Council approves redevelopment plan for Lemay shopping center

Redevelopment to bring ‘superstore,’ restaurants, retail shopping


While the County Council last week unanimously approved a commercial redevelopment plan to make way for a 39-acre shopping center in Lemay, its construction might be months away.

Richard Randall, vice president of development for Pace Properties, said his company should have a better timeline by this summer and that until then, more work is needed to finalize the project’s tax-incentive financing structure.

“I would say that probably by mid-summer, a real clear picture as to timing of this project will be developed,” he said. “By July-ish. The project will really be defined by mid-summer timing-wise and every other way. Between now and then, we’ve just got so much to do.”

The Ironworks shopping center would contain roughly 310,000 square feet of retail space. As proposed, the development would provide enough room for one large superstore, six lots for mid-sized retail stores and a handful of smaller retail lots.

“I would anticipate your typical, larger-format retailers along with some sit-down restaurants all in an Ironworks-themed environment,” Randall said. “So a very kind of different look to it that we will be creating to try and create this Ironworks or more industrial looking theme that we have been touting from the beginning. But the users themselves will be just very traditional, national retailers. And we’re pretty determined to get a couple of sit-down restaurants, which are really absent in that area now.”

To help fund the estimated $60 million project, the County Council approved three different types of tax-incentive financing — tax-increment financing, or TIF, a community-improvement district, or CID, and a transportation-development district, or TDD.

The Ironworks shopping center will be the first county development to benefit from three separate taxing districts.

Part of the challenge with those sales-tax entities, Randall said last week to residents at the County Council’s Feb. 27 meeting, is attracting retail tenants that may be wary of additional sales taxes through three separate taxing districts.

“It’s a good approach, but it still is a challenge because now I’ve got to talk tenants into this deal because they’re really the ones that are paying the extra freight,” Randall said. “Actually, all of the shoppers are, but they’re the ones that have to commit to the additional taxes … They don’t like extra tax on their customers, but they don’t have a choice here. This is what it is if they want to be here. We will, I believe, successfully talk them into it. One large tenant is very sensitive to any additional costs. So we’re going to start first thing in the morning with talking that tenant into this. And I think we’ll be successful, but I can’t absolutely guarantee it.”

While it is known that the majority of TDD funds will go to constructing a new interchange at Interstate 55 and Weber Road, where the Ironworks center will be constructed, the distribution of TIF and CID funds remains unclear.

“We are working on Weber Road from the standpoint of trying to cause as much of the TDD to go to the interchange as possible,” Randall said. “We don’t have any final answers as to that now. But we’ve had many meetings. And the concept is that the TDD, and I’m not going to say CID because we’re not sure technically how it works, but the developer and the county will work on a program where the TDD and the existing federal earmarked funds will be adequate to finance this interchange. And the details of that are in the works now. It’s very complicated. But that is what we are attempting to do and that is why, in the end, the county supported it.”

County Executive Charlie Dooley said at the County Council’s Feb. 27 meeting that, specifically, the TIF structure of the deal still needs to be developed.

“We believe financially we have done all that we can from the county point of view to move this project forward,” Dooley said. “So financially, we believe it’s within an area in which we can move forward. There are some other things we have to do to make sure this thing is completed. But we think the major hurdles have been cleared. There are some things to do as far as the TIF and arranging the TIF itself.”

Pending arrangement of the TIF and CID funds aside, Dooley said last week’s unanimous approval of two bills allowing Pace Properties to go forward with the redevelopment is “a major piece of the legislation.”

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 will be expected to bring.

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

The TDD and CID revenue 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.

Currently, 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.

The Ironworks shopping center itself will be constructed on part of the former Stupp Brothers plant. Additionally, roughly 60 homes in the I-55/Weber Road area were required to be bought to make way for the development.

Sixth District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, who introduced both bills for the project, said he believes that nearly all residential areas that were asked to be bought have been obtained.

“This is going to be a great development for those people who live in Lemay,” Campisi said. “It’s certainly a great chance for the people that live there to move to a different home. I understand that a lot of the homes that were being bought out are being bought out at a very fair price.”

Campisi has said that Pace Properties officials were buying needed homes “well over market value” at an average price of $225,000 per house.

As for those owners who might not sell, Campisi previously said he would not support the use of eminent domain to obtain properties.

In June 2006, the County Council began moving on the project when its members approved a $30,000 consulting agreement with Development Strategies Inc. to develop a TIF redevelopment plan for the project. Because of the need to structure that TIF allocation, Randall said while he is confident that a development timeline will form later this year, it is difficult to say when.

“Six months ago, I would have been more clear on that than I am today,” Randall said. “It’s so complicated and there’s so many parties involved that the timing is not in the developer’s control totally. All the developer can do, and that being us, is continue to work on it on all fronts, which we’re doing.”