ST. LOUIS COUNTY — NAACP branches in St. Louis and St. Louis County are calling on Dierbergs Markets grocery stores to decline the tax incentive that was given to build its new store in Crestwood.
Additionally, the civil rights organization is asking the company to build stores in North County and parts of St. Louis that have little access to grocery stores. The organization voiced its concerns at a press conference on Wednesday.
Dierbergs is the region’s oldest grocery chain, with 26 stores from Osage Beach to Shiloh, Illinois. None of its stores are in the city of St. Louis, and one, in Florissant, is in northern St. Louis County.
“Why is it okay for Dierbergs to boycott Upper St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis, but at the same time use taxpayer dollars to carry out his project?” said John Bowman, NAACP St. Louis County Chairman.
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In a statement, a representative for Dierbergs said, “Dierbergs is very disappointed with the NAACP’s false allegations. For over 37 years, Dierbergs has proudly served the North County community by owning and operating a store and shopping mall in Florissant.
“If solving the food deserts problem is really the basis of the NAACP’s objection to the Crestwood project, it is curious why the recently approved $353 million TIF project in Chesterfield and other projects supported by the TIF in St. Louis County did not generate a similar amount of opposition.
Bowman said TIF – tax increment financing – is intended to bring development to underdeveloped areas.
Crestwood is “an area that’s not really degraded. St. Louis County has a lot of degraded areas,” he said.
The TIF is used to create a small area within a city or county that is targeted for redevelopment. As the newly redeveloped area increases the value of the property, it generates more tax money without increasing the tax rate. The city or county uses this additional revenue to reimburse the developer for certain initial expenses, such as infrastructure or demolition costs.
Dierbergs is building a 70,000 square foot store on the site of the former Crestwood Mall, which closed in 2013. A $15 million TIF was approved for this site for a Chicago developer in 2016. The project for this developer was not built, and another proposal from a Creve Coeur-based company failed in 2020.
Dierbergs announced plans to redevelop the land in 2021, using the TIF from 2016. The chain plans to build the store and an additional 36,500 square feet of retail or commercial space on part of the land covered by the TIF. The remainder of the land, 23 of the original 49 acres, is being developed for homes by McBride Homes without using TIF funds.
The dispute over the change of use of the TIF district has led to a few lawsuits. In April, the NAACP filed suit against Crestwood, claiming the TIF had been changed, requiring a new public hearing and public comment, which did not occur.
Bowman said he attempted to discuss his concerns at a Crestwood TIF Commission meeting, but public speaking time was canceled just before it was his turn to speak.
Crestwood filed a countersuit against the NAACP, Bowman and a local resident. In a statement, Mayor Grant Mabie called the NAACP’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “a politically motivated move to try to stop much-needed redevelopment of the former Crestwood Mall site.”
The underlying problem, according to Bowman, is that Dierbergs doesn’t need the incentive and Crestwood doesn’t need a grocery store as much as other localities.
“Would the project move forward if they didn’t have the TIF? I think so,” he said. “If Dierbergs wants to build a store without using taxpayers’ money, be my guest.”
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