ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The St. Louis County NAACP on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Crestwood seeking to block tax-increment financing for the city's $67 million mall redevelopment by challenging the legality of the TIF and the need to subsidize Dierbergs Markets’ construction of a new grocery store while other areas of the county are classified as food deserts.
Under construction for about a month ahead of the official groundbreaking last week and slated to open by mid-2023, the Crestwood Crossing development divides the former 46-acre Crestwood Plaza mall site at Watson and Sappington roads roughly into two halves: a $67 million retail development from St. Louis-based Dierbergs that will be anchored by one of the company's grocery stores, plus a new 81-home subdivision from McBride Homes. The project has $15 million in TIF that applies to the retail side, but not the subdivision. The mall was demolished in 2017 after closing its last store in 2013, and Dierbergs is the fourth developer during that time to propose a plan for the site.
Dierbergs, which is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, did not respond to a request for comment. But the city of Crestwood said in a statement that the redevelopment would continue despite the "frivolous" lawsuit.
The Crestwood TIF Commission began meeting in spring 2021 to consider a request from Dierbergs for $17 million in TIF, among other incentives. But after several meetings and ahead of a scheduled public hearing, Dierbergs said it would instead use the TIF that had previously been approved for the site in 2016 and never used by former owner UrbanStreet Group, which had proposed its own mixed-use redevelopment.
The county NAACP and another plaintiff, county NAACP President John Bowman, who is filing suit as a St. Louis County taxpayer, said in the lawsuit that the organization met with representatives of Crestwood and Dierbergs ahead of the scheduled public hearing and “voiced its concerns and urged Crestwood and Dierbergs to engage in equitable public policy decision-making and to forge an inclusive path forward to eradicate food deserts for all residents in St. Louis County.”
In a letter submitted as an exhibit that the NAACP said was given to the officials at the time, Bowman wrote that Dierbergs has 12 stores within 10 miles of Crestwood’s two ZIP codes, while the grocer has three stores in Ferguson and Spanish Lake. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies Spanish Lake and part of Ferguson as food deserts.
“We demand inclusion and a fresh commitment to providing St. Louis County’s underserved population access to fresh, healthy food through equitable development and an expansion of Dierbergs Markets’ locations into St. Louis County’s food deserts,” Bowman wrote, adding, “A community partnership with Dierbergs Markets would be a step in the right direction for equitable public policy and the eradication of food insecurities in our region.”
Read the rest of the story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.