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Paul McKee a No-Show at Public Meeting

I went to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Hyde Park on October 25 for Metropolitan Congregations United's fall public meeting, in hopes that Paul McKee Jr. would appear.

I don't believe in Santa Claus, or the Great Pumpkin. But I hoped a prominent -- if reclusive -- local developer who says he wants to do great things for the city would follow through on an invite from civic-minded church folks.

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McKee is a St. Charles County-based developer who has acquired hundreds of parcels on the near north side of St. Louis. It's taken a few years, and while the properties sit vacant, McKee's neighbors grow nervous. They fear the worst. What's he going to do? Knock down a bunch of buildings in historic neighborhoods? Get the city to invoke eminent domain and force everyone around him out?

McKee has yet to answer that question in public. He has spoken with Metropolitan Congregations United and Mayor Francis Slay. The message relayed from both parties is that McKee doesn't have detailed plans.

An appearance at a public meeting would represent a major departure from the ongoing status quo: silence on his part, accompanied by rampant speculation on the part of most everyone else.

McKee was a no-show.

Here's what did happen at the meeting: Roger Duncan, secretary of MCU's north-side cluster of congregations, recited MCU's four development principles (one of which is to not displace existing residents). Then MCU introduced a North City Stakeholders Table on Redevelopment with representatives from the following groups: JeffVanderLou Initiative, MCU, North Grand Neighborhood Services, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, Pruitt-Igoe Development Corp., Third Ward Neighborhood Council, and St. Louis Development Corp.

That last stakeholder is the agency that oversees all tax-delinquent and abandoned property in the city that isn't sold at the sheriff's auction. The St. Louis Development Corp. might be the only entity that controls as much land on the north side as Paul McKee. (Maybe even more land than McKee.) And, many of McKee's holdings are next to St. Louis Development Corp. property.

MCU is calling on its members to get McKee to the table. Thursday night the group distributed postcards for members to hand out at their churches. The goal is to collect and deliver to Paul McKee 2,000 signed postcards that bear the heading "Uniting for the Good of St. Louis."

Roger Duncan told me the word was that McKee didn't like all the blogging that went on (here and here and here) in advance of the meeting. Slay's aide Jeff Rainford says he put in a call to McKee on MCU's behalf, and the word he got back was that the meeting was "premature."

I introduced myself to The Rev. Richard Creason, a member of MCU's economic-development committee and pastor at Holy Trinity. He was not pleased to meet me. He said that if he'd known I was writing for the RFT's blog, he wouldn't have spoken with me the previous week. Why the distinction? He says my writing for the print edition might've been more "tempered."

Perhaps. If you would like to indulge in media navel-gazing, check out the latest spin on blogging, bloggers and blogability.

Meanwhile, I've got just one question: Paul, does this mean I won't see you at RFT's Best of St. Louis party on Thursday?

-Kathleen McLaughlin

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