Missouri board backs tax credits for Gateway Arch

A Missouri board endorsed Tuesday up to $15 million of tax credits to help finance the redevelopment of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis but delayed decisions on other projects because of concerns about state revenues.

The tax credits for the Arch would be used to leverage private contributions for the renovation and expansion of a museum located underneath the monument. The project is part of a $380 million initiative to renovate the Arch and its surrounding area for the 50th anniversary of its completion.

Construction of the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch was completed in October 1965. It opened to visitors in 1967 and now attracts about 2.5 million people annually. It was intended as a monument to President Thomas Jefferson and pioneers for whom St. Louis served as the gateway to the West.

The renovation of the Arch grounds and nearby road system is to be completed by October 2015, and museum renovations are to be finished by fall 2016.

The Missouri Development Finance Board on Tuesday approved up to $15 million of tax credits for private contributions to the museum project. The tax credits would apply to half the value of the donations, meaning they could leverage up to $30 million in contributions. The directors of several state departments still must sign off on the tax credits before they can be issued by the board.

The foundation coordinating the Arch renovation said the state tax breaks are one of several federal, state and local efforts aiding the project. It also has raised about $179 million from donors, four-fifths of the way toward a private fundraising goal of $221 million, said Maggie Hales, executive director of the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation.

While approving aid for the Arch, the state development board decided to delay consideration of tax credits for four other projects after Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration expressed concerns about state finances.

Missouri’s revenue collections are running short of budget projections.

Nixon also has said that several bills passed by the Legislature could reduce revenues by up to $425 million annually, by providing tax breaks to particular industries and organizations. Nixon vetoed those bills last week but has said he will freeze state spending to guard against the potential for legislators to override those vetoes during their September session.

The four projects postponed for considered by the state development board include an agricultural exposition center near St. Joseph, renovations to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, a grocery store development spearheaded by Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City and infrastructure improvements to Forest Park in St. Louis.

The projects had sought a combined $11.3 million of tax credits, though the state board could allot no more than $10 million of additional tax credits this year.

The only representative of those projects at Tuesday’s meeting was Charlie Shields, a hospital executive who is to take over as president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers in July. Shields said the delay in tax-credit approval should not affect the hospital’s grocery store development, which is scheduled for a groundbreaking this fall.

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