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

Consultant says city must send a strong message about mall

Mixed-used scenario likely for former Crestwood Plaza

Last of two parts

Crestwood officials need to send a strong message to the development community and end users that they’re committed to the redevelopment of the former Crestwood Plaza.

That’s what a planner hired by the city told the Board of Aldermen during a recent work session called to discuss the redevelopment of the 47-acre site at Watson and Sappington roads.

Aldermen voted last month to adopt an ordinance approving a $73,000 agreement with Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, to serve as the city’s planning services consultant for the proposed redevelopment of the mall.

Given the current condition of the shopping center, PGAV Vice President John Brancaglione said tax-increment financing, or TIF, will be required to redevelop the property.

Chicago developer UrbanStreet Group purchased the mall property for $2.625 million from Chicago-based Centrum Partners and New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co., which owned the majority stake in the site. Centrum and Angelo, Gordon bought the mall in 2008 for $17.5 million from the Westfield Group, which purchased it in 1998 from Hycel Properties for $106.4 million.

Hycel Properties had operated Crestwood Plaza since 1957, first as an open-air mall.

A mid-1980s redevelopment transformed the mall into a fully enclosed shopping center with more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

In 2012, Centrum Partners developer Sol Barket presented a roughly $121 million redevelopment proposal to the Board of Aldermen for The District at Crestwood, an open-air entertainment and retail venue with restaurants, a movie theater, an upscale bowling venue and retail shops.

Centrum requested $34 million in public subsidies, including $26.6 million in TIF assistance, for the project.

PGAV performed a preliminary analysis of Centrum’s proposal.

However, after aldermen deadlocked 4-4 on a more in-depth study — a precursor to sending the redevelopment project to the St. Louis County TIF Commission — for the third time in July 2013, PGAV withdrew its planning proposal.

Board members who voted against the study emphasized they did not vote against PGAV, but were instead registering their discontent with Centrum’s proposal.

Barket left Centrum Partners last spring to launch his own business, Condor Partners.

During the Jan. 17 work session, Brancaglione said the demise of the mall has negatively impacted the city’s Watson Road Corridor. He cited the loss of Gordmans, which moved to Arnold, and predicted Best Buy will close its Crestwood location.

“… You’ve got a 28-percent commercial vacancy along Watson Road — not including the mall — but it’s driven by the mall …,” Brancaglione said.

As a result, annual average daily traffic, or AADT, has declined dramatically to 18,000 in 2013 from 26,000 in 2000. He added that number was “pushing” 40,000 in 1996.

Brancaglione also emphasized that city officials need to send a strong message that they’re interested in the redevelopment of the mall property.

“… You have to send, I think, a strong signal that you’re ready to go, and that’s why I think you have to put the tax-increment (financing) district in place because that’s what says to those people, ‘Look, we’re ready to do this, and even if we have to come back and amend this plan somewhere down the line, we’re proving to you we’re serious,'” he said. “The previous process that you went through, I’ll be very honest, it didn’t help you, and so there’s a scenario going on now … (where) there are, for example, some retail opportunities, good ones, that are new people moving into the St. Louis market who aren’t looking here, but are looking very close by.

“And the reason they’re not looking here is because they know what the order of magnitude is to deal with this property and they don’t see — and they haven’t seen the city sort of moving the process along. That’s the feedback we’re getting when we talk to some of the development-community folks out there …”

Based on discussions with UrbanStreet representatives and PGAV’s expertise, Brancaglione says a mixed-use development is envisioned for the former Crestwood Plaza.

“… This is a mixed-use project at the end of the day … It’s probably a combination of retail, residential and some things that are sort of entertainment-related, but not Toby Keith,” he said, referring to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which Centrum had proposed.

While there are two big-box retailers relatively new to the St. Louis market, Brancaglione said the plaza site isn’t conducive to big box users because the mall property is so far below Watson Road.

If the Schnucks that is across the street from the shopping center could be moved to the mall site, and the site across the street was leveled, “you could probably land one of them (a big-box user) because they’ll fit there because the dimensional relationships are correct. This site (the mall) doesn’t work so well.

“And that’s not to say that it couldn’t happen. I’m simply saying that it’s not as easy …”

As for the east end of the mall property, Brancaglione said a high-rise, upscale senior living complex, similar to the Gatesworth at 1 McKnight Place, would work well there.

At one point, Ward 4 Alderman Mike Vincent said, “In the past there have tended to be members of the board that have either questioned the credibility or the ability of a developer to pull off what they’re saying. When the time comes that a developer is standing here with pretty pictures and big dreams, how do we know that they have the ability and the financial capability to do what they say, and what role do you as our partner play in helping us confidently say, ‘This can happen?'”

Brancaglione replied, “… Actually, it’s part of the redevelopment plan process and approving a redevelopment agreement. The short answer is that’s what you hire us for. Had we ever gotten there, we would have told you that there were things about Centrum’s proposal that did not make sense …

“We had already had two conversations with them where we questioned what they were proposing to do,” he said, adding that the numbers Centrum used for its revenue scenario “were not incorrect.”

“The thing you had to get over was that what they were proposing to build was actually going to happen, and they were using a model of a project in Rosemont, Ill. That’s Chicago …,” Brancaglione said, noting the location is unique, next to O’Hare International Airport and situated near a casino and convention center.

“It did not make sense. There were elements of it that made sense. We just never got the ability to tell you,” he said.

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