Eminent Domain Property Battle

Reba Thompson's home in South St. Louis has a well-manicured lawn and a charming front porch, but it's surrounded by turmoil.

That's because what was once a neighborhood is now a construction zone.

Thompson, 79, and her son Howard are standing their ground after 19 of their former neighbors sold their land and moved out to make way for a $40 million shopping center.

"It's not about the money. Mom wants her home," said Howard Thompson.

After living there for over 70 years, the family refuses to surrender the land. Thompson showed her resolve by rejecting the developers' buyout, but the developers began construction on the shopping center anyway. They fenced in the Thompson home and began construction around it.

"My whole family has worked hard to keep it nice so I could pass it down, and now they want to tear it down," said Reba Thompson.

The city is trying to seize the Thompson property through eminent domain (search), claiming the home is in a blighted area that needs the economic help of a shopping center. St. Louis officials consider the shopping center an essential part of the city's redevelopment effort, because citizens shouldn't be forced to do their shopping in the suburbs.

"We empathize with what they're going through. But we feel many more people will be helped by this project and projects like it," said Jeff Rainford (search), chief of staff to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

Following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, cities have the right to seize homeowners' land if they think it will benefit an area economically — even if the aid will be from private businesses and not public programs.

"Somebody's best shot is to prove that the city officials that condemned the property were in the back pocket of the developer that wanted the design," said Eric Claeys (search), assistant professor of law at St. Louis University (search) Law School.

The Thompsons say they will fight the case, even though the city's plan seems inevitable in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.