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10/27/06 6:48 PM ET

Ballpark Village closer to reality

Big hurdle cleared to allow construction to start in spring

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals organization and the city of St. Louis took a major step on Friday afternoon toward creating Ballpark Village.

In an 18th-floor room overlooking the waterlogged dirt crater that was once Busch Stadium II and will be Ballpark Village, St. Louis mayor Francis Slay and Cardinals managing partner and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. agreed in principle to construct Ballpark Village. The project will yield a mix of shops, restaurants, businesses, retail stores, office space and a condo tower.

"I think it is a tremendous asset for the city," DeWitt said. "It's a great asset for the Cardinals as well. It will bring a game-day experience that is second to none and provide an atmosphere that would really be an enhancement for the fans. It will be a real draw all year round, but especially during the baseball season."

If St. Louis officials sign off on the deal, construction for the $387 million proposal will begin in spring 2007 and hopefully be completed by Opening Day 2009.

"That's the plan," DeWitt said. "If we break ground next spring, it can be done."

The Cordish Company, the same organization that built similar establishments in Baltimore, will head up the architecture and the building of the village, the first retail or entertainment venue built in the St. Louis area in several decades.

"This will be good for the downtown city of St. Louis, for the taxpayers and for the region," Slay said. "This will be like nothing St. Louis has ever seen before."

The project will overlook the left-field fence at Busch Stadium and provide seating areas for fans and residents. It will also have different modes of entertainment, including art shows and concerts when the Cardinals are not playing at home -- helping the city turn a profit and creating thousands of new jobs for the city.

The Phase I proposal -- the first major retail construction in downtown St. Louis since the 1980s -- will cover a six-block development and provide nearly 2,000 jobs for the community and a projected $54.5 million in salaries, rehabbing and infusing a city with new life.

"This is a unique area overlooking the new ballpark," Slay said. "The views are spectacular. You can watch a game from the windows or the balcony if you are living there. There will also be unique entertainment and retail options available that you will not see anywhere else in the region. ... This is going to be something that will be very different and will change the face of downtown and that area and build upon the success."

The village will help infuse tourism and conventions into the city and will bring more people downtown. An estimated $291 million in new taxes will be provided to the city and $142 million to St. Louis public schools over 40 years.

The project will not use any taxpayer dollars -- one of the major points that pushed negotiations back.

"We weren't going to use any existing tax dollars, and the city was not going to put general revenue at risk," Slay said.

Instead, the project will be funded through three separate entities. The Cordish Company will provide $300 million and another $56 million will be requested through the City of St. Louis and another $29 million will be asked for from the state.

Before construction can start, the parties will need approval from several parties, including the Board of Aldermen. David S. Cordish, chairman of The Cordish Company, said signatures shouldn't be difficult to obtain, especially since no tax dollars will be budgeted for the village.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," he said. "This has to be a world-class project and something that will be life-changing to the community."

Cordish's eventual project will combine several elements from other developments throughout the country, but he said this will be individual in its design.

"There are elements of a number of projects, but there is nothing like what we what are doing here," he said. "... What is unique about this is the way the ballpark is designed to flow into what we are doing. Usually when we are called in, the ballpark is built and is self-enclosed. This is going to integrate the city and the ballpark."

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.