, that means you.

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Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm  Comments (48)  

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  1. Fantabulous break down! I’m going to pass this post around…

  2. Claire, you did an excellent job on this topic.

  3. Terrific post about a horrible thing. You have fleshed out a piece of the untold story of Paul McKee. It is so important for outsiders to understand that McKee himself blighted his targeted areas. His strategy has relied upon racism and other forms of ignorance, and, once again in St. Louis, there is no justice. Thank you for your hard work on this. Keep it up.

    • “His strategy has relied upon racism and other forms of ignorance, and, once again in St. Louis, there is no justice.”

      I am astounded at what is happening in N-STL and how this one man is being allowed to rape an entire area of the City unchallenged in the courts. After attending last night public meeting, it was clear that McKee thinks that the residents of STL have little intelligence and won’t stand up and fight him.

      I submit that we are intelligent with diverse skills that must be harnessed to bring down this Goliath. We must tie this thing up in the courts for centuries to come. And, we should start a recall of all the Alderpersons who are supporting this mad rape of our neighborhoods. This is nothing short of wholesale eminent domain abuse and gentrification at it’s worst.

      McKee MUST BE STOPPED AND BOSLEY AND APRIL MUST BE RECALLED.

      • RECALL APRIL!

        RECALL MARLENE!

        STOP SELLING OUT OUR NEIGHBORHOODS, ASSHOLES.

      • LET’S GET BUSY!!!!! I’m relatively new to da Lou and unfamiliar with the STL Charter, which I’ve heard needs to be challenged and reincarnated. Does the State Constitution and City charter allow for recall? It’s time to put on the whole armour of justice and unseat these McKee puppets.

        This antiquated top down paradigm to neighborhood revitalization and governance, for that matter, needs to be retired to the chronicles of bad urban planning. There are citizen friendly models that are inclusive and equitable which can be replicated.

        McKee’s sole developer legislation should be repealed. Tax Credits are public resources, so how in the hell can 1 man write a bill that passes the state legislature for his sole benefit. That’s a pile of crap and needs to be cleaned up.

        I found it interesting how the presenters at last night’s meeting repeatedly used Barack as a scapegoat…”this project fits right in alignment w/the President’s goals for urban cities.” Bulls%^t. Where’s the transparency of this project? Let’s start there first.

  4. I’m not trying to be malicious, but it’s clear that intense emotions cloud your reasoning. You say that McKee has illegally done this and that, that he’s broken the law. That’s only true if it can be proven. I’m not an apologist for what he’s done, but there’s just too much out there (and now here) about what everyone says he’s done. I’m not saying your wrong, only that you can’t convict someone unless you provide something more than suspicions. And you personal animosity towards McKee is likewise based on hearsay and is only arguably relevant. It’s disengenuous to say that because something happened as part of a proposed multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan in North St. Louis that everyone in the city is at risk of the same thing happening.

  5. Actually Teddy, McKee’s law-breaking is one of the most well-documented claims I”ve ever seen, thanks to the great work done by a particularly engaged online community. As was mentioned in the post, McKee has been paying fines on many of the properties; what more evidence do you need that he’s violating the law? Furthermore, the post was clearly not eluding to vague claims of “suspicious” behavior; she says explicitly that she walked around and documented specific code-violations.

    Also, your claim that, “It’s disengenuous to say that because something happened as part of a proposed multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan in North St. Louis that everyone in the city is at risk of the same thing happening” misses the point. Let’s just assume (contrary to all evidence we have so far) that both (1) McKee has turned over a new leaf and does everything completely on the up and up from now on and (2) everything goes according to plan and we get a new job center powered by green energy. *Even* if all of this worked perfectly, you still would have the problem that in order to get to that point McKee was willing to ruin people’s lives by destroying their property values. So you would be in essence sanctioning the principle that its OK to trample over a large number of people’s lives in order to make it cheaper for you to force your vision for a better city upon the rest of us. If we really are endorsing this principle, then it is true that all of us are at risk.

    • Selah

  6. This is a wonderful article. What will you gain through bashing McKee and asking for his head in this French Revolution style? Obviously he has not spent enough on maintaining or rehabbing the properties. This may be because he wanted to buy the surrounding properties at the lowest price. The job of the developer is to buy and assemble property and bring it through entitlement process. This is a very expensive process and likely where most of the $46 million has gone (buying and assembly is part of the process but so are engineering studies).

