Mark G. SchulteBy Mark G. Schulte

Mark G. Schulte is a lawyer with Schulte Law Office LLC. He holds a degree in Urban Studies from Washington University and a Juris Doctor degree from St. Louis University School of Law. His efforts on the north riverside include his co-ownership of the Cottenbelt building and his involvement with “Tent City” and Artica. In addition, his work with clients involves affordable housing and urban redevelopment. Schulte is a life-long St. Louisan and father of two children.

A version of this op-ed originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 24, 2015. To view the original op-ed, click here.

I am one of the owners of the Cottonbelt building, property that goes from the 50-yard line out through the end zone on the proposed new stadium.

My business partner Tim Tucker and I bought the Cottonbelt 15 years ago in a desire to create a new riverfront for our community. Later we acquired, by purchase and lease, surrounding land and buildings, a contiguous assemblage of 20 acres, the main footprint of the new stadium.

I learned from the announcements in the Post-Dispatch that Gov. Jay Nixon’s commissioners had decided to put their new stadium directly upon my property. For years I had lobbied the powers that be for a “Riverside” redevelopment. Perhaps now that time has come to us.

The governor’s plan will provide $1 billion of public and private investment, not only in the stadium but in the Riverside infrastructure around it. I have not heard of any realistic alternatives from the opponents to the stadium. I haven’t heard enough about accompanying more equitable community development efforts. We can do better, still.

I would love to have a new stadium. It would be payday for me and my family, after a decade and a half of investment, struggle and sacrifice. It would be a relief of a great burden. So, my opinion contains the strong taint of self-interest. I am not sure that is bad for the city.

I played and like football, but I am not a fan of modern sports business. And I resent the profitable and ruthless beggar-thy-neighbor bidding wars of city against city. It’s a rigged game, but that’s how the people’s stadiums are built, now. Game on, fourth quarter.

I have seen our city squander opportunities and piles of money before. I have seen grand good plans brought to ruin by carping and litigious delay. Our city is renowned for the Arch, the Cardinals, Pruitt-Igoe, and now Ferguson.

I believe that our Arch is among the most splendid public monuments. It expresses the soaring aspirations of an optimistic people. It was the result of decades of patient commitment and plodding effort. It was the united common work of our community. Do we, the grandchildren of that generation that built the Arch, have what it takes to create something as splendid? Or will we devolve into discord and carping, offering opposition and opinion, but no alternative, no real commitment or serious contribution?

I hope that when we build PSL seats and luxury boxes on what was once tent city for the homeless, that some small sliver of each of those ticket receipts reappears as affordable housing. I hope that certain stadium jobs could be reserved for those folks emerging from the Honor Center prison that lurks nearby. I hope that when we tear down the LEED Platinum 21 O’Fallon, that the dust falls upon the entire stadium landscape as solar panels and green technology. I hope we honor the first people who lived there. We walk among those ghosts. Soon we join them.

Finally, if and when my Cottonbelt building is demolished, with its acre-sized mural overlooking the river, I hope that art by our local artists is commissioned and exhibited all through the stadium and grounds.

Can we build a new Riverside, one that our grandchildren would admire?

Addendum

As this November article is being re-printed in the first days of 2016, the Rams, Chargers and Raiders petitioned to move to LA. Our champions responded that we anticipated this, and that we had made our pitch in advance to keep NFL football in St. Louis. I sat in the many hearings at the Ways and Means Committee and the full Board of Alderman as the financing bill was pushed through.

At the various hearings, I disclosed my personal interest, accepted that the final decision was above my pay-grade, and asked for two things in the Board Stadium funding bill: create a Plan B should the Stadium deal fail, (to forestall the decade of drift that might befall the Riverside); and to use this moment to help capitalize our region’s premier Community Development Finance Institution Great Rivers Community Capital. Great Rivers is wholly owned by Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation, the largest micro-credit lender in America. Nationally-renowned, under-appreciated locally, JP and GRCC have led and assisted their constituents to build credit, create assets, own homes, start businesses here and in the nearby communities. I had hoped to convince our leaders to leverage this billion-dollar stadium public investment into more wide-spread community development. I still work on this every day.

If I were King for a day, and owned two seats on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and could create a Plan B, I might prefer an aquarium, a Zoo-Museum district facility and parkland, a Cahokia Civilization center, a Festival Ground, with a catfish tournament starting THIS Spring. I wouldn’t wait another decade.

Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri- St. Louis.