Board of Aldermen issues RFP to redevelop Crestwood Court

RFP issuance starts process of city’s consideration of TIF

By Kari Williams

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen approved issuing a request for redevelopment proposals for Crestwood Court last week, which the mall’s owners said had to be done for a 2014 grand opening.

“If we wait too much further to begin the process, which has certain minimal steps that have to be taken and time frames that have to be given, we’ll have difficulty making commitments to the potential occupants of the development that we can open it at the end of 2014,” Vic Pildes, of Centrum Properties, told the board Aug. 14. “If we slip in those commitments, we will lose their focus.”

Pildes said Centrum is excited to start the process and anxious to have a public, open discussion with the board, community and project stakeholders.

“We understand this is the heart and soul in many ways of this community …,” he said. “We want nothing more than to stand there and cut the ribbon with everyone a couple years from now.”

Issuance of the RFP begins “the process of consideration” of tax-increment financing, or TIF, for the project, though “the decision is (the board’s), ultimately,” according to Pildes.

In a TIF district, tax receipts for school districts, fire districts and other taxing entities are frozen at existing levels for the length of the TIF — up to 23 years. As land within the TIF district increases in value, the incremental tax revenue — 100 percent of property taxes and 50 percent of sales and utility taxes — is used to retire the TIF obligations.

Besides TIF, the RFP states the city will consider using other economic development and redevelopment tools to assist with the project, including the Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law, a Transportation Development District, a Community Improvement District and a Neighborhood Improvement District.

The proposed redevelopment would occur in two phases, as presented to the board in June by Sol Barket, of Centrum Properties, who said his company will request public subsidies, including TIF.

Public assistance will be needed to redevelop the site, he said, primarily because of its topography.

Barket told aldermen his company is proposing to redevelop the mall into a unique open-air entertainment and retail venue — a one-of-kind experience in the metro area.

Centrum’s original concept for phase one proposed a grocery store, fitness center and bowling alley, all of which caused concern for Ward 4 Alderman John Foote.

“We have to be very sure if we are going to survive. So it isn’t our reluctance to trust, it’s our reluctance to be sure we’re not stepping on a banana peel that’s going to put us all in the trash bin,” Foote said. “We don’t want you guys to be in with us, and we certainly don’t want to go there.”

Pildes said Centrum came to the conclusion eight to 12 months ago that “competing retail development in this location is not going to be successful.”

“We shifted gears at that point because I think, we, the whole team, really appreciated that Crestwood, that the mall’s attractiveness, was its uniqueness,” he said, “and we realized through looking at the market and the feedback that we were getting from retailers that we needed to look at a different program that Crestwood, that the mall site, could be something unique again, but not simply by reproducing what was here in the past.”

Regarding the grocery store and fitness club, Pildes said though they “might seem like reproduced uses,” he believes Centrum will show the uses are different and “will draw from an enlarged trade area.”

“For example, the bowling concept that you mentioned that we’re going to propose is different than the traditional bowling alley,” he said. “It attracts a different clientele and offers different experiences.”

The first phase is expected to include 28 acres of the 46-acre site, or roughly 60 percent. Foote asked Pildes what will happen with the remaining space.

“I kind of like to look at the package because it’s like getting a loaf of bread,” Foote said. “If you’ve got the center, but you don’t have either end, you want to make sure you get the full loaf.”

Pildes said because there is “not a demand for as much space” as the Crestwood Court site has, which is roughly 1.1 million square feet, when the second phase of the project is completed, it might not “return to exactly the square footage that was there in the past.”

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel asked if the board will receive information on the project’s phase two, and Pildes said within the 30-day time frame set by the RFP, there will not be specifics.

“In terms of a specific site plan, I don’t think we can at this point, but we’ll talk to you about the potential and where we would see that going …,” Pildes said.

Centrum Properties is paying the cost to issue the RFPs.

Centrum Properties purchased Crestwood Court from the Westfield Group in 2008, and redevelopment has been on hold due to the economy.