Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of interviews between Patch and Shrewsbury's aldermen about the controversial Kenrick Plaza redevelopment. The first interview was with Alderwoman Chris Gorman.
Patch: Have your thoughts on the development changed since you were elected this spring on a platform built against a Walmart in Shrewsbury?
Dee Weicher: I have not changed my mind ... I don't think that the site is appropriate for a Walmart. It is fairly small compared to what they use. I also don't like what I see with Walmart and how they handle things. I have watched them over the years build a building, see the TIF money run out and see them move to another site and leave an empty big box in its place.
I don't like how they treat women, and I don't like how they treat their employees. They have more employees on Medicaid than any other employer in the United States. They don't pay their employees a living wage. I don't think people in Shrewsbury should be supporting that kind of company.
Patch: What do you think of the strong public reaction to the proposal?
DW: I think that scare tactics have been used to scare people into thinking that we must act now. That's why there are people who are for it. Shrewsbury is having some problems with tax receipts, but we are in a recession. I am not certain that it will turn around when the recession ends, but we have got people thinking that if we don’t act and take what we are offered it will never get better.
Patch: Another major issue surrounding the development is the decision to close part of Trianon Parkway and cut of its access to Watson Road.
DW: I think there are other ways to handle it. I don't think it is appropriate to cut off access when people have purchased a home there for that access … I don't know when Shrewsbury has closed a road for the convenience of the retailer.
Patch: Now that you have the vantage point of a member of the Board of Aldermen, what is your assessment of the city’s finances?
DW: The city's finances are not in good shape, but I don't believe [the Walmart proposal] is the answer to the city’s' finance problems. They’ve jumped on one plan when they should have gone back and said we only have one viable proposal and it's not a real good one. I think we need to pull back.
They chose to put this out at a time when the economy was in terrible shape. They only got one response from the person in charge of the area when it was blighted. That to me sounds like we need to be thinking ... what is wrong with this picture?
Patch: The project’s developer, GJ Grewe, is currently the property manager of the upper portion of Kenrick Plaza. What do you think has attributed to the shopping center’s decline?
DW: I don't know who is totally responsible for letting it get to its current shape, but he certainly has been in the property manager role for a while. A lot of the companies went bankrupt nationally, and that’s not really a fault of anyone. Also, traffic along Watson Road has diminished over the years. However, things at Mackenzie Point seem to be doing fairly well.
Patch: Is it necessary for there to public financing, such as a TIF, in order for a property like Kenrick Plaza to be attractive to developers?
DW: It's a very common in St. Louis County. The next town says if they are getting that kind money, I need to that too ... it just snowballs. But there are things that are done without TIFs, like Petco at McKenzie Point.
Patch: What would your advice be to people such as yourself who oppose seeing a Walmart in Shrewsbury?
DW: I think people who are opposed to it have lost their steam. They need to continue to make it known their aldermen. Those people need to continue to let the board know how they feel. People on the board think they have accepted it. I think they need to let the board know that they still care.
Patch: What has it been like to move from your previous position as an “outsider,” so to speak?
DW: I appreciate working with the aldermen and the mayor, they are gracious people. I don't happen to always agree, but I appreciate their service to the community.
For background information on the Kenrick Plaza Development, check out some stories from the Patch archive:
Here's some background information on the redevelopment:
Plans and other documents can be found on the city's website.