THF Realty says its building America “one community at a time.” And in one community at a time, local residents try to stop THF from reaching its goal. THF apparently stands for “To Have Fun,” but when this realty company shows up in town, the fun ends for many residents, and the battle begins. THF has a great fondness for big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target. THF describes itself as “an independent developer, investor, owner, and manager of real estate whose singular mission is to be the best private developer in America.” Founded in 1991, in its first decade THF boasts that it built more than 15,000,000 s.f. of retail and office space. Stan Kroenke co-founded THF Realty with Michael Staenberg in 1991. As chairman, Stan Kroenke leads one of the nation’s more controversial development companies. Kroenke is co-owner of the St. Louis Rams, and is the owner of NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Denver Avalanche. In 2003, Forbes magazine listed Kroenke’s net worth at $1.4 billion. Building Wal-Marts is a family affair for Kroenke. He married into the Walton family. His wife Ann is the daughter of Sam Walton’s brother Bud, who died in 1995. Ann Walton Kroenke is one of the richest women in America. “When we drive down the street, we see much more than the potential for a new shopping center,” THF says. “We see – and build – developments that become the economic engine of the community. Our projects turn out the way they do not just because we dream bigger or brighter. Our developments are successful because we have built an exceptional organization focused on consistently delivering a signature product.” THF not only dreams bigger, but they make bigger mistakes too. On June 19, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that THF was fined $146,833 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. THF Grindstone Development LLC, which is owned by Kroenke, and contractor Emery Sapp & Sons were fined for construction violations while building a Wal-Mart Supercenter and shopping center on Grindstone Parkway in Columbia, Missouri. This was the biggest fine of its kind imposed by federal Environmental Protection Agency in Region 7. Residents in Glen Carbon, Illinois fought and beat THF, as did residents in St. Peters, Missouri. THF is the same company that pulled its Wal-Mart plans from North St. Louis in 2002, that bulldozed an entire neighborhood of 200 homes for a Wal-Mart in Maplewood, Missouri in 2002, and that threatened homeowners with eminent domain in Wheeling, West Virginia in 2003. The latest community “To Have Fun” with THF is High Ridge, Missouri. “We are working with a community group in High Ridge, Missouri,” residents wrote Sprawl-Busters this week, “trying to defeat a Wal-Mart Super Center being proposed by THF Realty. Our group, Concerned Citizens of High Ridge, has gotten some local press and we have a vote on the developer’s preliminary plat August 28th. According to the THF property list, High Ridge Commons will be anchored by a Wal-Mart supercenter, and has easy access off Route 30, with a series of outparcels for lease. THF boasts, “We’re known for distinctive touches that are unexpected.” The group Concerned Citizens of High Ridge probably never expected they’d be fighting one of the richest developers in America, and a Walton family member — but that’s one of the ‘distinctive touches’ of this latest THF controversy.
High Ridge, Missouri has 12 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of this site, including a supercenter 7 miles away in Eureka, Missouri. There’s a discount Wal-Mart store 4 miles away in House Springs, Missouri. There is no compelling market need for another supercenter in the area — except to close down some of the existing Wal-Mart discount stores in the trade area. The community of High Ridge had less than 4,300 people as of the 2000 Census.This store is clearly being built only to replace “older” Wal-Mart discount stores in the region. Missouri already has 4 dead Wal-Mart discount stores on the market, and doesn’t need more. Economically, this project brings no added value to High Ridge. But it will harm the two residential developments that abut the site to the northeast and the southwest. Concerned Citizens of High Ridge is comprised of residents of Timber Ridge, Cape Town, Brin Ridge, the Fairways at Sugar Creek, and other neighborhoods in the area. “We address issues that will affect us all in our growing community, including development,” the group says. “Our goal is to preserve our peaceful quality of life. We realize the area will inevitably become more developed, but we want a voice in the planning process to ensure high quality development that fits the character of our community. We are NOT opposed to all development. We realize that a vibrant community, like High Ridge, will continue to evolve. And we want it to improve. What we do NOT want is out of control commercial development. We value our green space. If we wanted to live in a big city, we would! But we moved here to get away from that. We were spurred to action by the proposed Wal-Mart development at High Ridge Blvd. and Hwy. 30. Traffic is already horrible at that intersection and nearby at Schumaker, where wrecks have killed several people. And the addition of acres of pavement means polluted run off for residents in Timber Ridge subdivision. Readers who wish to support these residents in their battle against Walton Sprawl can contact the residents at [email protected] Readers are also urged to email Jefferson County, Missouri’s Presiding Commissioner, Chuck Banks at [email protected]effcomo.org with the following message: “Commissioner Banks, It’s obvious that a small community the size of High Ridge does not need a Wal-Mart supercenter. There are 12 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of High Ridge. There is no way the residents living off Route 30 should be subjected to a project of this huge, out-of-proportion scale. I urge you to do what you can to stop the project. All that will go up in Jefferson County is the traffic and the crime rate. And you could very well end up with an empty Wal-Mart discount store or two. High Ridge can’t buy small town quality of life at any Wal-Mart — but once they steal it from you, they can’t sell it back at any price. Support the Concerned Citizens of High Ridge, and stop this superstore.” To reach citizens fighting THF in High Ridge, email: [email protected]