Phantom of the Hood

Who are Blairmont Associates — and why are so many north St. Louis residents mad at them?

In January 2006 Thomas called McEagle's headquarters and asked McKee whether he was involved with the north-side property purchases. "He denied that he had anything to do with Blairmont, and he was curious why on earth I would even be suggesting that," recalls Thomas. "He asked me to go ahead and tell anybody out there [who] suggests anything like that, that he is not behind Blairmont, or he has no ownership connection."

A 2005 federally mandated Federal Reserve System filing suggests otherwise. McKee was the director of Enterprise Financial Services Corporation, a Clayton-based bank holding company, until November 2005. The filing, Form FR Y-6, requires that as director, McKee list all companies in which he had more than a 25 percent ownership stake.

Among the dozens of businesses listed are the names of thirteen entities that own derelict and decaying property on the near north side. The filing identifies McKee — at least at the end of 2005 — as a 30 percent stakeholder in, among others, Blairmont, Vashon Developers, VHS Partners, Noble Development Company and N&G Ventures.

Michael Allen: "If there's no communication, it just fuels all sorts of rumors and fears."
Jennifer Silverberg
Michael Allen: "If there's no communication, it just fuels all sorts of rumors and fears."
Map of Blairmont holdings from Allen's Web site, www.eco-
absence.org.
Map of Blairmont holdings from Allen's Web site, www.eco- absence.org.

In addition, campaign donations made to the Nineteenth Ward Democratic Committee by three of the companies buying the property — N&G Ventures, Noble Development Company and VHS Partners — list as their address 1001 Boardwalk Springs Place in O'Fallon, the same address as McEagle. McKee also declined to return numerous phone calls requesting comment for this story.

Blairmont's silence, say residents, is deafening. Explains Michael Allen, "If there's no communication, it just fuels all sorts of rumors and fears from a lot of people who have heard nasty stories about communities that have been wiped out entirely by developments for other people."

Adds Sean Thomas of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group: "Every time there's a person there with some surveying equipment, someone thinks, 'OK, something big is about to happen.'"

Residents wonder whether a WingHaven-like development is in the pipeline, and if so, whether their property is in jeopardy. "If somebody's planning on bulldozing the community to create a gated community," says Thomas, "it would have to be huge and involve a tremendous amount of displacement and demolition of buildings.

"We're not out to pick any fights with anybody," he adds. "Just opening the lines of communication would be a wonderful first step." He says the neighborhood needs investment and infill.

Barbara Manzara, who ultimately found a loophole that allowed her to dig her sewer line without Blairmont's approval, agrees. "I just wish they would talk to us. Because when I look out my building, I see Blairmont buildings looking back at me with empty eyes. I am surrounded by Blairmont."

Contact the author randall.roberts@riverfronttimes.com

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