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Developer sees 'huge opportunity' in North City riverfront plans

If all goes to plan, construction at the site could start by the second quarter of 2023.

ST. LOUIS — Developers behind a $325 million mixed-use development along the Mississippi River in North County said it will succeed because of their experience and its location near a new Saint Louis Zoo campus.

The project, called Lighthouse Point, would be constructed on 67 acres at 11000 Riverview Drive, at the site of the former North Shore Golf Course that closed due to the 1993 flood.

The St. Louis Port Authority voted Thursday to enter into a preliminary funding agreement with M2 Development Partners, the Nashville, Tennessee-based developer backing the plan. The developer will provide $25,000 for the city to hire bond counsel and other consultants to study the feasibility of the project, in anticipation of future tax incentives.

Tim Morris, the Virginia-based principal of M2, said at the meeting Thursday that the project is still in concept stages, but if all goes according to plan, the developer will have a master plan ready soon and potentially start construction on site infrastructure by the second quarter of 2023. The first and second phases would be built at the same time, according to Morris' presentation.

Credit: M2 Development Partners
Phases 1 and 2 of Lighthouse Point will be built at the same time.

He said that M2 has enough equity to close on the real estate as soon as this fall, but is talking to other capital investors, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 1 union, based in St. Louis. Once the site's master plan is finalized, it will be easier to bring in stakeholders and investors, he said.

Typically, M2 will bring its own equity to projects along with investments from a local union building fund, and then find other outside investors, it said. A "financing gap" from rising interest rates could be bridged by incentives from the city, according to the presentation.

Investors interested in federal Opportunity Zones, which provide tax benefits, are also interested in the project, which is called Lighthouse Point and falls in one, Morris said.

"Right now we’re in a very good place as it relates to getting the land closed, getting the feasibility done and then continuing these discussions with these initial users as our next steps," Morris said. "This is obviously a high priority for us. We’re definitely very energized by some of the positive things that are going on at the city."

About 22 acres of the property is owned by Discovery Pier Land Holdings LLC, which is registered to Beth Daniele. She and her husband, Tony Daniele, and business partner Mark Repking proposed a marina and mixed-use project at the site years ago, but nothing came of the plans. The site has since been raised out of the flood plain in a project funded by the city. 

Credit: M2 Development Partners
Aerial rendering of proposed marina along the Mississippi River in north St. Louis

Development documents say M2 could acquire the property as soon as October. Financials for the project were modeled with a property tax abatement of unknown value and a sales tax exemption on construction materials that is estimated at $9.2 million.

As for the fate of past proposals at the site, Kevin Daly, M2's executive vice president of business development, told the Business Journal that he believes the firm’s track record of success shows that it can complete the project. The developer has built projects worldwide, and is currently working on a $700 million Ritz-Carlton tower project in downtown Nashville.

“We’ve had a 30-plus-year track record of success building hospitality-related and other sites as well… We’re confident in the counterparts that we’re talking with. Nothing we’ve seen so far deters us from that goal,” Daly said.

The site is about 1.5 miles from the zoo’s WildCare Park, which will offer safari-like attractions. The new zoo campus is expected to open in 2026.

Morris envisions visitors staying two or three days in St. Louis to visit WildCare Park and also attractions at Lighthouse Point, Morris said.

The current thinking is that the first two phases, which would be built at the same time, could have a water park, a 35,000-square-foot conference center, 375 hotel rooms, 30,000 square feet of retail and, possibly, 50 condominiums, according to the developer’s presentation.

The market for residential would have to be assessed as the company finalizes the master plan, Morris said. The company is in talks with an indoor trampoline park that might have go-kart racing and a Topgolf-style golf attraction, he said.

M2 is in talks with an operator of indoor waterparks, which would build an 80,000-square-foot water park and a themed hotel, Morris said. He did not name the water park operator.

The company is also discussing the project with a marina operator, which operates more than 100 marinas nationwide, Morris said. He didn't name it. Preliminary project plans show a riverwalk and a boardwalk along the marina. 

Read the rest of the story and see more renderings of the proposed development on the St. Louis Business Journal website.

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