In early 2009, the cities formed the Joint Redevelopment Task Force (JRTF) to study the benefits of collaboration and how they could make it happen.
The Road to Collaboration
“We have been talking about this issue for years, as something that is a real possibility for both communities considering the synergy around that intersection,” Olivette City Manager T. Michael McDowell said.
Once both cities agreed the concept was worth exploring, they created the task force to research how the corridor could be developed as one district, even though it crosses municipal lines.
“It’s important we present a united front to the development community,” said. “If you come here, it won’t be a hassle. If you create something that will include both cities, it will be as though you are working with one municipality.”
A Hometown Hub
Welsch said the I-170 corridor in Olivette and University City lies at the center of the region.
“Minutes from the county seat of Clayton and the airport, very close to (Interstates) 70 and 270, it’s perfectly situated. But if you look at it, despite the benefits and potential of the interchange, the potential has not been realized,” she said.
Olivette Mayor Jean Antoine said the task force must figure out how the two cities can come together to form a single entity for this and future projects.
“We want businesses that can build over time and still be a viable part of the community, not like the big boxes that come and go, leaving vacancies,” Antoine said. “We want developers to come together to develop sustainable projects that will grow.”
He said the area in question could benefit the region in the same way as The Loop in University City.
Plans and Progress
The task force has been meeting monthly since it formed in 2009. Soon after getting to work, the JRTF sought advice from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) St. Louis's Technical Assistance Program (TAP). TAP recommended the two cities work together to improve the area and noted the benefits will outweigh any obstacles and drawbacks.
Welsch, a member of the task force, said the JRTF is finalizing its report for both cities.
“We make specific recommendations in the report on how to proceed in creating a cohesive area that’s welcoming to developers,” she said. “That includes how to deal with two sets of taxing, infrastructure, codes, design standards, zoning and permitted uses that each city has now.”
Antoine said that in order to appear as a single entity, both cities will have to agree on a range of issues. That way, a developer would only have to get approval from one city. The other city would automatically be on board because the agreed-upon principles for the area.
The Next Step
Once the task force finalizes its report, members will vote on whether to accept it. Then the report will be presented to both city councils at a joint meeting.
“I am hoping that each council wants us to continue the work by either creating another task force or by continuing this one,” said Welsch, . “Then, I hope we could get funding to do a master plan and funding to start marketing the area to attract the kind of development we want. My vision is to get all of the prep work done now so as soon as the market changes, we’re ready to move.”
Task force members hope to present their report to both city councils in September or October.