CRESTWOOD, Mo. — The St. Louis County NAACP is suing the city of Crestwood over its redevelopment of the old Crestwood Mall.
The lawsuit is seeking to block Crestwood from using millions in tax incentives on a retail center anchored by a Dierberg’s grocery store at the former mall site. It’s asking the court to declare a TIF void for the development.
The NAACP wants to stop the project because it argues another grocery store is not needed in a well-served, upscale area while “food deserts” exist in many underserved communities.
“This is an abuse of taxpayers’ dollars,” said John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County NAACP. “Here, we are looking at the use of a TIF in a community that is already overserved, as opposed to it being used in a community underserved.”
Last week, Dierbergs Markets broke ground on the new 47-acre development called Dierbergs Crestwood Crossing. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site of the demolished Crestwood Mall.
Other businesses and 81 single-family homes are part of the development. The lawsuit was not filed against Dierbergs Markets.
The NAACP complains the grocer wants $17 million in tax incentives but no public hearings were held to allow the NAACP to object to the use of TIF funds.
“If you look at where these TIFs are located, they are always in white communities that are financially well, where they have commerce and funding — opposed to investing where TIFs are really designed to be used. Dierbergs chooses not to locate its stores in minority communities,” said Bowman
Since the TIF act passed in 1982, “food deserts” have grown in St. Louis County. The USDA calls Ferguson and Spanish Lake “food deserts.”
The City of Crestwood released a statement, saying in part: “The City of Crestwood is disappointed to learn about a lawsuit filed by John Bowman and the St. Louis County NAACP concerning the use of tax increment financing (TIF) to redevelop the former Crestwood Mall site. The City intends to mount a vigorous defense against this politically-motivated lawsuit and will proceed with the redevelopment of this critical site.”
Crestwood Mayor Grant Mabie called the lawsuit “completely frivolous.”
“We are not deterred from proceeding, and we are confident we will ultimately prevail on the merits,” Mabie said in a statement.