    Your vision is for a revitalized North St. Louis and you have worked so hard for Old North. Practically all of us who read your blog support you and any efforts in Old North because we too believe in revitalizing the neighborhood and all of St. Louis. We all want St. Louis to become a vibrant central city again. The current movement that took place in Soulard began in the 1960s to get where it is today. Imagine if you could speed up that process and area to a decade or so? Imagine Metrolink serving Old North and this project being a sign to the federal government to invest in the North-South alignment.

    Please for the sake of North St. Louis and for the future of the region, put aside your pain and frustration from deconstructive and turn it into constructive and holding McKee to the same high standards you have held yourselves and neighborhood. Imagine if you put aside the criticisms that he blighted the neighborhood and instead replaced it with working with him to restore the very buildings he let go just as you and your neighbors have rebuilt buildings that no one believed were salvageble. Unfortunately it appears time to reconcile if you truely want to achieve your goals and the hopes and dreams of all of us thousands of supporters of Old North and North St. Louis in general. Don’t you want to look at history and say you were apart of something much bigger and much more effective, you can if you partner with McKee and work from the inside for a grander North St. Louis.

    -Old North supporters

  7. I’m point is that if McKee is the lawbreaker that you say he is then there should be consequences. Code violations are not quite the same think as law-breaking or illegal activity. Are you and others prepared to look at EVERY property in North St. Louis that has had a code violation in the past 8 years and call the owner a criminal? Is there a law enforcement investigation into what is alleged? Many people are alluding to or outright suggesting that McKee encouraged brick rustlers and had his properties burned down. IF this is true it is criminal and should be prosecuted. If there is no chance that this will happen then people are wasting their time shouting about it. And McKee is setting no new precedent regarding development in St. Louis. Look, people are very emotional about this issue and for good reason, but it’s getting irrational. Do you think someone living on Utah Place in South St. Louis is at risk of eminent domain or block-busting?

    • Teddy,

      First, as much as you might want it to be the case, the mere fact that someone disagrees with you does not make them “irrational.”

      Second, perhaps you can explain more what you mean by the claim, “Do you think someone living on Utah Place in South St. Louis is at risk of eminent domain or block-busting?” Because it sure seems like you are suggesting that we don’t really need to be concerned about block busting if it won’t happen in these other places. But if block busting or eminent domain abuse is wrong, then they are wrong no matter who thet affect, and not just wrong in a neighborhood that has some special significance for you personally.

      When I wrote, “you would be in essence sanctioning the principle that its OK to trample over a large number of people’s lives in order to make it cheaper for you to force your vision for a better city upon the rest of us,” I guess I was assuming that most people think that the same moral standards should be applied equally to all people. If, on the other hand, you believe in some kind of “exceptionalism” where people who live on Utah and South City deserve special consideration that is not due to “other people,” then I suppose you’re right that nothing logically follows from any of your claims about the neighborhoods affected by McKee’s plan. But it’s also true that you no longer appear to be talking about ethics (since I would assume that most people agree that ethical claims apply to all people equally), and are merely expressing your own preferences about which people you think deserve to be taken into consideration in city planning decisions.

    • Do you think someone living on Utah Place in South St. Louis is at risk of eminent domain or block-busting?

      Any property owner in America is at risk of losing their property rights to eminent domain, it’s in the US and State Constitutions. The abuse factor rises when ED is used to encroach on private property rights for private development. And, pls. clarify what you mean by “block-busting?? Again, words mean different things to different people. I’d hate to think that in 2009 your reference of “block-busting” is the same as in 1965.

      And, when McKee bought up those properties and allowed them to further deteriorate without maintaining them or at minimum boarding them up or cutting the vacant lots, yes he indeed ENCOURAGED brick hustling, attracting vagrants, contributing to illegal drug activity and rape. McKee by no means is blind to what happens to abandoned properties in the ghetto.

      I don’t blame McKee, as a SLUM property owner, as much as the City who has allowed this tyrannt’s actions to turn our communities into a reflection of a bombed Beirut. THIS BLIGHT WAS INTENTIONALLY CREATED. It is the City that is responsible for CODE ENFORCEMENT. So, who’s palms in the Buidling Commissioner’s Office and what Alderman/woman has McKee been greasing?

    • Well Teddy, you ask if a different Adam and other are prepared to look at every house in the NS? First, it’s not the responsibility of the citenzry to do the City’s job, that why we hire and pay their salaries through our taxes.

      However, through strong community organizations building, new leadership, equitable results oriented planning and meaningful & informed citizen involvement, we can assist the jurisdiction by working collaboratively to design and implement a comprehensive and sustainable approach to community and neighborhood development. This requires bringing diverse stakeholders and resources to bare versus engaging in this antiquated, top down and fragmented paradigm that has long proven its inability to sustain vibrant and thriving urban centers.

