Kansas City’s Food Desert Folly
We’ve already written in this blog that the evidence that new grocery stores affect consumer fruit and vegetable consumption is sparse if it exists at all. Even NPR and the Kansas City Star voiced skepticism of the impact of such subsidies.
In Kansas City, it’s full steam ahead for a bad idea that is getting worse. A year ago the Star reported on the city’s plan to redevelop the Linwood Shopping Center near 31st Street and Prospect Avenue. The new development is to include a Sun Fresh Market and was originally expected to cost the city just over $11 million. Last week the Star reported the project would cost $15 million. That’s more than a 35% increase in the cost of redevelopment over one year for a project that hasn’t even started and that few really think will do a bit of good. And recall that this is all to build a grocery store in a place where the previous grocery store failed for lack of business!
Wait—its gets worse. Not only are costs ballooning, but The Business Journal reports that the funds generated by the TIF won’t come close to covering the expense of redeveloping the store. Rob Roberts reported that the $14.9 million bond will be repaid by a TIF only expected to generate $8.5 million over 23 years.
Where will the rest of the money come from? The city employees Roberts interviewed suggested that the city could just request a super TIF to redirect more taxes from the project to the bond payments. But that’s a false distinction; either way, the money to cover the loss is coming from city coffers.
In short, it appears that city leaders are planning to lose money investing in an already-failed venture in order to pursue a policy that has no evidence backing its effectiveness.