Crestwood can’t afford to TIF a grocery store, former alderman says

To the editor:

Now that Centrum has put the Crestwood Court mall up for auction, I’d like to put its proposal into perspective.

Centrum called it an “upscale entertainment center” with upscale bowling alley, fitness center, cinema and eight restaurants.

However, Centrum’s proposal was always about a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market grocery store. Why? Because a Wal-Mart grocery store is the only grocery store that would generate annual revenue of $20 million in Crestwood, warrant a construction loan from a bank and support a $34 million tax break, including $26 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF.

Centrum’s proposal included a grocery store in the middle level of the former Macy’s building generating annual sales of $20 million — more than the upscale bowling alley, fitness center and cinema combined. The numbers work great for Centrum, but would be a disaster for Crestwood.

The problem with the TIF is that every sales tax dollar that would move from our Schnucks, Shop ‘n Save, Aldi, Sam’s, Walgreens or other Crestwood store to the Wal-Mart store would cost Crestwood 50 cents. Because half of Wal-Mart’s sales taxes would go to pay the TIF instead of going to the city, I estimate a TIF would reduce Crestwood’s sales tax revenue by $175,000 per year for 20 years.

I publicly expressed my concerns to Centrum about a Wal-Mart Neighborhood grocery store. The response from Sol Barket of Centrum, which is on the record, was: “… A grocery store belongs there, and I can’t dictate who it is.” Centrum’s strategy was quite simple, and I’ve seen it work. First get the tax breaks. Then present your client as the only option.

Please understand that I am not against Wal-Mart, and I can envision a number of situations wherein I would support a TIF. But a TIF for a Wal-Mart in Crestwood at this time is not one of them.

If Wal-Mart wants to come to Crestwood, they must do it on their own dime. We simply cannot afford to shoot ourselves in the foot by granting a TIF that is going to reduce our sales tax revenue as well as seriously hurt our local stores.

Centrum came very close to getting what they wanted. Their hired professionals talked a great game. Many residents were initially taken in. Out-of-town Centrum supporters organized demonstrations in front of City Hall. Fortunately, Mayor Jeff Schlink and four aldermen saw through the facade and refused to give Centrum a blank check.

Whether Centrum sells the mall or not, Crestwood cannot afford to TIF a grocery store.

Jerry Miguel


former Ward 3 alderman