  8. If there is a good case, let’s take it to court, not the blogs.

    • Cases are built and what better place to start the ripening process than here where people and ideas can meet. I’m relatively new to STL and have learned a great deal about the history of McKee from this venue. I also sent the links to an attorney friend so he can get some understanding of my rants over this McKee thang. I’ve never seen anything like this wholesaling of a community on such a massive scale.

    • What’s with this red-herring about crime and law-breaking? We live in a democracy where our elected representatives can make decisions. In order for McKee’s plan to go through, it needs approval from the city. So the idea that the only relevant debate is whether McKee can be tried in a court of law is farcical. Citizens have a right to debate whether his massively subsidized plan is something we want!

      • You’re correct, we do live in a democracy and our elected representatives can make decisions, however, there are laws and in the event our elected officials make ordinances and rules that violate the protection of the people under the law, then the people have the right to challenge their decision in a court of law. The gov’t is sued everyday and well should be when they break the law just like everyone else. The Kelo vs City of New London case went to the SCOTUS, although this ultra conservative court ruled in New London’s favor. There’s much work to be done and the people must get something out of this deal, other than empty promises, should it come to fruition.

        I’m still researching the history of this McKee fiasco and the manner in which he obtained the properties, evicted the tenants, and who’s palms he’s greasing. Possibly the entire scheme is in violation of certain civil rights laws, which is yet to be determined. There’s a great deal of work to be done here. Good mtging you.

  9. Curious minds wants to know if there are any facts included in this story or if it is all just one (very) biased opinion. I also wonder, what you as an individual or as part of a group has done to revitalize the northside?

    • In response to your question,”what you as an individual or as part of a group has done to revitalize the northside? Waited patiently for City to properly allocate it’s resources to leverage other funding to revitalize our neighborhoods.

      The NS has been intentionally neglected by the City for years and years and civil rights suit should have been filed many moons ago before it got to this state.

      The institutional and systemic racism that is so evident to hybrids is unspeakable. I live in one of the worst neighborhoods in the NS and we work continually to make our community a safe place to live, work and play. Contrary to what most think the NS is a jem of community, obviously McKee thinks so as well.

    • Joe, go read the extremely well-documented site http://www.eco-absence.org/blairmont/ and then get back to us. I think the author is assuming that the people commenting have at least some background knowledge on the issue, so you are apparently disqualified.

  10. Waited? That is your answer? WOW! You are such a go-getter. Wait another 50 years and nothing will ever improve.
    Here is some advice. If you do not like something, change it, if you can not change it, change your attitude!
    I can not believe that you can sit there and type for hours on the subject, but you will not get off your rear end and PRO-actively try to make a difference.

    • And, who are you to judge when you obviously don’t live in the NS? Yes, the people have patiently waited for their elected leaders to do the job they were hired to do. Isn’t that what is expected of all employees?

      The median income on the NS is drastically below the US poverty line. McKee got that right although his solution is to place job centers in the development zone.

      We don’t need job centers, we need jobs and business opportunities. What good are job centers, which we already have plenty, when there are no jobs or the young men that are sardined in the despicable “work-house” will only go thru the motion to only find themselves unemployable because they never stop serving their sentences.

      STL is more polarized and segregated than the MS Delta…WOW! that’s something to be proud of. Equitably distribute the funds that come into this City for LMI communities and the people and they will lift themselves up. St. Louis was designated as an empowerment zone 10 yrs. ago rec’ding $100M.

      Ironically the NS was cut out of the development pattern. Reason, there wasn’t enough population but the downtown area mysteriously qualified. How many people were living downtown 10 yrs. ago? So, the millions were spent on a worthless hotel project and other development while the NS rec’d nothing. STL is 40 yrs. behind relative to neighborhood redevelopment. There are vacant lots sitting from the 60-70s urban renewal plot.

      A large percentage of the housing stock is comparable to Trench Town. These blighted conditions were CREATED and the City of STL is the major culprit.

      Stand up and fight people.

    • Dude, you picked the wrong person for your uninformed argument. The author of this blog has been extremely involved and pro-active. Since I’m sure that you would like to be held to the same standards that you throw out there for others, perhaps you can tell us what “pro-active” steps you have taken that justify you making ad hominem attacks on someone you know nothing about.

  11. Wait, you need jobs and businesses, but not “job centers”?!?!?! You’re going to fight about word choice?! Do you not think that “job centers” will have jobs and businesses? That’s just ridiculous. Game over. You’re not rational.

