Crestwood board adopts second amendment to funding pact with mall owner

Citizen takes exception with PGAV’s request for reimbursement, criticism of school district

A rendering of the \$100 million proposal from UrbanStreet for the Crestwood mall.

Photo by Lisa

A rendering of the \$100 million proposal from UrbanStreet for the Crestwood mall.

By Mike Anthony

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen recently adopted an ordinance approving a second amendment to an initial funding agreement with the owner of the former Crestwood Plaza.

Under the terms of the amended pact, Crestwood Missouri Partners LLC, a subsidiary of mall owner UrbanStreet Group of Chicago, agreed to provide a total of $170,000 to the city as preliminary funding for costs and fees associated with the proposed redevelopment of the mall.

UrbanStreet Group, which purchased the mall property last year for $2.625 million, submitted the only response to the city’s request for proposals, or RFP, to redevelop the site. The mall owner is requesting nearly $28 million in tax incentives, including tax-increment financing, or TIF, for a roughly $99.5 million mixed-use project that includes 225 apartments.

Aldermen also adopted an ordinance amending the city’s original agreement with Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, for planning services related to the mall site.

The city’s initial contract with PGAV called for the consultant to perform eight tasks for a total of $61,000, according to City Planner Adam Jones.

But Jones noted in a memo that besides completing work for the redevelopment plan, “PGAV performed additional services outside of the original scope in the original contract as directed by the city’s representative …”

The additional tasks total $14,600. The amendment with PGAV also calls for the consultant to review UrbanStreet’s request for financial assistance for the mall project at a cost not to exceed $4,000. UrbanStreet has agreed to pay the total cost of $18,600.

In a July 17 memo, PGAV Vice President John Brancaglione outlined the additional work his firm performed and wrote, “For every delay or public controversy created by the naysayers — which we believe are in the minority of Crestwood citizenry and businesses — the ability for the developer to attract end users and/or development partners will be negatively impacted … Based on our conversations with the developers/brokers that we sent the RFP (request for proposals) solicitation to, it seemed apparent that the city isn’t being taken seriously in this effort. The publicity that the school district has been creating isn’t helping.”

Lindbergh Superintendent Jim Simpson has said he believes UrbanStreet’s plan to construct 225 apartments at the mall site “is the worst scenario for Lindbergh Schools,” as it would exacerbate the aggressive enrollment growth that already is challenging the district. In May, the school board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the use of TIF for residential development.

During a period for public comment at the Nov. 10 aldermanic meeting, resident John Bell, a landscape architect, questioned PGAV’s reimbursement request for the additional tasks.

“As I read this memorandum, a number of things kind of bubbled up for me, and these are the questions that I would like to entertain and share with you and ask you to factor into your decision-making tonight,” he said. “What can the city reasonably expect from professional services under contract? Two, does the voice and tone in the memo move the needle to or away from the good will that the developer needs for a successful project? …

“This first question, within the community of professional designers, planners, landscape architects and building architects and civil engineers, we have exercised a measure of self-discipline in creating a low bar of standard practice and a higher bar of best practice and these requests made by the outside planner (do not) meet either threshold …,” Bell said.

Citing an additional cost by PGAV for “attempting to maintain the flow of the process in light of a bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature that would have drastically reduced the amount of revenue available” for TIF projects, he said, “… It’s my contention that really this is a trumped-up crisis. Any casual observer of the General Assembly knew that there was no way this was going to pass, and the notion that they were coming to fill in the breach because you guys did not have the appropriate outside providers of service is just really, just not the case.

“The fact is they just took initiative that was unsolicited and now they’re asking for reimbursement,” Bell said, adding that when he deals with his clients, “We come together. We identify what is being offered, what is accepted and what is a schedule for compensation. If there’s anything that falls outside those boundaries, you take the initiative on the front end to seek approval, not on the back end … It just fails to meet that muster …”

The resident also took exception to Brancaglione’s criticism of Lindbergh Schools and “naysayers.”

“… I’ll tell you what, Mr. Mayor, if I had gotten this memo, I would have say, ‘Hey, you need to restudy and resubmit,'” Bell said. “‘You’ve got to drop out some of this language calling out the school district and calling out naysayers’ because essentially what the deduction is from this sort of language is we have a planner that’s acting to advance this proposal.

“Instead of taking a thread and a needle and stitching together a quilt of competing interests, trying to come to a common ground that will advance a credible development, we have a planner that has taken a box cutter and has called out the school district and the parents (who) are having their students educated in the school district. This is not the way to run a train …”