Ballpark Village at Least Two Years Away

St. Louis Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III is pushing a "scaled back" two-block phase one Ballpark Village development that won't open until at least 2013.

If you are like many, the subject of the St. Louis Cardinals Ballpark Village project beings upon you immediate and severe fatigue. Promises, broken promises, a bad economy - a host of reasons can be cited. The bottom line is that nothing has been built - unless you count the temporary softball field still sitting beyond Busch Stadium's left field wall.

The leader of the project from the Cardinals perspective and its primary driver remains team president Bill DeWitt III, son of chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. During a group presentation period as part of Monday's final day session at the Winter Warm-Up fan festival at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, the younger DeWitt discussed his oft-delayed project.

DeWitt said he will be part of a public meeting Tuesday (though he meant to say Wednesday) with the Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority (MoDESA) in an attempt to move ahead with the first phase of a "scaled-back" and "repositioned" Ballpark Village. The initial objective is to restore previously-approved local and state subsidies.

What DeWitt calls a "seven block, high density, mixed use project" has now been split into what he estimates may be three phases. Only the first is on the table now, a two–block phase one that includes 100,000 square feet of retail/entertainment including the Cardinals museum and restaurant and 225,000 square feet of office space, which DeWitt equates to a 14-story office tower.

Despite guarded optimism, much work remains ahead. Even with the less aggressive phase one, one major challenge is that the basic infrastructure (utilities, roads, etc.) to support the entire project needs to be put in place from the very start, at a cost that DeWitt estimates to be $10 million.

That pesky money problem rears its head in other places as well. In addition to securing public funding, DeWitt reminded the Warm-Up audience that the bonds needed to fund the project have to be sold first.

The initial phase will take two years of construction from its start, DeWitt said. As such, he acknowledged a phase one completion date of spring 2013 would be the best case scenario, one in which he was unwilling, and realistically still unable to commit.

Update: A post-hearing article in the Post-Dispatch reports the Cardinals and developer Cordish Co. want $57 million in public subsidies against the $155 million cost.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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