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2000-04-15
St.Louis, MO. Kmart Faces Urban Fight In Southtown

No less than 20 community, business and church groups have united to say No Way to Big K in south St. Louis. One of the country's largest Kmart developers, DDR (Developer's Diversified Realty of Cleveland), is looking to propagate this Kmart. But southtown residents say Kmart should just clean up its act at its current location one mile away at Gravois Plaza. The 101,000 s.f. proposed Kmart would not replace the Gravois Plaza store, because Kmart has already announced that their other store is going to be closed down because of "declining sales, inefficiencies of operation and site limitations". The 11 acre site Kmart wants once held the southtown's Famous-Barr department store, which did business in St. Louis for four decades, but was torn down five years ago. Hundreds of residents have turned up at public hearings to denounce the DDR plan, and the President of the Aldermen has testified against Kmart. Another Alderman against the project, Steve Gregali, has asked the St. Louis Development Company to try and obtain the property through eminent domain proceedings. "This is just as important as the downtown convention center hotel," Gregali said. "We're talking about stabilizing a neighborhood." The Southside Coalition has not merely opposed the Kmart, but has presented an alternative vision of smaller stores and restaurants in a more urban, pedestrian layout scheme. Phillip Klevorn, of the Southtown Coalition, told reporters: "This (Kmart) is a big box concept. We're opposed to the idea of taking the second busiest corner in the city, a prime location, and not developing that in a manner that adds to the neighborhood. We already have a Kmart. This is just shifting it and giving Kmart a competitive advantage." The DDR/Kmart case goes before the Board of Public Service, and likely will be appealed either way to the Board of Adjustment, and from there to Circuit Court. Klevorn says the decision is a key one for south St. Louis: "If we don't develop this wisely and smartly, then we have told the whole St. Louis metropolitan area that the best South St. Louis can do is a Kmart. If that's the best we can do, then the word is out that we're a declining community." Residents and the Coalition are organizing their troops to challenge the Conditional Use Permit being sought by DDR, and ultimately to substitute their mixed-use retail plan instead. As resident Ruth Ehresman put it: "We want a voice in shaping the future of our neighborhood." And that future, says the Coalition, has no shapes like a Kmart superstore.

What you can do: For more information about how you can help the Southtown Coalition, contact Kerri Bonasch at kerri@oreilly.com. For another example of urban battles against Kmart, see the next item about Kmart's battles in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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