TAXPAYERS FOR TRANSPARENT CAPE GIRARDEAU

ADRIENNE HENRY, TIF MEMBER, TO CITY COUNCIL

June 30, 2023

Dear Mayor and City Council,

As a member of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission since 2015, I am contacting you regarding the recent River City Centre West Park Mall proposal as well as future proposals.

First and foremost, I want to express that as a volunteer on this Commission, it was very disheartening to read public comments from Mayor Kinder and other City staff touting the greatness of the proposed plan and incentives prior to the TIF Commission holding a public hearing and casting votes for a Resolution. I understand the excitement of a large redevelopment in our city, however, I felt it was in poor judgement and undermining of the role the Commission plays in reviewing the proposal and holding the public hearing.

This proposal was obviously the largest TIF proposal that I have seen during my service on the Commission and unfortunately it has less information than many other smaller TIF proposals that I have reviewed. One example, The Esquire Theater proposal, presented by Tenmile Companies, provided much more detail of their project compared to the River City Centre proposal. Given that the ask could amount to $145,000,000.00 over 23 years, according to the developer’s own study, I would expect greater detail from River City Centre than a 10-line development cost budget. I believe it is imperative that we hold applicants to a higher standard. The River City Centre proposal has no details. The Commission voted to approve a plan and has no idea what the developer intends to do with any degree of certainty.

During the commission’s review, it was noted that additional independent studies would be helpful, and the consistent answer was that the developers were on a timeline and quite frankly, didn’t have time for additional studies nor delays by the Commission. They repeatedly said they had been working on this for over eight months and that they already had deals in place, so they needed to proceed quickly. That isn’t a reasonable response and the developer’s timeline isn’t the Commission’s problem, nor the City’s and if it is a legitimate proposal, additional studies of the Plan as well as Blight and Cannibalization studies by independent experts seems like a small price to pay for millions in public funding. I would encourage the City to add these studies as requirements for future proposals.

As you likely know, I was the sole opposing vote during the June 21, 2023, meeting. My opposition has nothing to do with the proposed redevelopment of West Park Mall. The issue I have had since my first review of the proposed redevelopment and TIF request, is the blight designation which opens the door to millions in public dollars. I could not agree that the 64 acres of the development, most of which are parking lots, are blighted. If blight exists, it clearly isn’t predominant, as the law requires. I would urge you to drive around Cape Girardeau and compare the conditions presented in the blight study to many other commercial properties in our city. All of the items that were proposed as “blight” are deferred maintenance. Are those items so costly to remediate that they qualify for TIF, CID, TDD, Chapter 100 and the waiver of City fees?? If so, I firmly believe that many other TIF proposals will be forthcoming. Do we really want to be known as “Incentive City”?

Do you truly believe that this redevelopment of prime commercial real estate would not happen without all of the incentives? Do you believe that adding MORE square footage is the answer? If the previous and current owners could not remedy the supposed blight conditions of the existing real estate assets by performing maintenance and upkeep, why would the City incentivize them to construct more? Repairing and attracting new retail to the existing mall, even with incentives, makes more sense than developing additional parcels. That being said, I would still vote in opposition to the overall plan, just based on the blight designation alone.

I always appreciate the investment and improvements that any developer makes in our community, however, I would hope that a responsible investor would be hesitant to purchase an asset for almost $10,000,000.00 without having a redevelopment plan, as well as the funding to complete the plan, in place first.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Henry
TIF Commission Member