Stranglehold

Downtown real estate speculator David Jump goes for the jugular when he smells blood. Who the hell is this guy?

In the next few months, Jump will have pared his Washington Avenue holdings down to six, most of which are either finished or are in the process of being finished -- and the Lesser-Goldman building. Jump and the McGowans retained their joint ownership of the Fashion Square Building at 1301 Washington Avenue, where a loft-development project is under way.

Kevin McGowan believes Jump might be getting nervous about the rumored changing of the Missouri historic tax credits, which nearly single-handedly funded the downtown redevelopment boom. "This tax, if tinkered with, there's a lot of people that will go down the tubes." Without the credit, elaborates McGowan, it will no longer be economically feasible to redevelop the buildings.

"I think that Dave may be sensing that the market is near cresting," adds another developer, "because the interest rates are going up, and if there's some question about the viability of the tax-credit program -- not that he's taken advantage of it -- that affects the value."

Regardless of the reasons, Jump has made his millions. Says McGowan: "I look back over the years, seeing that Dave has sold or put under contract most all of his property; he has made in appreciation better than $20 a square foot. So for all the bad labels on the man, he's made in excess of $20 million. The difference is, I had to go and borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to make my money. Dave, on the other hand, did it for very little money."


Bob Cassilly is standing beneath a giant, forged-steel praying mantis that perches atop his City Museum. "You can almost see the curve of the Earth," says Cassilly, looking east toward Illinois. He then turns to look down at Washington Avenue, where dust is flying out of buildings, where new windows have replaced old ones, where bedrooms have supplanted storerooms in former warehouses.

Cassilly is showing off the progress on yet another phase of the City Museum: the rooftop water park and, below it, the City Museum Lofts. On the roof, a mason is on his hands and knees laying bricks in a curvy pattern. Soon, says Cassilly, whirlpools will dot the roof, and slides will extend from one pool to another. Swimmers traveling them will seem to be headed off the edge of the museum, only to curl into a pool.

Cassilly can barely contain his enthusiasm for the Tesla coil that he's going to mount in the praying hands of the insect. At night, he'll flip a switch, and bolts of purple and blue electricity will shoot into the sky.

"If it wasn't for Dave Jump, none of this would have been possible," says Cassilly.

Sam Glasser introduced Cassilly to Dave Jump in 1999. "Even before I introduced them, I knew it was a perfect match," says Glasser. "Dave admired Bob's work, and I knew Bob needed a sponsor, as it were. As in renaissance times: The artist meets his prince, Michelangelo meets his Medici. It was a marriage made in Heaven."

In 2001 the City Museum was deep in debt and in dire straits. It had been operating, and failing, as a nonprofit, and Cassilly was working to wrest control of his creation back from its board of directors. The museum hadn't been making its mortgage payments and ultimately defaulted on the loan. When Cassilly won back his museum, the bank foreclosed. Lights off, doors closed.

"They gave us 30 days to pay up," recounts Cassilly. A decision had to be made, and quickly. "Dave stepped in and saved the whole place by guaranteeing a loan for $3.2 million. That saved the whole show."

Since then, Glasser estimates, Jump pumped anywhere from $3 to $4 million dollars into the museum with no fanfare and without much hope for a return on the investment. The project is in a state of perpetual motion: welders working the iron, masons laying brick, artisans transforming box-lots of bottles into glorious glass walls.

Cassilly jumps into the elevator and gets off on the fifth floor, which contractors, carpenters and electricians are transforming into 28 lofts. In what will be Cassilly's and his family's condominium, he's creating a child's dream home. Cassilly's wife is expecting a baby, and the artist has created secret passageways and tunnels for his child to crawl through. The master bath is viewable from the kitchen. "I'll be able to watch my wife take showers," he explains with a smile.

"Something like that has to fed, greased, lubricated," says Glasser. "Someone had to have very deep pockets. And Dave has very quietly, and with no chest-beating, underwritten the City Museum. And not one fucking article about that."

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