October 21, 2011

A Hundred Million Here, a Hundred Million There…

I recently discovered that the American Planning Association (APA) has listed 15 blocks of Washington Avenue in St. Louis as a Great American Street. It appears the APA made a good call — it is a popular street. But after determining how much in public funds has been spent on the street, I wonder if it was worth the cost.

Did you know that since the year 2000, more than $167 million in economic development tax credits have been issued to those 15 blocks? Or that $17 million in state and federal funds have been spent there? Ignoring any other incentives that may have been awarded, it seems that nearly $185 million in public funds have been spent developing 15 city blocks. Was it all really worth that much?

The APA credits the Historic Rehabilitation tax credit, authorized in 1998, for giving Washington Avenue new life — but my colleague, Show-Me Institute Policy Analyst David Stokes, says the street was awesome before then. He should know; he lived there.

For $185 million, whatever urban planners have accomplished, they have accomplished at a very high cost to Missouri taxpayers — most of whom will never visit Washington Avenue. Perhaps urban planners should stop spending taxpayer money and let private businesses do the planning. After all, there are plenty of great, popular streets that the government never planned nor sponsored.

For more Show-Me Daily posts on Great Streets in America, click here and here.

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