    • Again, you’re quick to judge without reason, and obviously out of your league on this issue. McKee’s bogus “concept” propoosal is calling for 3 “job training centers”, that won’t create, attract or retain jobs. There’s a BIG difference in the terminology, content and intent.

      Absolutely we’re concerned about WORD choice.

      Elected officials, planners and developers stopped referring to urban renewal because of its negative connotations based upon the atrocities and havoc reeked upon urban communities, stripping them of assets and opportunities for intergenerational wealth building, etc. The euphemisms became revitalization, redevelopment, new urbanism, etc. until those terms revealed their true colors[urban renewal…poor black folk removal], Today McKee’s concept for OUR neighborhoods and lives surface with a new monster mask. So yes sir, WORDS do play a significant role in community and economic development as they do in any industry or system. That’s why we use ref. materials like dictionaries and why laws have to be interpreted….duh!!!!!

      • No need to address me as “Sir.” Who are you, Keith Olberman?

        Anyway, you’re ignoring that there are quite a few Northsiders who welcome this development. You’re so focused on demonizing anyone from another part of the city who has an opinion on a $6B proposed development. There is far from a consensus on this (on either side), but screaming, ranting and hyberbole generally accords one LESS credibility and not more. If you want to be part of the conversation you need to be reasonable.

      • Again Ted, you’re assuming. As you well know in any debate there are 2 or more sides. Sure there are a “few” Northsiders who favor the project which is expected and their right to do so.

        I’m not against the much needed development in, not only the designated zone, but the entire NS, but rather the methodology and lack of transparency and meaningful participation by the residents whose lives will be directly impacted.

        There are many issues that haven’t been addressed but as the timetables indicate, McKee nor the City aren’t wasting anytime pushing this through the channels. So who’s being unreasonable?

        You falsely accuse me of demonizing anyone from another part of the city who has an opinion of this project, which I’ve not, as my previous post indicates, diversity of stakeholders is key to any redevelopment project to maximize the greatest return on the taxpayer’s investment. It was you who set the tone of this debate with your ranting over my humble opinion.

        Facts determine credibility and the facts thusfar don’t support the manner in which this wholesale condemnation approach serves the best interest of the communities in question. Possibly you should define your interpretation of reasonable. I thought this was an open forum and the moderator hasn’t complained about my postings. Are you the moderator? And, you failed to answer my question about your “block busting” comment.

        Oh BTW, Keith is a distant cousin.

  12. thx sir

  13. Some slides from McKee’s massive condemnation plan can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerkinhead/sets/72157618714779481/

  14. […] – Downtown STL Living Tour I.E. Millstone memorial scheduled – St. Louis Business Journal: Destruction, not Development: A look at the history of terror and disrespect in Paul McKee’s p… News Tribune Picture This STL: How Brick Thieves Operate Lois Judevine Blackwell to form new autism […]

    • thank you for this info.

  15. Thank u 4 the info.

  16. You should not be rewarded for neglect. You should not be rewarded for coming in and trying to re-gentrify an area and clearly that’s what it is and those of you who been around a while who have seen it happen in Mill Creek, you’ve seen it happen in McRee Town, and you’ve seen it happen in other areas and that’s what’s happening here today.

    -5th Ward Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin

    • Doug: Can we get the source and date from which you cite April’s comment?…thanx

    • Time to recall that liar.

      • Hi Recall: The momentum is growing for comprehensive actions ranging from writing letters to the appropriate federal, state and local agencies responsible for allocating taxpayer dollars for this project to recalling the mis-elected officials.

        The State’s enourmous budget shortfall leaves no room for a $400 million TIF on a hope and a promise. Now if McKee was offering the taxpayers a deal like Apple has made to NC, $1B investment for a $46M return then maybe the citizens could find some logic in the deal. Isn’t that ironic that Apple projects the same amt of return as McKee “claims” he’s invested. I think we should demand proof of his investments in this project. Afterall we’re the bankers.

        There is entirely tooooooooooo much corruption in STL City gov’t and it’s costing every taxpaying citizen. Has anyone ever had to deal with the Collectors’ office for a biz license?

        It’s common practice for building inspectors’ to have their palms greased to get a unit passed that’s not fit for animals to live in. It’s time to ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, and ORGANIZE some moe for much needed institutional and systemtic change. The company that recruited me to STL has a guy in the property tax division that they pay off to under estimate their assets and get annual inspection permits.

        If the City is to become a place that attracts industry and value added people then it must CHANGE. And, it is up to each of us to help bring that change about.

        LET’S GET BUSY.

