This business just won't fly

January 6, 2014 

You've got to feel bad for Hossein Shahpari. All he wanted to do was take a big loss to Mascoutah and turn it into a win, but between the city and the county he's wound up with a very expensive empty space.

Purina used to operate a coupon redemption center in the building at 9711 Fuesser Road, employing 184 folks who sent out goodies to loyal pet food customers. It left, and Shahpari looked like an economic savior in 2005 when he bought the building for $2 million with the intent of operating a multi-ethnic bazaar. There would have been an estimated 200 jobs plus lots of sales taxes for Mascoutah.

Well, the old Purina center was in the Scott Air Force Base flight path, and for safety reasons you don't want hundreds of people gathered in a building if a tanker or other plane crashes. Mascoutah leaders implemented an Airport Overlay District in 2011, six years after Shahpari's purchase, to let everyone else know about development restrictions around the base and nearby MidAmerica Airport.

So Shahpari's bazaar idea is dead. A large church was interested in buying the old Purina site from him for a satellite campus, but they got a courtesy call from St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. That sale is now dead, too.

Too bad there was no courtesy call to Shahpari before he tried to invest in Mascoutah. He just filed a lawsuit to try to get Mascoutah to reimburse him after they changed the rules on him, hyper-restricting his formerly valuable property.

We don't know whether Shahpari will win, but we do know this is a cautionary tale about doing business around the base and airport with either Mascoutah or the county. Don't expect those airport deficits to decrease anytime soon.

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