I was rather dismayed after the last City Council meeting. It was really a love fest for the Farmer Brothers Holding Co. with no one representing the people. A young councilman and a young city staff member betrayed their lack of experience in business.
They seemed to fear that the Capital Mall would close its doors unless it receives tax breaks with TIF and CID districts. It is unlikely that anyone would spend $11 million to buy a mall and close it. The Farmers need the Mall to be open to earn them money. In the unlikely event it would close, the money spent there would be spent in other stores. The grocery store would stay open because it appears to do well. Observation suggests that is the source of most of the sales tax revenue.
Malls are a twentieth century phenomenon. In 2007 no new malls were opened in the U.S. for the first time in 50 years. Since then, only one has opened in the entire country. The website deadmalls.com lists almost 500 malls that are in deep trouble or have closed. What do the Farmer Brothers know that people in the mall business do not know.
A consultant said that the present plan would not succeed unless $15 million was given the mall by taxpayers. What if the Farmer Brothers sold the brick and concrete needed at cost from their other companies? Perhaps the plans could be scaled back to keep the cost within what the project could support. None of the council even considered any plan except to give tax money to the Farmers.
The most disturbing part of the proposal is the naivete of the council people. No one asked where else a remodel of a mall had produced positive results. Why would a remodel of the Capital do anything than make money for the mall owners. In St. Louis County there are numerous subsidies to malls and big box stores that have not produced increased tax revenues. Two thirds of the cities in St. Louis County are in financial crisis. We need some very good reasons to follow a failed model, but there is no interest in using good judgment by the City Council.
How about letting the people vote on the proposal to give tax money to the mall owners.