It is not easy being a visionary in St. Louis.
We are a skeptical bunch, knowing smugly that big dreams are destined to fail.
We are a suspicious lot, assuming cynically that the visionary must have nefarious motives.
We are selfish folks, plotting carefully how we can benefit from the vision even if it does not succeed.
For example, take Paul McKee and his vision for revitalizing a substantial portion of North St. Louis. It’s a daunting challenge but there’s much positive to be said about McKee.
He has an impressive track record for developing major projects that require huge investments and ten to thirty year commitments. Winghaven in St. Charles County successfully blends middle and upper income housing with a significant job center — Master Card. More recently, he has been the lead partner on North Park, the commercial development east of Lambert Airport.
McKee is willing to put his own money — lots of it — into his ventures. Yes, he seeks public subsidies as well but that is the way the development world operates. When the project succeeds, as Winghaven has and North Park is, all of the surrounding area benefits. That justifies public investment.
McKee grew up in St. Louis. He is not some out-of-towner looking to fleece the locals. He did go to high school here.
Carefully scrutinize McKee’s plan? Sure. There might be ways to make it even better.
Question McKee’s motives? No. We should praise our visionaries for they are far too few in number.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.