Everyone wants Red Bridge Shopping Center to come back to life and there has been a lot of community enthusiasm for how that might look; but let's take a look at the progress so far.
There have been two pep rallies to talk about the redevelopment, March 14th at DeVry and April 20th at St. Catherine's. This is so reminiscent of the process used when the City and politicians wanted to shove a new 4-lane highway bridge down the throats of those neighborhoods surrounding the old red bridge. Meetings are held extolling the great things that will happen if only the community lets them do what they want for their benefit while framing it as our benefit.
Let's look at the cheerleaders for these pep rallies. The head cheerleader at DeVry was none other than Rick Chambers, lead fundraiser for the Center School District Foundation. He is also well connected to Councilman Scott Taylor. At St. Catherine's the head cheerleader was Tim Henry, President of Brichwood Homes Association. Tim Henry is well connected to Councilman Sharp and whenever the councilman needs to orchestrate an event for show Tim Henry is there. They seem to be more concerned about other neighborhoods than their own. How are things at Birchwood Shopping Center? The behind the scenes cheerleader is Larry Marsh, President of Red Bridge Homes Association. Larry Marsh is new to the area and really wants to be part of the in crowd, so he will do anything for their acceptance. Larry Marsh is also the administrator for the Red Bridge NextDoor social media site. That's a good position to have if you want to control any online discussion of the Red Bridge Shopping Center.
Now let's talk about Lane4, the anointed hero. Lane4 previously was involved in the fiasco of Bannister Mall. They followed the same script: having pep rallies or focus groups to let citizens suggest businesses they would like as part of the redevelopment, knowing full well what is economically feasible for that area.
Since the show began at DeVry in March, there has not been any real information given. Lane4 expects to close on this deal by the end of June 2015 and start construction in September 2015. They want no public scrutiny of the welfare they are going to ask for and don't expect to get any. They are betting on the community being blinded by the idea of a revitalized shopping center. They want a 10 to 20 year commitment from the community without any discussion of the impact and may even hint that without it, there will be no redevelopment. That is why their pep rallies have included no information about finances.
Councilman John Sharp sold out the citizens of the Hickman Mills School District when Cerner asked for the 1st Amendment to their original $1 billion TIF. That incentive was meant to be the instrument that would spur economic activity; yet, no construction had begun, in fact, land was still being cleared, when Cerner decided they needed yet more incentive. Councilman Sharp was the most vocal voice in front of the Board of Education insisting Cerner needed more money knowing it would mean even fewer dollars going to the school district. This cannot be allowed to happen to the Center School District.
It is time to stop the pep rallies and have community meetings where some actual details and their impact on the community are presented.
Red Bridge Shopping Center is important but so is the funding of Center School District.