Listen to Oral Argument from Yesterday's High Court Battle Over Paul McKee's Project

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What will the Missouri Supreme Court justices decide about McKee's dream for North St. Louis?
After listening to all 47 minutes of the oral argument that took place in Missouri's Supreme Court yesterday (which we've uploaded below), it all seems to come down to a single word: "project."

What's a "project"? How specific does a developer need to be about a redevelopment "project" before a city can use its authority under state law to grant tax increment financing (or a TIF)?

Developer Paul McKee thinks he's been plenty specific about his dream to revitalize more than 1,000 acres of the city -- or, at least, specific enough to deserve the $390 million TIF that the Board of Aldermen granted him in 2009.

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Lawsuit Against Paul McKee's Northside Regeneration Transferred to Supreme Court

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Photo by Jennifer Silverberg
Paul McKee now must wait for the Supreme Court to determine whether he can keep his TIF
Missouri's Eastern District Court of Appeals has finally weighed in on the lawsuit to thwart developer Paul McKee's $8.1 billion, 1500-acre vision for a new North St. Louis. 

Judges Robert Dowd, Mary Hoff and Sherri Sullivan agree with 22nd Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker, who ruled in July 2010 that the City should not have awarded the developer any subsidies because, under state statute, his plans weren't specific enough.

However, the judges have decided to send the case to their robed colleagues in Jefferson City, writing:
We would affirm the trial court's judgment; however, due to the general interest or importance of questions involved, we transfer the case to the Supreme Court.
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Appeals Hearing in NorthSide Case Got Heated

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NorthSide case throw-down was this morning at Easter District Court of Appeals
If you're a developer, and you want the Board of Aldermen to subsidize your huge redevelopment, how specific must you be about your plans? 

That was the central question this morning during a hearing in Missouri's Eastern District Court of Appeals downtown. And things got a bit heated.

Developer Paul McKee himself showed up to the proceeding -- the first time in this particular lawsuit. For years, he's been touting his $8.1 billion plan to transform 1,100 acres of North St. Louis, and insists that he'd been specific enough when he convinced the Board of Aldermen several years ago to pledge $390 in public subsidies for his vision.

But a group of Fifth Ward residents who live in the plan's footprint beg to differ, and state circuit judge Robert H. Dierker has agreed with them: State statute, Dierker ruled in July 2010, requires a developer to describe a specific "project."

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Northside Appeal Preview: Juicy Excerpts from a Boisterous Legal Back-and-Forth

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Paul Puricelli, attorney arguing on behalf of Paul McKee and NorthSide
In just a few hours, lawyers of Paul McKee will be trying to convince a state appeals panel to let the developer move forward with his $8.1 billion-dollar plan to rejuvenate North St. Louis. (Click here for a primer on the situation).

The stakes are high, and the issues are rather technical, what with TIFs and statutory definitions and cost-benefit analyses, etc. We'll get into all those things after the hearing.

But for now, we must admit that the pre-appeal briefs have been wicked fun to read, thanks to the tart little back-and-forth between McKee's lawyer, Paul Purcielli, and plaintiff's attorney, Bevis Schock.

Puricelli's writing style has always been all-business. He avoids taking blatant swipes at his opponents.

However, Schock -- a hard-core conservative on the board of Rex Sinquefield's Show-Me Institute -- exhibits no such scruples.

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Will Appeals Judges Uphold Halting of Paul McKee's Ambitious Plan for the North Side?

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Photo by Jennifer Silverberg
What will the appeals court think of Paul McKee's ambitious plan for the north side?
Tomorrow, in Missouri's Eastern District Court of Appeals, lawyers for developer Paul McKee will once again fight for the legitimacy for his $8.1 billion-dollar plan to revitalize North St. Louis -- and for the big chunk of change the city promised him in subsidies.

So what's this court case all about? Here's a quick refresher.

