After months of delays and changes, University City officials are moving forword with a major development project along Olive Boulevard.
“Redevelopment of the intersection of Olive and I-170 has been talked about for nearly 50 years,” said University City Mayor Terry Crow at a May 20 press conference. “We have taken input for the past 12 months ... (the development) will expand and diversify our economy, it will help shore up city services, help the schools and help services north of Olive.”
Crow said the project will be a positive for housing north of Olive, which has been slow to recover from the housing crisis several years ago.
“This will be transformational for University City. We will be less reliant on other cities for revenue,” said City Manager Gregory Rose.
Rose said he expects the project to provide funds for the city’s fire and parks and recreation departments, and will bring 150-250 “livable wage jobs to U. City.”
The council held a first reading of the project agreement on Jan. 14, but afterward Novus Development Company withdrew the plan citing a number of changes the company wanted to make.
In mid-January, a resident reported finding an error in tax calculations made by a city consultant for the project. Rose and Novus president Jonathan Browne determined that the error would not negatively impact the project.
“There is no way we can excuse the mistake that occurred, but with hard work we have delivered a proposed agreement that is good not just for U. City but for the region,” said Rose.
The city is guaranteed $3 million up front to begin community revitalization efforts, and an additional $12 million toward revitalization over the next 20 years.
“Money from this development will be used to address housing, safety and infrastructure needs of the area north of Olive and the Olive Boulevard corridor,” said Libbey Tucker, the city’s economic development director.
The city has a section of its website, www.ucitymo.org, devoted to project materials, including a financial analysis.
Some residents have questioned how much the city will actually collect from the project. Residents will have further opportunities to make comments at the council meetings.
In August 2018, $70.5 million in tax increment financing was approved for the project, which has an estimated total cost of $190 million.
The development will take in about 50 acres along both sides of Olive, beginning at Interstate 170 and extending east to McKnight/Woodson. The project is tentatively set to include office and retail space, a theater and a hotel. It has been speculated that the project’s anchor will be Costco. At the press conference, Rose did not mention Costco by name, but said it was “the worst kept secret in U. City.”