Board extends Crestwood mall RDP deadline to March 3

Mall could have new owners by first of the year, mayor says

By BURKE WASSON

To help facilitate the pending sale of the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood and to keep the city’s options open if that sale falls through, Crestwood aldermen unanimously voted last week to extend the city’s deadline to receive requests for proposals to redevelop the mall.

The new deadline for the Crestwood mall RDP — request for development proposals — is March 3. The city’s RDP deadline originally was set for Dec. 14 until aldermen voted 8-0 on Dec. 11 to make the change.

In August, aldermen unanimously voted to send an RDP to 82 developers to solicit offers to redevelop the struggling Crest-wood mall, which has suffered from annual 13-percent decreases in sales-tax revenue in recent years. Being that the mall is the source of one-third of the city’s overall sales-tax revenue, city officials felt the need to issue an RDP and since have delivered it to a total of 124 developers.

While the city took steps in August to solicit redevelopment bids, Westfield officials employed the consulting services of Eastdil Secured to assist in their efforts to sell the mall property, which is the only shopping center in the St. Louis area that the Westfield Group still fully owns.

Mayor Roy Robinson said last week that Westfield’s efforts have resulted in an unnamed company interested in purchasing the mall from Westfield. At the same time, Robinson believes that if negotiations fail between Westfield and this particular company, the city still should be able to solicit bids on its own.

“We have people responding to that RFP and we have new owners, the possibility of new owners being there by the first of the year,” Robinson said. “We don’t want to have our process interfere with the sale of the mall. If we extend it (the RDP deadline), that keeps the process going. It’s not that we put something out for nothing. But it’s that if Westfield selling the mall would fail, then we still have our option out to do it.”

City Administrator Frank Myers said he knows “for a fact” that the city would receive at least one bid to redevelop the mall through the RDP.

“I know for a fact that there’s one party that if this action is not taken by the board, on Dec. 14 at 4 o’clock, we’ll have one proposal,” Myers said. “The dilemma we will have at that point is we’ve concluded a process … we have what could be a legitimate proposal while we at the same time know that Westfield is in discussions with a party, a different party. So the best thing for the city, for the party that would otherwise submit the proposal on Dec. 14 and the prospective new owner is that we extend this process. It’s in all of the interests of those parties.”

Additionally, City Attorney Robert Golterman said that new changes coming in 2008 to local TIF, or tax-increment financing, laws are another reason to delay the deadline for the RDP. The RDP states that the city would be open to approving TIF, a community-improvement district or transportation-development district as an incentive for a developer to take on the mall project and be reimbursed for project costs through a sales tax on that property.

Golterman said without any legal certainty of TIF laws starting Jan. 1, a proposal to redevelop the mall likely would be at a standstill.

“Based on the new TIF law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008, there are no bond-counsel firms in the state of Missouri that will give legal opinions regarding TIF bonds based on uncertainty with the new statute,” Golterman said. “So until that clears up, it’s very difficult to move forward with it and any redevelopment that involves TIF. There are discussions under way among legislators trying to get the law changed. And if that doesn’t occur, then there may be legal action trying to put it out.”

The state Legislature voted this year to establish new TIF commissions beginning in 2008 in St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County. That legislation approved the establishment of a new 12-member TIF commission for projects proposed in cities in each of those counties.

Six members of that commission would be appointed by the county executive, three members would be appointed by the city in question, two members would be appointed from the local school district and one member to represent all other tax districts.

If the countywide TIF commission rejects a project, it still can be carried by a two-thirds vote of the governing body of the city in which that project would be located.

Board President Gregg Roby of Ward 3 said the uncertainty over TIF laws in the area is reason enough to delay the city’s RDP deadline and allow for more legal determinations.

“Any company coming in here wanting to develop a property that large is going to want TIF,” Roby said. “If the TIF laws at this point in time are not absolutely perfectly clear, there’s no way that we’re going to be able to commit to that until such time as that’s cleared up. So the fact that we’re delaying this and pushing it back a couple of months gives us additional time to get a determination on how that law is going to be enacted and what the repercussions could possibly be from that.

“The other thing that I want to clarify is that at this point in time the mall has not been sold. And that’s a rumor that’s been going around the city. And I want to make that publicly clear so that people understand that at this point in time the mall is still Westfield’s.”

City officials already have grappled this year with the loss of revenue at the Crestwood mall from the October closing of Dillard’s, which was one of the mall’s three anchor stores.

The city’s administration has projected that the closing of Dillard’s will result in an annual loss of $300,000 to $350,000 in sales-tax revenue collected by the city.

While the city’s administration has not ruled out any possibilities to redevelop the mall area in its RDP, officials would consider an open-air, town-center style and are open to offering certain incentives to interested developers.

The RDP also indicates that the city is open to using eminent domain to acquire the mall property from Westfield.

But Crestwood officials have said that while Westfield officials recognize the city’s need to issue an RDP, they would fight condemning the mall property.

Myers has indicated the city also likely will pay from $10,000 to $20,000 in up-front costs for a redevelopment plan of aldermen’s choosing.

Officials have estimated that the mall’s redevelopment — which would be done in phases — will be a roughly $250 million project.