May 2009: Paul McKee finally announced (after much secrecy) his ambitious plan to transform 1,100 acres of the north side into new homes and four commercial hubs, which he claimed would generate 22,000 permanent jobs and 43,000 construction jobs in the first fifteen years.

But in order to realize his vision, he said, he needed a huge subsidy from the city (called a TIF).

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Got a Plan for Pruitt-Igoe? St. Louis Preservationists Want to Hear It

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Do you have any idea what to do with these 37 acres?
Since 1977, when the last remnants of the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project were destroyed, most of the 57-acre site at the corner of Cass and North Jefferson avenues has lain dormant. Some developers, notably Paul McKee of NorthSide Development, have said they have plans for the area, but nobody has done anything, except for the St. Louis Public Schools, which built the Gateway Schools complex.

The remaining 33 acres are turning into a sort of urban forest and, thanks to the recent documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, has become the subject of curiosity for urban explorers. (If you're interested, by the way, the doc is screening Sunday night, July 17, at Off Broadway.)

What to do? This may not be prime real estate, but it is less than two miles from downtown.

A newly-formed nonprofit called Pruitt-Igoe Now has just launched a design competition for plans to develop the area. That doesn't mean any of the plans will actually be implemented, but, as Michael Allen, the architectural historian behind the Preservation Research Office and one of the masterminds of Pruitt-Igoe Now, points out to the Post-Dispatch, this is really about starting a conversation.

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Teen Delinquency Won't Stand a Chance Against Lap Pool and Gym, St. Louis Officials Hope

Mayor Francis Slay and several north St. Louis aldermen gathered in O'Fallon Park today for the groundbreaking of a new recreational complex. Officials are optimistic that the rec-plex will be a resource for north city kids and teenagers.

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BREAKING NEWS: Court Rules Against McKee's Northside Plan and Board of Aldermen

Judge Dierker's wry poke: "The Court did not have the pleasure of meeting Paul McKee at trial."
Developer Paul McKee's "unprecedented" plan for a revitalized North St. Louis suffered a serious blow today.

Judge Robert H. Dierker of the 22nd Circuit Court has ruled against the developer and the City in a lawsuit brought by north side residents last year who claimed that their property values dipped because the city improperly green-lighted his massive plan. (See our January feature here).

Below is an excerpt (or read the full ruling):

The question before the Court, fundamentally, is whether the City's Board of Aldermen had the discretion to say, in Alderman Bosley's words, "Let's try it."  The Court concludes that the answer must be, "No."
There's a press conference at 2 p.m. Updates to come...

McKee's Attorney Quotes Teddy Roosevelt, Goes for a Final Bodyslam

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Painting of Paul McKee's dream
Paul Puricelli, the attorney representing developer Paul McKee, just filed Northside's final post-trial brief. It's a 32-page defense of the land magnate's plan for North St. Louis, a plan that aims to radically transform the City but for months has been threatened by a lawsuit brought by residents (see our feature, "North Side Rancor").

For those of y'all following this case, Puricelli's concluding argument is an interesting read, for a few reasons:
  • He tries to contradict Judge Robert H. Dierker's earlier ruling with needlepoint precision (it's quite a task);
  • He takes the plaintiffs' own evidence and uses it against them; and
  • He seems to devote just a smidgen of extra energy to discredit Professor Michele Boldrin, with whom he got into a testy exchange during trial.

Whether he succeeds in these endeavors is up to the Court to decide.

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Awarding Paul McKee Tax Credits Doesn't Violate MO Constitution, Judge Rules

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Developer Paul McKee's tax credits are safe - for now.
The final judgment against anti-Paul-McKee crusaders Barb Manzara and Keith Marquard, at least at the level of Missouri's 19th circuit, is pretty brutal.

Last October, the pair filed a suit in Cole County challenging the constitutionality of the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act, which began as a bill drafted by one of McKee's own attorneys, then became state law, and then was used by the developer to get $19.6 million in tax credits late last year.

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