Editor’s note: Ward III Aldermen Mike Travaligni is the latest interview we're featuring as part of an ongoing series where we speak with Shrewsbury's Aldermen about the proposed redevelopment of Kenrick Plaza. This was a joint interview with Alderwoman Chris Gorman. Most of her qoutes
Patch: Overall, what are your thoughts about the redevelopment as it stands now?
Mike Travaligni: The plan hasn't been totally developed, but the way we see things going, we are very excited about the project. We think it is going to be good for Shrewsbury. We live in this community, it's our community as well and whatever we come up with, we also have to live with it.
Patch: In the case of Kenrick Plaza, you wouldn't be voting yes or no on whether Walmart could build there, but on things like whether or not to give them taxpayer support, correct?
MT: We vote on a redevelopment plan, we vote on a TIF, we vote on all those things, but we can't say 'We like Walmart or we don't like Walmart.' Sometimes people think we went out and searched them out. Or they believe they are the only ones we are supporting. The whole deal is that when you put out 24 requests-for-proposals and one very viable one with definite timelines and goals comes back and it happened to be Walmart. That's what we are working with.
Patch: So you would say then that you support bringing Walmart to Shrewsbury?
MT and Chris Gorman: We support revitalization of that development. We support the project and that happens to include Walmart.
Patch: Are you surprised then that so many people who have come out against the closing of that road?
MT: There are people who have come out against, but there are also people who have come out way for it. Then there are people who have come out against the project that are saying we understand that there is a great likelihood this project is going to happen, and one of the things we would like to see is that [Trianon Parkway] is definitely cut off. We've heard both sides.
Patch: It closes off access to Watson Road, do you see that as a major inconvenience? What would you say to people who complain it will make it hard for them to travel into the city?
MT: There's never going to be a perfect scenario. What offers the best solution, in our estimation, is to for that to be cut-off. It serves a lot of purposes. It lays the plaza out better. It stops the traffic from coming through. So, if you did the good list and the bad list, there will be some things [on the bad list] like inconvenience and so on, but, overall, the good list will far outweigh the bad list.
Patch: Does the city have any other options for closing its budget gaps?
MT: We are a point-of-sale city, that's how we survive. We survive on real estate tax and sales tax. That's why commercial development is important, that's why way back when these areas were designated as commercial development areas.
Patch: What about in terms of the city's spending?
MT: Unless city services are to be reduced drastically, no. The one common thing among people who are for and against the project is the fact that they don't want to see city services cut.
To address the idea that we are rushing to get that Walmart in there: in my mind, the biggest concern is if nothing happens there. It's not generating revenue, it looks terrible and it doesn't promote growth along that corridor.
Patch: What are the factors that are entering to the city's declining financial state?
MT: Most of what we are seeing is just due to economic conditions. That plaza has had its issues from the time it was built ... You are always going to have businesses come in and businesses go out. What happens is when the bottom of the bucket has a hole in it and the water is not being filled back up on top, it starts to deplete.
Patch: So there's just been a slow decline in the amount of retail the city has had?
MT: Right, and when Wehrenberg Theatres went out, that was a big blow. At one point, it was the second busiest in the St. Louis area ... We haven't lost these businesses to somewhere else, just to economic conditions and other things that have caused, over the years, for the bucket to empty out and we are not putting things back in.
Patch: The other part of this that has drawn some controversy is the developer involved, G.J. Grewe. What is your assessment of him and his company?
MT: He has done some very good commercial developments. I know it's been brought up that he has had this lawsuit in the past, but if you look at a lot of developers, it's a nature of the beast that there are lawsuits.
Financially, we have no reason to believe he is not financially capable of making this work. So far, he has met all of his commitments. As long as we can come to a redevelopment agreement that is healthy for this community and healthy for this development, fine.
Patch: What will be the long-term impact? Is this Walmart here to stay or will this be a problem again 10 or 15 years down the road?
MT: A lot of detractors of a project like this say, 'Well, they go in and once they pay off the TIF they get it.' A lot of that happens in more rural locations it seems. I think as long as there is business generated, it's going to be there. That's a collaboration in the city and the developer to keep it that nice place that people want to come to. As long as people want to come, they will be there.
Here's some background information on the redevelopment:
Plans and other documents can be found on the city's website.