A Missouri Senate bill would create a state program to incentivize the converting of vacant office space in downtown areas along Main Streets into residential space.

Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, wants to see redevelopment come to some important Missouri downtowns. He explained that 20% of commercial spaces in downtown St. Louis are vacant.

“So, you’ve got these properties that are really just nuisances to the area,” he told Missourinet. “They’re too expensive to tear down. We really need an incentive to help folks to be able to do something with them. So, if you’re familiar with downtown St. Louis, you may know the AT&T tower. It’s over 1.4 million square feet and it’s just been sitting vacant for years.”

A 25% tax credit would be made available for qualifying projects. The tax credit amount would be capped at $50 million per fiscal year, while a separate cap of the same amount would be used for converting buildings over 750,000 square feet.

“The cost perspective of someone to go in and rehab and make these residential, the numbers just don’t work,” he said. “So, by providing tax credits to give a little incentive to developers, you know we’ve been working very closely, actually, with Greater STL as far as developing the language and the business community and local leaders also to say, ‘what would it take to get someone in here to do something with these large commercial spaces.’”

A 25% credit would be made available for Missouri Main Street Districts, while a 30% credit would help to convert to upper floor housing in those areas.

Roberts said that the Revitalizing Downtowns and Main Streets Act would help to bolster local economies.

“It is statewide. It is focused on utilizing tax credits to incentivize developers to rehab these commercial spaces and turn them to residential,” he said. “So, right now, downtown St. Louis only has a population of just over 5,000 people. For comparison, almost 20,000 folks live in the central Weston area.”

The money could be combined with other available tax credits.

The Senate could debate the bill soon.

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