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Will Mall St. Vincent Hire Locally to Help Renovate the Mall? - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Will Mall St. Vincent Hire Locally to Help Renovate the Mall?

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Mall St Vincent is getting some upgrades and tax payers are footing much of the bill. Shoppers at the mall are paying an additional 1% sales tax on purchases made at the mall, but the deal came with strings attached. In this 3 Investigates Story, we asked "are owners of the mall meeting their end of the bargain?"

Sid Menard is the President of American Tile and Marble. His company was the original tile company for Mall St Vincent when it was built. He said, "If Mall St. Vincent becomes a shell, what happens with that property? So I understand why City Council or why we as taxpayers would want to bite off some of that to keep them going." Now that the mall is getting a tax payer financed makeover, Menard has a few concerns. "What concerns me is not that American Tile and Marble was not awarded this contract -- that doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is that no one was awarded this contract. There are many companies here in town that are capable of doing that work."

When the Shreveport City Council authorized the special sales tax for mall stores, it wanted to ensure some of the construction money would be spent with local contractors, including small firms such as those owned by minorities and women trying to get established. The approved city council ordinance says:

Company shall make a good faith effort to meet the goals of the Program by (i) awarding up to twenty-five (25%) percent of all contracts for the Initial Project to DBE's or EDP's residing within the MSA who satisfy the requirements of Company's bid solicitation and, (ii) awarding up to fifty (50%) percent of contracts for the Initial Project to Louisiana-based companies (not necessarily DBE's or EDP's) who satisfy the requirements of the solicitation.

Menard isn't alone with his concern that this obligation to hire area firms isn't being met. City Councilman Sam Jenkins met with city officials as late as Tuesday to see if the company was being held accountable. "The news I'm getting right now is somewhat disappointing because no one is able to tell me that we have minority or women owned businesses that are participating in the work over there."

Jenkins says, if Rouse Properties, the company that owns the mall isn't holding up their end of the bargain, then the city should rethink their contract. "What I don't want is completion and then excuses as to why that level of participation wasn't there."

Since the city couldn't provide numbers, we asked Rouse Properties for the number of local and disadvantaged contractors hired, the dollar amount of the contracts, and the number of jobs involved. Instead, this is what Rouse had to say:

As part of our cooperative endeavor agreement with the City of Shreveport to move forward with the renovation of Mall St. Vincent we agreed to abide by the Fair Share Program established and implemented by the City to ensure contracting opportunities were publicly bid to Louisiana-based companies. We have acted in good faith to identify and enter into subcontracts with local businesses, including businesses classified as DBE/EDPs, and will continue to reach out to the local business community as the work progresses. We are pleased the project will bring jobs to the area and enhance the shopping experience for Mall St. Vincent shoppers and retailers. Once the project is complete, which we anticipate in early 2014, the new Mall St. Vincent will offer a modern and vibrant atmosphere for customers and retailers while helping to attract new national and regional retailers and restaurants. -Rouse Properties

Rouse will use some local contractors, but without numbers, there is no way to determine if the mall owner is making the required good faith effort. And not only is it unclear what constitutes a good faith effort, but the ordinance doesn't appear to have a lot of teeth to compel compliance.

Menard says, he understands wanting to save Mall St. Vincent, but if Rouse won't hold up their end of the bargain, "Don't come to our city and ask us to help out to raise the funds in order to pay for it."

Rouse has offered to put up $16.5 million dollars up front to remodel the mall. The tax, that excludes mall anchors such as Dillard's and Sears, will generate about $500,000 a year over the next 20 years. The city does not yet have information about how much that tax has brought in so far. Twenty percent of every dollar received in the exchange will go back to the city for upgrades in streets around the mall for better traffic flow. The rest, 80%, will repay Rouse for its renovation expenses, up to $10 million. But that's only if the newly designed Mall St. Vincent is a hit.

You can view related stories on the Mall St. Vincent Tax, here and here.  


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