One of the sore spots around St. Louis has been the competition among municipalities for local tax revenues. This situation has resulted in a number of controversial TIF funded shopping center projects. The latest in this string of development controversies is taking place in Sunset Hills at the SE quadrant of I-44 and Lindbergh.
The site is strategically enough located, however, it's current use is a middle class residential neighborhood. So, a number of years ago, the City of Sunset Hills and commercial real estate interests started working on a redevelopment plan involving TIF to buyout the residents and redevelop the neighborhood.
The project has had a long history of problems, the latest of which are highlighted in the current edition of the St. Louis Business Journal. We are friends with one family living in the buyout area. Their story is particularly troubling.
They have been cooperating with buyout efforts for a number of years. Now, with the latest round of project delays, they are starting to pay a heavy personal cost.
They were supposed to close on the sale of their home with Novus, the project developer, this past month. That didn't happen. However, their sales contract gave them salvage rights on the house, so they have gutted the home of its major systems, all the way down to the aluminum gutters. Since the sale didn't close, they're now living in a substandard home, devoid of modern systems such as hot water and a furnace.
While they were in the process of salvaging parts of their old home, they were looking forward to the purchase of their dream home in a very nice location near Grant's Farm. However, since they were unable to close on the sale of their old home, they could not close on the purchase of their new home, and have lost their earnest money deposit to the seller. That took almost all of their available cash.
And now, word is that Westfield Shopping Centers, owners of the nearby Crestwood Plaza, have purchased some homes in the targeted Sunset Hills redevelopment area, further complicating matters for Novus, and the City of Sunset Hills.