South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Campisi anticipates final approval of new shopping center in Lemay

‘Superstore’ development would include three tax-incentive elements

The development of a roughly 39-acre shopping center near Interstate 55 and Weber Road is expected to be approved this week by the County Council.

Sixth District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, said he anticipates two bills approving that Lemay development will be approved by the County Council Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The project, being developed by Pace Properties Inc., is expected to bring a retail shopping center to the southeast quadrant of Weber Road and Interstate 55. Campisi previously said the shopping center will boast some form of a “superstore.”

Pace representatives have said the new shopping center would contain roughly 310,000 square feet of retail space. As proposed, the development would provide enough room for the one large “superstore,” six lots for mid-sized retail stores and a handful of smaller retail lots. The developer also estimates that such a shopping center would generate roughly $155 million in new sales activity.

While construction of the retail area is contingent on the County Council’s approval, Pace Properties officials previously have estimated they could break ground on the center as early as this spring.

The development will be funded through a combination of three separate tax-incentive elements — tax-increment financing, or TIF; a transportation-development district, or TDD; and a community-improvement district, or CID.

Mike Jones, executive assistant to County Executive Charlie Dooley, said the total cost of the project from its acquisition to road improvements is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $60 million.

“I think from the county’s standpoint and Pace’s standpoint, I think we got a fairly solid agreement,” Jones said. “We’re just working out the mechanics of how to finance a fairly large infrastructure issue. There’s two big issues with this project. There’s the acquisition cost and there’s the improvement at I-55 at Weber.”

Neither Jones nor Campisi could comment on what fraction of the project’s total cost would be reimbursed to Pace Properties Inc. through the various tax-incentive districts.

“They have some needs for TIF based on acquisition and some other issues,” Jones said. “So what we’ve got to figure out is how to slice this up in a way that it all gets done. Because without it all getting done, none of it can get done.”

The I-55/Weber Road interchange is slated to be converted from a two-lane intersection to a four-lane intersection to accommodate the extra traffic that the development is expected to generate.

Besides improving the I-55 exit at Weber Road, the project will improve the interstate’s bridge over the River des Peres.

Campisi said the TDD and CID parts of the retail center’s sales taxes will go toward constructing I-55 access for northbound and southbound traffic to Carondelet Boulevard and Germania Street. At the moment, northbound traffic can exit at Carondelet Boulevard, but not Germania Street.

Southbound traffic, on the other hand, can exit onto Germania Street, but not Carondelet Boulevard.

Jones also said that the new interchange at I-55 and Weber Road will allow much greater access to the new retail center.

He added that from the county’s perspective, the total road improvements that will come with the new retail center are “why we’re interested in the project.”

“We look at the exchange as part of the development project as well,” Jones said. “They (Pace Properties) wouldn’t do the project without the exchange, and we wouldn’t be interested in the project if it wasn’t for the opportunity to do an improvement. So for us, it’s kind of synergistic for both groups of people.”

Campisi said he believes that nearly all residential areas that were asked to be bought to make way for the project have been obtained.

“It’s going to be a great project for Lemay,” Campisi said. “The people around there are very anxious to get this all started, of course. And for the price they’re getting for their homes, I think that they’ll never see that kind of price ever again. That’s probably why they’re so anxious to get this done and get going.”

As for those owners who might not sell, Campisi previously said he would not support the use of eminent domain to obtain those properties. Campisi has said that Pace officials were buying homes “well over market value” at an average price of $225,000 per house.

In June, the County Council began moving on the project when it approved a $30,000 consulting agreement with Development Strategies Inc. to develop a TIF redevelopment plan for the project.

Jones said any perceived snags in the re-tail center’s development have not been because of any disputes with the developer, but because of continued negotiations of how to fund the project through various tax incentives.

“The delay is not a result of any disagreement,” Jones said. “It’s just working out the mechanics of a fairly large and complicated project.”

Jones reiterated that along with the economic opportunities that the shopping center will bring, county officials are also pleased with the resulting road improvements along I-55.

“Pace thinks this is an excellent retail-development opportunity,” Jones said. “Obviously, folks in the Lemay area are excited about the opportunity as well. But from a county perspective, our major concern is the road-infrastructure improvements and the opportunity that creates long term.”

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