BRIDGETON • The developer of a proposed Walmart Supercenter won approval Wednesday night to build the store in Bridgeton, despite strong opposition from local grocery chains, competitors, union food workers and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.
The firm developing the Walmart, THF Realty Inc., will receive $7.2 million in a public subsidy through tax-increment financing. The overall project cost is estimated at $23 million.
THF plans to build the Walmart Supercenter on the site of a closed Value City store and an office building on the south side of St. Charles Rock Road at Harmony Lane.
Wal-Mart plans to close its smaller, 20-year-old store at 10835 St. Charles Rock Road, about two miles east on the Bridgeton-St. Ann boundary. Seven percent of that store is in St. Ann; the rest is in Bridgeton.
The Bridgeton council approved the TIF and redevelopment agreement with two 6-1 votes.
"This is what the community wants," Mayor Conrad Bowers said Wednesday.
Bowers said the city would lose about $1 million in sales taxes a year if Walmart left. He said the development also would revitalize St. Charles Rock Road and redevelop a vacant site that would not be redeveloped without a tax incentive.
"It's the key to redevelopment of the Rock Road," Bowers said. "There are a lot of vacancies." He added: "I think we got the best deal for the city we could get."
Walmart spokesman Ryan Horn said that the new store would sell groceries and that the current store in Bridgeton was too small for a grocery component.
Opponents included the citizens and business group Concerned Citizens for Bridgeton, and the owner of property that Walmart wants to use for parking.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 655 has fought Walmart's nonunion policy. David Cook, secretary treasurer of the 11,000-member local, said earlier at a public hearing that he opposed "giving $7.2 million in tax dollars to the richest corporation in America."
Critics say Walmart is bad for small businesses, often forcing them to close, and does not generate well-paying jobs.
The vote on the tax-increment financing district required a 'super majority" — or 6 of 8 council members' approval. That's because a TIF Commission made up half of representatives of St. Louis County government refused to endorse the request for a TIF.
Under a TIF, a developer is allowed to use tax revenue to pay for infrastructure and development costs. The taxing jurisdictions are guaranteed the same level of revenue they were receiving before. The Bridgeton ordinance allows half of the additional revenue generated to go into the TIF be used for project costs. Bridgeton also will allow the use of eminent domain, if needed.
Bowers had warned that Walmart would close the small store and go to another city if Bridgeton rejected the TIF.
He was backed by some developers who said the Rock Road corridor was having problems.
On the other side, Dooley had urged the mayor and council to 'stand together and protect the public from these strong-arm tactics" by Walmart.