Crestwood aldermen vote 5-3 to draft revised RFP for mall planning services

Not too early to hire planner, but way too late, citizen says

By Kari Williams

Despite some objections to Centrum Properties’ redevelopment plan for Crestwood Court, the Crestwood Board of Aldermen voted 5-3 last week to draft a revised request for proposals for planning services.

Ward 1 Aldermen Richard Breeding and Darryl Wallach, Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter and Ward 4 Aldermen Dan Tennessen and Mike Tsichlis voted in favor of drafting the RFP request. Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood and Ward 3 Aldermen Paul Duchild and Bill Boston were opposed.

Mayor Jeff Schlink brought the planning services request for proposals, or RFP, to the board to “address road blocks” in moving the redevelopment forward.

An RFP for planning services originally was issued in 2012, with three companies submitting proposals. The board selected Peckham Guyton Albers and Viets, or PGAV, last September with a 5-2 vote.

PGAV completed a preliminary analysis of the mall property, but has since withdrawn its involvement in the project.

Trueblood said when PGAV was being considered for planning services, its representative, John Bracaglione, relayed to the board that Centrum’s two-phase proposal “will not most likely work.” The board, according to Trueblood, owes Centrum “the opportunity to re-establish what they really would like to do.”

“If it’s a phase one and a phase two that’s fine, that’s their property,” he said. “We have one person’s opinion about that. But then at that point we would have the information and the Brownfields (environmental) studies and costs involved in that, which may eliminate some of the TIF (tax-increment financing) requirements …”

An environmental study — as part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Brownfields Assessment Program — currently is being performed on the mall property at Watson and Sappington roads.

The new RFP, according to Schlink, will “cast a wider net” in hopes of receiving more responses.

Duchild said he is in favor of “casting a wider net,” but does not like the current plan and will not vote to move it forward.

“It’s not worth the board’s time to move forward on this,” Duchild said. “… Why go through this whole process again if I’m not going to vote in favor of the current plan? I wish they would have brought a new plan last December or January or May, but they haven’t done it.”

Trueblood said his concern with “casting a larger net” is not knowing “what we’re using for bait.”

“Right now, with the verbals and the written proposal, we know that a phase one (project) and phase two (project) apparently as I recall, according to PGAV, doesn’t have a strong chance of being successful. So that’s all I would caution this board to do at this point,” Trueblood said.

Despite statements from Centrum Properties partner Sol Barket made by email, there have been no formal changes to the company’s proposal and it has not been withdrawn, according to Schlink.

However, Wallach said he saw no concerns relating to “any RFP in regards to the selection of a planning services at this time.”

Resident Mike Balles, an architect who was appointed to the city’s Public Works board that night, told aldermen he has written and responded to RFPs and that in hiring a planning services firm, the city essentially hires a consultant.

“You need professional experience in order to evaluate (the redevelopment proposal) correctly and you need to have a mouthpiece …,” he said. “There’s hundreds of firms out there that will do that for you.”

Balles also told the board it is not too early to hire a planning services firm, but rather “way too late.”

“You guys should have been on board with this a long time ago …,” he said. “You need that professional guidance on the front end of this. That’s where you’re sort of missing the boat. As a professional in this industry, I can tell you that. I think you guys have to re-evaluate what you’re looking at. So you’re right. You need to know what the bait is.”

But Tsichlis said the situation in general “seems very premature.”

“It seems kind of like putting the cart before the horse here, that we’re kind of jumping the gun a bit on this when you don’t have a confirmed, revised proposal,” he said. “I don’t know. To me it just doesn’t make any sense …”

Tsichlis also questioned how, or if, the environmental study will impact Centrum’s proposal.

Resident David Brophy told the board moving forward to an environmental study on the mall property is “considerable progress,” but the city should wait to receive the study’s results before hiring a planner.

“The planner won’t know what to plan for and Centrum won’t know what to plan for, either, until that environmental study is completed,” he said. “And the city won’t know very many things about the money involved and what the obligations, potentially, of the city will be.”

Former Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said the main issue is not the planner, but the lack of a “viable plan.”

“The past five months this board has been preoccupied with this particular issue, and it’s been like chasing windmills. And to go forward with this RFP, to me, is going forward for the next five months going around the same circle,” he said. “… The same issues that have led to where we are still exist, so why go through this RFP process again?”

Trueblood said the “right track” would be to have Centrum bring its proposal to the board.

“If it’s the current one that sits on the table, then we have to discount the things they’ve told us verbally and in emails that they wanted to do, and that could, in my opinion, muddy the waters of what our expectations are going to be,” he said. “So we really need to see what they’re saying they want to propose, if in fact it’s changed.

“If it’s not, then they need to state that as well.”