Breaking News
More () »

Next tranche of federal money must improve north St. Louis' built environment, legislative leader says

"If we build this business environment in the neighborhoods in and around north St. Louis, everybody wins," Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones offered few specifics in her pitch Tuesday to spend $150 million in federal money in north city, saying that the funds would "begin bridging the racial wealth gap that splits our city into two."

Asked for more detail about the plan to utilize additional funds from St. Louis' allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act, a spokesman for Jones said Wednesday that "we are continuing to do community engagement, including town halls, roundtables, and surveys online and on paper, to help ensure these federal funds strengthen our communities for generations to come." He added that the administration has received more than 3,000 responses to its survey.

The city's legislative leader, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, is now publicly offering ideas for north city. The Board of Aldermen must allocate the spending of ARPA funds. The city got about $500 million from ARPA, which must be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. Last year, the Board of Aldermen allocated $168 million, which, after a dispute with the mayor, ended up including $37 million for small businesses, nonprofits and neighborhood economic development in north city.

But Reed said more must be done to permanently improve the north side's built environment, which suffers with thousands of vacant structures.

He said the city should use no more ARPA funds for direct payments to residents. The city last year allocated $5 million for $500 payments to 10,000 people. If that led to permanent change, Reed said, the north side would be flourishing after those payments and other pandemic-related direct aid.

It would be less popular, but north city actually needs "long-term, transformational, structural changes — those big, one-time expenses that we will never (again) be able to put together this amount of capital to be able to address in a one-time operation," Reed said. "If we build this business environment in the neighborhoods in and around north St. Louis, everybody wins. Half of our potential tax bases is there, and it's not generating the revenue that it could generate if we invested in it."

Reed said he'll introduce a new spending bill in the next couple weeks, and it could then change throughout the legislative process. He didn't specify a dollar figure. Anything approved by the Board of Aldermen must also get the OK from a three-person fiscal Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of Reed but also Jones and her political ally, Comptroller Darlene Green.

Reed said his bill could include incentives for so-called development zones near the site of the new National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency western headquarters, which is under construction in St. Louis Place. Those could allow individuals or families to fix up vacant properties and make them energy efficient, he said.

Read the full story, including more possible plans for north city, on the St. Louis Business Journal website.

Before You Leave, Check This Out