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    Monday, January 31, 2005

    Eminent domain takes aim at life's work: Man's business to be taken to make way for a 'Media Box'

    Story dated 31 January 2005

    Jim Day, the owner of Royal Auto Repair in St. Louis just paid off his mortgage on the business last year. Now he has been informed that he must give up his business and property "to make way for something called a "Media Box."" Since he is not willing to sell, the city tyrants have said that they are willing to use eminent domain to condemn the property. The area where Mr. Day's business is located has been target for redevelopment by the city. The organization in charge "is Grand Center Inc., a nonprofit organization headed by former Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr. The redevelopment plan passed in 2002 by the Board of Aldermen names Grand Center as "master developer," giving the agency broad and almost unilateral powers to control land use. . . Grand Center [of which Schoemehl is the CEO] can approve or reject building designs, dispense up to $80 million in tax incentives and acquire land by eminent domain." That's nice. The tyrants of St. Louis have made one of their cronies, now a private citizen, the effective king of that part of town.

    Day is being offered less than what his business is worth, but his choice is to take it, or fight it in court. "In October 2003, Schoemehl offered Day $125,000 for his land. Day rejected it. Two months later, Schoemehl cut the offer to $67,500. That is $12,800 less than the city's official appraisal." It's also likely less than Day could make in 4 months running his business. Schoemehl is currently involved in several lawsuits over the tactics he uses to acquire land, tactics considered to be "heavy-handed and bullying." In federal court, a group of property owners have charged "that Grand Center has wrongfully threatened property owners with eminent domain "in an effort to get them to sell at a distressed price, sometimes offering only $1, which itself carries an ominous implication.""

    Are you wondering what a "Media Box" is? Grand Center and others connected with the project don't want to talk about it. Apparently, "it's a building that will hold a design studio and apartments or condominiums. . . 'Media Box' is really the working title for the design studio piece of it." And it was like pulling teeth to get that much information out of them. That's real nice.

    Hopefully, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of property owners in Kelo v. New London at the end of February and then we can start putting people like Schoemehl in prison. If not, don't be surprised if one day your property is stolen to make way for something you've never heard of.
    ---------Grand Center, Inc. (314-533-1884; 634 N. Grand Boulevard St. Louis, MO 63103)
    ---------St. Louis, Missouri


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