Board has first reading on development plan for Sunset Hills Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shops hopes to begin construction in March

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A rendering of the proposed Bass Pro Shops in Sunset Hills.

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen held a public hearing and first reading of the proposed Bass Pro Shops amended development plan at the Shoppes of Sunset Hills Feb. 8. 

Bass Pro Shops is seeking to redevelop the former Toys “R” Us and Ross Dress For Less at 3600 S. Lindbergh Blvd. after the Springfield, Missouri-based outdoor retailer announced in August that it would open its third location in the St. Louis area in Sunset Hills. The Tile Shop, also part of the Shoppes of Sunset Hills, would remain as part of the proposed redevelopment. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed and recommended approval of the amended development plan in January, although there were concerns with the existing intersection going into the shopping center and its ability to handle the traffic. There were also concerns about the “weaving condition” on Lindbergh Boulevard coming from eastbound Watson Road to the center. 

Traffic concerns dominated most of the discussion about the amended development plan at the February board meeting. The issue could be alleviated by a second entrance to the shopping center directly from eastbound Watson, however the property for a second entrance belongs to an auto repair shop and restaurant, and both did not agree to a request from the petitioner to purchase the property to obtain that access. 

“We’re kind of on the 1-yard line I feel like with this project. Everyone’s excited about the progress being made and the possibility of getting this thing wrapped up,” Sansone Managing Director Grant Mechlin said. “Bass Pro are far along on their plans and close to completion on construction plans. … The goal is to be fully under construction by the second week of March with a completion date by September and open by November. So a very, very aggressive timeline. It’s imperative to them that they get open this year and we’re trying to do everything we can to make that a reality.” 

Mechlin told the board that while full access into the site from Watson Road had not been obtained, the Missouri Department of Transportation had given conceptual approval to a right-in/right-out entrance immediately west of the Midas property to help alleviate some of the traffic concerns. 

“We made a promise to make sure we did everything we could to get that … access done,” Mechlin said. “This will help eliminate some of the traffic heading south on Lindbergh and the “weaving” motion we were concerned about.” 

Because of the right-in/right-out, the nearby northbound to eastbound ramp from Lindbergh Boulevard to Watson Road will have to be modified to gain around 250 feet of space between the intersection and the new right-in/right-out driveway. 

“Our cost for the project is up an additional 20 percent from when we approved the CID (community improvement district) from all the additional work we’re doing on this site. I bring that up just so everyone understands how much we’re trying to make this work and to accommodate all the suggestions being made,” Mechlin said. “We’re at a point now where we have got to start on demo very quickly. … Without any demo process starting next month, we get into a December opening which doesn’t work with Bass Pro.” 

In August, aldermen amended the existing Shoppes at Sunset Hills Community Improvement District for Bass Pro Shops; the 40-year, 1-percent CID sales tax was originally created for an Amazon Fresh store that had eyed the property last year. 

Ward 2 Alderman Christine Lieber said a resident, who is also an engineer, had submitted their own version of a site plan to the city for the traffic in and out of the development after hearing comments from the Planning and Zoning Commission. 

“Not being an engineer, I wanted to bring that forward tonight. … You all have worked very diligently to get this tenant here … but we need to have a plan that is also safe and efficient for getting traffic in and out for our residents and for visitors to our city,” Lieber said, adding that she wanted to discuss the resident’s submission. 

Lieber declined to say who the resident was who submitted the plan but added that they had master’s degrees from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, although she did not expand on what kind of engineer the resident is. 

“This resident who happens to be an engineer drew this up … and I’d like to hear from the experts,” Lieber said. “The importance of who this is and who drew it is not the relevant part here. The relevant part is getting Bass Pro open and making the intersection enjoyable.” 

The plan submitted by the resident would require some utilities to be moved on the site, as well as the loss parking spaces. 

“I think the important thing from what we have submitted is that this plan works, it does not require moving a transformer or all the utilities that are running along the south end of the site. … We don’t need to touch any of that. The project that we’ve shown here accomplishes the exact same thing,” Mechlin said. 

“Through the Watson Entrance as well as (the main entrance), we’ve lost close to 40 parking spots. … We’re very tight on parking, especially for The Tile Shop and what is included in the protected area for LongHorn,” added Mechlin. Any changes to the site plan that would affect current parking spaces would most likely result in having to negotiate with LongHorn Steakhouse and The Tile Shop. 

Ultimately the suggestion by the resident did not pan out and after some further discussion, Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong questioned what the construction hours would be, as well as operating hours once the store opened. 

Construction hours are set by city code and only permit construction from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. City Engineer Bryson Baker said the city has not had an issue in the past with people working outside of construction hours. 

The operating hours of the store itself have not been set, but the hours of the Bass Pro location in St. Charles are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Bass Pro representatives said they were open to suggestions from the community about hours. 

“We have several residents that are immediately abutting that (the Bass Pro development) so just to take their needs and concerns into consideration. … It just seems prudent to get it (hours) in writing to look after those residents,” Wong said. 

After further discussion, the board held a first reading on the amended development plan. Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price made a motion to suspend the rules for a second reading, citing the developer’s desire to begin construction by March, but his motion failed to gain the necessary second. The board will have a second reading on the plan at its March 8 meeting.