University City Has No Minority Inclusion Policy for Public-Subsidized Projects

By on May 17, 2018

From The St. Louis American:  About 10 miles south of the Ferguson unrest’s Ground Zero, developers have proposed a $203.3 million project  that will redevelop the northern third – or 800 acres – of University City, making a Costco or similar “big box” retailer the anchor.

However, some residents question whether University City officials are going to follow the Ferguson Commission’s recommendations to ensure that the project will create a more equitable, inclusive region.

“We must take the time now to ensure that benefits for the community are not only promised, but written into this deal as contractual obligations on the part of the developer,” stated Margaux Sanchez in an open letter.

The developer is requesting $70.5 million in public subsidy – in the form of tax increment financing (TIF) and a Community Improvement District – for the project at Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170. At the University City TIF Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 15, Sanchez and other U. City residents called for a Community Benefits Agreement that would legally bind the developer, Novus Development Company, to provisions that reflect the Ferguson Commission’s recommendations.

A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a contract between community representatives and a real estate developer requiring the developer to provide specific benefits or protections to the affected community, Sanchez explained in the letter. It can address topics such as fair employment, affordable housing, youth resources, racial equity, and historic preservation.

In response to the call for a CBA, City Manager Gregory Rose said, “I believe a number of elements that were identified as part of the CBA are things that we are looking to include in the redevelopment agreement. The real purpose for this development is to make major improvements in the 3rd Ward.”

The 3rd Ward has the highest minority population of University City’s three wards and it also is the most impoverished. Rose said that he supports the community if they want to “pursue that endeavor” of drawing up an agreement with the developer.

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