By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
Cooperation between public agencies and private development firms has manifested in redevelopment of – and reinvestment in – former automotive manufacturing sites across the St. Louis region.
This message came from a panel of experts who weighed in on past and present economic development successes in repurposing sites that once manufactured automobiles into vibrant business parks today.
The virtual panel spoke May 27 as part of FreightWeekSTL 2021, a week-long campaign held in partnership with the Inland Marine Expo. FreightWeekSTL 2021 provided industry leaders in development, real estate, logistics, freight, shipping and carrying with sessions and events spotlighting St. Louis’ global connectivity as a multimodal gateway for raw materials and finished goods.
Current evidence of such redevelopment success is Northpoint Development LLC’s 1.3 million-square-foot facility in Wentzville, formerly the General Motors automotive plant and now a GM suppliers’ location known as Wentzville Logistics Center. Mary Lamie, VP of Multimodal Enterprises for Bi-State Development and head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway, said the recent expansion of the former Wentzville plant has created more than 4,300 direct jobs and represents a $1.5 billion private investment – the largest private business investment in Missouri history. The facility is nearly 100 percent occupied.
Two other St. Louis-centric automotive plant redevelopments are further evidence of successful redevelopment and subsequent jobs creation, according to Doug Rasmussen, president and CEO of Steadfast City Economic & Community Partners.
One is the former Ford Motor Co. plant in Hazelwood. Panattoni Development Co. invested $250 million into the 160-acre site beginning in 2008 to repurpose it as Aviator Business Park, generating more than 1,500 permanent jobs.
The other is the former Chrysler plant in Fenton. US Capital Development bought the site in 2014, investing $300 million into it and redeveloping it as Fenton Logistics Park – creating 2,000 jobs in the process.
“The model for success for each of these locations focused on the bi-state region’s long history of supporting our manufacturing and logistics cluster,” Lamie said.
All three automotive site redevelopments included various public financial incentives in the mix.
“It’s incredible to think about what occurred at these locations and what’s there now,” said Rasmussen, who moderated the panel. “It’s a great story of rebirth resiliency, excellent locations, and the ingenuity and determination to get things done through valuable public-private partnerships.”