An Olympian Feat: Killing Two Birds with One Credit

We’ve seen St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay in the Capitol, well, relatively often for St. Louis mayors.  He was there the other day to urge lawmakers to extend the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit.  The program’s main beneficiary is developer Paul McKee, who already has collected more than $40 million for his ambitious plans to buy up large chunks of blighted land in north St. Louis and make the area prosperous again. Somehow.

McKee’s biggest problem is that the tax credit program created in 2007 expires in August and he’s still a long way from finishing  his plan to buy up all of the land he wants. One of those he and his 17 lobbyists will have to turn around is Senator Brad Lager, who comes from Savannah, which is a long, long way from north St.Louis–it’s up near St. Joseph.  He didn’t like the idea in 2007 and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this year, “We were promised all these great things were going to be happening down there. We’ve spent millions of dollars and we’ve yet to see a shovel of turned dirt.” The entire land assemblage idea has had similar critics from the beginning and the project appears no more endearing to many lawmakers after six years.  It needs an injection of pizazz.

Surely we’re not the only ones who noticed something last month that piqued our curiosity and might become the project’s Pizazz Puzzle piece.

The United States Olympic Committee has asked Mayor Slay and mayors of 34 other cities if they would be interested in bidding for the 2024 Olympics.  A Slay spokesman said the letter was flattering but “that’s a big undertaking.”

Ah, yes it is.  The Olympics will require a lot of new facilities.  And a lot of new facilities will require a lot of land.  And guess who is trying to assemble a lot of land.  And guess what state and city already have invested $40 million  in the process of assembling that land and is considering extending the tax credit program to assemble more.  And guess which of the 35 cities has a significant leg up on assembling land for an Olympic Village.

New York lost a bid for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago failed to get the 2016 games.  Both spent a mere $10 million preparing for the possibility they might be chosen.  St. Louis and Missouri already have invested four times that much in the McKee project.

McKee needs something sexy to seize the imagination of state lawmakers and put some magic into his redevelopment project.  Maybe he and his 17 lobbyists and the mayor can get some traction if they start talking Olympics instead of homes, apartments, and shopping areas.

Let the games, uh,  continue.

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