Where Angels Fear To Tread

When the free market cannot profitably develop a site, the governments step in:

  1. Government 1: The City

    Plans to turn a troubled site in Overland into a shopping center have been revived after failing for the second time earlier this year.

    Two local developers – Sansone Group and G.J. Grewe Inc. – at separate times tried to build major retail centers on the Page Avenue property. Working with the city, they hoped to draw retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. But both developers pulled the plug when they failed to recruit tenants.

    Two businesses who are in designed to make money couldn’t, even with the city’s help.

    Time to call in reinforcements.

  2. Government 2: The County

    Now, St. Louis County is taking up the effort. The site, county officials say, is more desirable with the addition of a nearby Home Depot store and other recent construction.

    “That area’s gotten a real boost recently and it’s becoming a premier location,” said Denny Coleman, president of the St. Louis County Economic Council. “We know several developers who’ve said they’d bid on it.”

    “they’d” being the operative tense. They would bid on the land if the government would make the conditions right. That is, the deal itself will not be profitable in and of itself in a free market economy, but if the county would sweeten the deal, its preferred developers would happily bid on it. Once the taxpayers guaranteed a profit.

    But that’s contingent upon….

  3. Government 3: The Federal Government

    The county also is coupling the retail project with a plan to prevent the closing of a nearby military facility. The county hopes the retail center will help persuade the military to stay. Or, if the military leaves, its property could be redeveloped, possibly into office space.

    Because the federal government should make its decisions based upon convenient shopping for its employees and visiting dignitaries? WTF? The county is swinging for the fences on this one. Why not couple it with curing schnucking cancer while you’re at it?

It’s a trifecta of government intervention into the free market at the expense of some:

The 40-acre retail project would rise on land that’s now a hodgepodge of houses, small businesses and vacant factories. In 2001, Overland – without county help – launched redevelopment efforts there.

Friends, that means eminent domain. Remember that nasty thing which the Supreme Court just okayed? Greenlit governments to seize livelihoods from citizens to the benefit of developers and, of course, the agnostic and disinterested governments:

“It’s a depressed area that was blighted years ago,” said Robert Dody, Overland’s mayor. “It’s an ideal area to redevelop. … The city and the county would both like to get more tax revenue from it.”

I know the area they’re talking about. It’s five minutes up I-170, a short spur of the Interstate system, from Clayton, one of the hottest areas in the county. Left to the free market, this area would redevelop on its own as its relatively cheap land would grow into suburbs of Clayton. But that’s not good enough for our elected officials, who could not take immediate credit for future growth based on their hands off governance today.

Instead, they spend tax money and tax-salaried time playing businessmen. Meanwhile, look at the land for sale listings on Hilliker Corporation’s Web site. See all of those properties on Woodson Road? Those are about 1/2 mile from the area in question (Google map; note the pin related to the intersection of Page and Woodson, the redevelopment site in question). The land prices and parcels are ripe for an entry-level developer wanna-be to get in and buy one or more for redevelopment or investment. I’ve had my eyes on the area since I lived nearby, for the reasons I’ve listed above. As I reach a time where I have some money for extraneous business ventures, I hoped to invest properties in this area, to help organically elevate Overland.

But forget it. Bob Dody, Mayor, via signage, welcomes me to Overland every time I pass through. But his eagerness to team the government of Overland with large developers certainly doesn’t welcome smaller outside concerns to invest in real estate (that he might later have to reallocate to THF, so sorry, here’s a couple bucks) in his community nor does he welcome small businesses nor certain home owners to remain in their property in his community (although they’re welcome to spend their just compensation on other property elsewhere in Overland, natch, until he or Sansone needs that, too).

I’d like to wrap this up with a snappy, pithy conclusion, but I’m too disgusted.