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Eminent domain suit seeks five McKee properties

Add another twist to the lawsuits and eminent domain hype surrounding Paul McKee’s massive NorthSide Regeneration project.

This time, McKee finds himself on the receiving end of condemnation.

NorthSide Regeneration, McKee’s company, is listed as a defendant in a suit filed April 2 in St. Louis Circuit Court by the State of Missouri and MoDot.

The suit involves the condemnation of North St. Louis properties for the construction of the New Mississippi River Bridge project. Offers have been made and refused on five of McKee’s properties, said Philip E. Morgan Jr., who is handling the case for the plaintiffs.

Morgan said the offers were made at least 30 days before April 2, but declined to say what the offered amounts had been or if the current real estate climate had affected them.

“This is an ongoing conversation,” he said. “We are always willing to sit and talk. We’re not opposed to settling on the steps of the courthouse.”

Morgan also was unsure whether the properties were residential before McKee purchased them.

“What we look at is the property as we come upon it,” he said. “… Chances are in the City of St. Louis it’s had several uses over the years.”

Based on square footages listed in the filing, the total land in question is about three acres. The properties lie on the north and south sides of Mullanphy Street between 10th and 11th streets and on Cass Avenue between 13th and 10th streets, Morgan said.

When contacted by a reporter, Paul J. Puricelli of Stone, Leyton & Gershman said he had not heard about the suit but has been “handling all the other NorthSide litigation.”

After reading over a copy of the filing that was faxed to his office by a reporter, Puricelli said he didn’t know how much NorthSide Regeneration had been offered for the properties but that there had been “ongoing discussions” between MoDot and McKee.

“The hope and the expectation is that this will be worked out before any significant litigation,” Puricelli said.

A message left in the voicemail box of NorthSide Regeneration was not returned by press time.

McKee has repeatedly said he doesn’t intend to ask for eminent domain as part of his $8 billion project to redevelop roughly 1,500 in acres of North St. Louis.

But some residents in the area fear he will need the government’s help in securing properties that are located within the boundaries of his plans.

The filing comes on the heels of a case filed in Cole County Circuit Court by residents challenging the constitutionality of state tax credits that McKee plans to use on the project. On March 29, Judge Patricia Joyce ruled for McKee and NorthSide Regeneration, holding that the tax credit law in question was constitutional.

“The Missouri Supreme Court has held that if a grant serves a public purpose, it does not violate the constitutional prohibition against granting public funds to private entities,” Joyce wrote.

In another suit in post-trial briefings in St. Louis Circuit Court, residents have claimed the city’s TIF Commission did not follow legal requirements when voting to grant Northside Regeneration the use of tax-increment financing and that McKee has not proven he has adequate funding to complete the project.

St. Louis-based attorney Bevis Schock, who is representing the plaintiffs in that case, said he is “not opposed to eminent domain for true, public purposes … this sounds like it is one.”

Schock said people should pay attention to what McKee originally paid for the properties and what he ends up getting from the state for them.

“If he tries to pick up a profit, that will be interesting,” he said.