Board of Aldermen unmoved by request to issue new RFP


Executive Editor

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen recently appeared unmoved by a request to issue a new request for proposals for the redevelopment of the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads.

The Board of Aldermen in March voted to name Mills Properties as the preferred developer of the nearly 19-acre Hillside Village site at Watson and Grant roads.

Mills Properties is proposing to redevelop the site as Boulder Springs at Crestwood — similar to the Boulder Springs at Maryland Heights project that Mills completed in 2000 at Interstate 270 and Page Avenue. Mills Properties is proposing a $45 million development that would include about 240 luxury apartment units and 19 luxury condominiums.

As proposed, the project could involve the use of tax-increment financing assistance and the creation of a Neighborhood Improvement District — two tax tools.

The site is comprised of two parcels. The larger of the two parcels contains Value City and is owned by Joe Grasso, while the smaller parcel contains the Creston Center and is owned by the Boegeman family.

Members of the Boegeman family repeatedly have told aldermen they will not sell their property and have vowed to fight any efforts to acquire their property through eminent domain.

Plans to renovate the Creston Center have been approved by the Board of Aldermen and the Boegeman family currently is spending $150,000 to $200,000 to ren-ovate the Creston Center.

During the July 22 board meeting, two representatives of a group being formed to promote “smart growth” in Crestwood, the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, asked aldermen to issue a new request for proposals for the site, contending that better alternatives exist than Mills Properties’ proposal.

Kelley Isherwood, of Oakville, chairman of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, and Mary Schulz, an attorney representing the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, asked aldermen to issue a new request for proposals and suggested an alternative site plan for the area that would reposition the Value City building to face Watson Road, include an upscale condominium development and leave the Creston Center intact.

Schulz also represents the Crest Development Co., which owns the Creston Center, but said she was at the meeting at the request of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance and was representing the alliance.

In response to the city’s request for proposals, two were submitted, one by the Jones Co. and one by Mills Properties, Schulz said, noting that the Jones Co. later withdrew its proposal.

The Mills Properties proposal is “limited,” Schulz said, “… And actually the city’s own planning consultants, PGAV, Peckham, Guyton, Albers and Viets, have concluded that the Mills’ proposal is not responsive to the city’s (RFP) and is incompatible with existing and future land uses along Watson Road, does not maximize the economic benefit to the city, and to the taxing districts and may be impeded by legal and political issues. Those criticisms are all by the city’s own planning consultant, PGAV, in their technical memoranda that were submitted to the city.”

She later said, “… If you initiate a new RFP for the Watson-Grant Redevelopment Area than hopefully the city would have more than one proposal before it so that it would make a decision based on what is good land-use planning, what would be good for the Watson Road corridor and not simply by default. There could be increased revenue for the city, not only by the existing proposal which would eliminate commercial and retail uses and instead replace those with exclusively residential uses, there would be a diminution of revenue to the city and to the taxing districts. The only way that such redevelopment could be financed under tax-increment financing is by flipping money from another district to the proposed district and that may present some legal problems for the city and some entanglements.”

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood later asked Isherwood for a list of members of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance.

Isherwood replied, “I don’t have it now. We’re just in the process of organizing. I would be happy to provide you that list. At this point, the first item on our agenda was at least making the (Crestwood-Sunset Hills Area) Chamber of Commerce aware of what’s happening and we did put a four-page document in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter. That was the first thing we wanted to do and the next thing is we’re organizing citizens. I have a sign-up sheet. I’m going to request that they sign these sheets and I’ll be happy to provide the list. I am contacting people who are concerned about Crestwood.

“There will be people who are outside of Crestwood who will be concerned about these developments, the business owners who live outside of Crestwood and the people who are employed in those stores. So that’s the base …,” he added, noting he has contacted perhaps 10 individuals and a few businesses. “We have just begun.”

Trueblood later asked, “Do you know if any of the members of the Smart Growth association, or alliance I should say, would be willing to or able to develop the property as you’ve outlined on their own?”

Isherwood said, “No. No. I mean we’re not, what we’re trying to say is open it up to all those developers. We’re just putting a proposal here. We don’t want to be negative. We want to be positive. We want to provide something that is a good alternative to this development and we want it open to all developers. There’s no one here trying to sneak in, in this development process. We want everybody to have an opportunity.”

Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore told Isherwood, “Well, you are aware the city is also interested and has been interested in smart growth for a long time and has very clear principles and guidelines how it does it. Others of us have been involved with smart growth development in the whole region also for a long time. So I hope you do not approach us as though you have answers that we don’t already have. Normally, smart growth efforts that are going to be productive in the long run need to be more objective than you two are this evening already representing a vested interest. So that will, of course, limit your usefulness. The proposal you had, whose proposal is that and what is their funding? Do they have adequate funding to do that proposal?”

Isherwood said, “This is not a formal proposal. This is a suggestion of an idea for development. I don’t want to confuse you here. This is just a suggestion. This is not a formal proposal. There’s no developer selected and we’re asking you to do that, put out an RFP.”

LaBore said, “The process has already been done and professional groups who have an interest in such development have responded to the RFP and we’re moving along. To reopen it now for an idea that somebody has is not the smartest business approach.”

Isherwood responded that the board recently extended the deadline for proposals for Watson Plaza at the request of a developer. Developers Diversified Realty owns the former Service Merchandise site in Watson Plaza and asked for the extension to submit a proposal.

LaBore said, “… For someone who is an established, reputable and well-financed group that has a definite proposal in mind. You do not. I mean I just want you to realize that the board does not treat your request the same way it treated the other one. You need to understand that there are rational reasons why, you know, OK? …”

Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe later asked, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but did not Mr. Boegeman know from the very beginning of his petition to remodel that there was going to be an RFP on that property?”

Mayor Jim Robertson said, “Absolutely.”

Duwe said, “That’s what I thought.”

Robertson said, “In fact, I believe one or more of you specifically asked him at a hearing in front of this board to be sure that he understood exactly what the parameters and dynamics potentially would be.”