Union questions about job quality shoot down Midas request for tax abatement

A ST. LOUIS ALDERMANIC BOARD meeting at City Hall turned down Midas Hospitality’s request for a $7.3 million in tax abatement was shut down over poor quality jobs ranking on city’s development scorecard.


St. Louis – Midas Hospitality’s request for tax incentives for its planned development of the former Wells Fargo campus in St. Louis’ Midtown neighborhood was nixed by an aldermanic board March 26, potentially killing the project, for now.

The vote followed a hearing of the City’s Housing, Urban Development and Zoning (HUDZ) Committee at which UNITE HERE Local 74 and other unions and supporters questioned the reliability of Midas’ quality jobs promises and brought the receipts.

Midas Hospitality is seeking $7.3 million in tax abatements over 10 years for what it describes as a $125 million project to build two new seven-story hotels, a Kimpton Hotel and Staybridge Suites, plus a “high-end” restaurant, at the corner of Market Street and Jefferson Avenue, 2601 Market St., on the site of former Wells Fargo Advisors buildings.

But aldermen questioned the need for the project. And Labor unions said the new jobs Midas was promising wouldn’t be worth it.

“I want to see the city and the workers prosper,” said Kim Bartholomew, president of Local 74. “But it can’t just be one or the other.”

Lew Moye, president emeritus of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), testified that Midas scored “zero” for quality jobs on the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC) community benefits scorecard for the project.

Union members and others opposed to the project held up signs in the hearing room that read: “No quality jobs… No on Board Bill 197!”

This was not Midas’s first request for tax abatements. The HUDZ committee voted Jan. 17 to advance a tax subsidy supporting the remodeling of the run-down Oyo Hotel on South 14th Street near the Enterprise Center into an upscale Sheraton, despite lingering concerns from Local 74 about the developer’s position on union Labor and workers organizing.

The 10-year tax abatement, worth an estimated $2.7 million, had been held up since December of last year amid opposition from Local 74 and other unions, who wanted Midas CEO David Robert to sign a neutrality agreement that it wouldn’t try to stop hotel employees from organizing to form a union, should they choose to do so.

Midas had promised quality jobs on that project as well, but refused to sign a neutrality agreement with Local 74. Aldermen’s hands were tied on the project because state law prevented them from denying the project on the grounds that Midas refused to sign a neutrality agreement with the union.

The Kimpton/Staybridge project was different in that opponents focused on quality, living wage jobs and the city’s own scorecard for the project.

“They came in here before and they promised a lot of things and said they were going to do things, but here they are again and we don’t even know if they’re going to live up to what they said the first time around,” Bartholomew said.

“I think the city needs to do better. The city needs to do better for its citizens and for the working people that will be paying taxes working at a city property.”

Although the HUDZ committee turned down the request for tax abatements, Aldermanic President Megan Green said conversations are ongoing between community partners and Midas that could provide a path forward for the project.

Alderman Shane Cohn, of Dutchtown, said it was hard to approve another tax break for a development in the city’s central corridor while the city’s north side and southeast city, are struggling to grow.

Cohn also questioned whether the city needed another hotel when others are still having trouble rebounding from the pandemic.

Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier, of Tower Grove East, referred again to the city’s score card.

City development officials said that fewer than half of the new jobs were expected to pay enough to meet local “livable wage” standards — $14 per hour with $4.60 per hour in benefits, or $19 per hour without benefits.

“Job creation is excellent,” Sonnier said. “But the quality of the jobs matters.”

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