  17. […] of McKee Town: Read It on Curious Feet By thomasaduda Curious Feet St. Louis has the best accounting of Paul McKee’s reign of […]

  18. […] of, shall I say, a couple caveats about the Blairmont “redevelopment” project: read Curious Feet’s beautiful post here. Share and […]

  19. Does anyone have info regarding the use of eminent domain for acquisition of McKee’s land grab? He claims ED is off the table, which is unlikely in a project of this magnitude.

  20. A new organization, Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity, M-SLICE is seeking new members from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to address equitable development issues.

    ABOUT US:

    Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity,
    M-SLICE, is a diverse grassroots community and economic development coalition that works to address and alleviate institutional and systemic barriers that prevent traditionally marginalized individuals, families and communities from achieving their full capacity; and, flourishing in wholesome and thriving neighborhoods.

    MISSION:

    M-SLICE mission is to advocate for the equitable distribution of public and private investments to transition traditionally underserved communities into healthy and vibrant places to live, work and play throughout Metro St. Louis.

    VISION:

    M-SLICE vision is to collectively identify community needs and strategically implement programs to transform our neighborhoods into socially and economically vibrant places to live, work, play and thrive.

    M-SLICE SERVICE AREA:

    Our boundaries target underserved areas within the Metro area including East St. Louis.

    ADVOCACY & PROGRAM ACTIVITIES:

    M-SLICE members have identified 4 initiatives that focus on developing a comprehensive approach to community and economic development that promotes the realization of 1) healthy and green communities, 2) business development and expansion for job creation, 3) grassroots leadership development, and 4) historic preservation and sustainable growth issues.

    For more information about M-SLICE membership and volunteer opportunities pls. rely to this post:

  21. Interested in the Recovery Act, as we all should be, here’s an excellent source.

    Good Jobs First
    May 26, 2009

    For everyone working on the $787 billion stimulus bill (a.k.a. the Recovery Act), Good Jobs First today launched a comprehensive resource website http://www.AccountableRecovery.org including the Recovery Act Info Center.

    Building upon our Southern-states conference of last month, we welcome activists to join States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery (the STAR Coalition), a new network promoting state and local activism to ensure the Recovery Act is transparent, accountable, fair and effective.

    The STAR Coalition includes national organizing networks such as the Apollo Alliance, Center for Community Change, Common Cause, National People’s Action, Transportation Equity Network, Partnership for Working Families, Smart Growth America and U.S. PIRG as well as many of their state and local affiliates.

    The STAR Coalition collaborates with and shares members with the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery, which was launched in February to work at the federal level to promote ARRA transparency and accountability.

    The new STAR Coalition website includes the Recovery Act Info Center, a deep resource for activists: For each state plus DC, web pages contain:

    An evaluation of the state’s Recovery Act website, especially with regard to disclosure of contractor information.

    Details on Recovery Act oversight policies and structures.

    A synopsis of policy debates on ARRA issues occurring in the state.

    Key data such as total ARRA funding the state is expected to receive.

    Listings of watchdog organizations, their ARRA publications, and other resources.

    In many states, these watchdog groups will help expand and update the state pages.

    The site also includes:

    Transparency Players: a review of ARRA transparency issues, including a rundown of players in the Administration, Congress, and non-profits shaping policy.

    Money and Policy: a description of national ARRA funding streams-plus policy debates-in key areas such as transportation, energy, education and unemployment compensation.

    Annotated Bibliography: an extensive collection of ARRA weblinks and resources, including little-known items such as Congressional Research Service reports.

    City Websites: an overview of ARRA websites launched by the nation’s largest cities.

    The STAR website includes a blog where we will highlight accountability organizing. It will be expanded throughout 2009 and 2010 as new data becomes available.

    We welcome your feedback and involvement!

    Greg LeRoy and Phil Mattera
    Good Jobs First
    202-232-1616 x 211 and 212

    email: goodjobs@goodjobsfirst.org
    web: http://www.goodjobsfirst.org

  22. The text from that speech, which April Ford-Griffin gave before her bus tour, is available on the PubDef YouTube feed.

  23. She must have been per$uaded…

    • Let’s call a spade a spade….more appropriately BRIBED? It only takes a $mall campaign contribution to sell out an entire City.

  24. That was a nice read

  25. This is just downright criminal. I think McKee knew in 2003 that the NGA was looking for a new home and once confirmed in 2005 his buying pattern accelerated. He had the inside info and access to politicians to be confident enough to conveniently start the process of acquiring these properties 2 years in advance of NGA announcing to the public relocation plans.


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