Crestwood Court redevelopment at standstill after planner nixed

Ex-alderman implores board to move forward with project

By Gloria Lloyd

The redevelopment of Crestwood Court is at a standstill after the new Board of Aldermen declined to approve the planner already rejected by a previous board.

With two aldermen who previously voted in favor of the planner absent, the board voted 4-2 May 28 to reject a measure hiring consulting firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, for a $29,000 study to examine the proposal for the new development, called the District at Crestwood.

The board deadlocked 4-4 on the planner at the bill’s first reading at its May 14 meeting — the tie broken by Mayor Jeff Schlink in PGAV’s favor.

“(The planning study is) dead for now,” City Administrator Mark Sime told the Call. “If we do something new or change it, we can bring it back up again.”

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding suggested the vote be postponed until a future meeting when all aldermen are present, but only Breeding and Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach voted in favor of hiring PGAV. Before the vote was taken, the two supported postponing a vote on the second reading of the measure.

Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter and Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen were both absent May 28. They voted in favor of PGAV on the bill’s first reading May 14.

Postponement of an issue just because certain members of the board are absent was unprecedented, however, said Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild.

“I understand two members of one side are not here, and that’s just what happens,” he said. “… Business in the city must move on.”

Centrum, the mall’s owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., proposes an open-air entertainment and retail venue with restaurants, a movie theater, an upscale bowling venue and retail shops. Centrum is requesting public subsidies for the $102 million redevelopment project, including $26.6 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF.

The PGAV planning study is a precursor to sending the proposed redevelopment project to the St. Louis County TIF Commission. On May 14, Schlink indicated he would break the board’s tie on the condition that the proposal not move immediately to the TIF Commission.

Wallach said he supports Centrum’s development, with some caveats. He suggested a change to the PGAV contract to ask for a study on the impact a large grocer such as Walmart would have on the city, and whether that type of store would take business away from existing grocery stores rather than attract new customers.

Crestwood resident Timothy Anderson, who ran for the Ward 4 seat now held by Mike Tsichlis, noted the contract between PGAV and the city stipulated that the company’s consulting services would not constitute an independent cost-benefit analysis or a study of financial feasibility — instead, PGAV would work only with numbers provided by Centrum. Anderson suggested that Centrum provide more information on the development’s potential tenants.

No one from PGAV attended the meeting to answer questions. Centrum attorney Jim Mello attended on behalf of the developer.

At the May 14 meeting, Mello suggested a work session be held with Centrum representatives and the aldermen, a meeting that would be open to residents who want to attend but would be separate from a regular board meeting. Although Schlink said he had not been contacted by any aldermen to hold the work session, Breeding and Wallach said they were under the impression that the session had simply been postponed due to timing issues.

“I followed up asking when we were going to have it,” Breeding said. “I thought it was a done deal.”

Duchild suggested an alternative work session in which the board met alone, without Centrum, to discuss what they would like to see in the redevelopment of Crestwood Court. Residents could attend and give their suggestions or voice their support for Centrum’s current plan, he added.

“It would be great to get together and work toward a common vision,” Tsichlis said.

For the second week in a row, about 50 residents attended the meeting to speak their minds both for and against the development and the TIF.

“You’ve got to be kidding, right?” former Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley said. “What’s the matter with us? Really? I implore you all — somebody step up to this plate and get this city back on track. This is ridiculous. We need a work session.”

Martha Duchild, who is married to Paul Duchild, cautioned the board on going forward with the TIF, citing the previous TIF granted to Kohl’s as an example.

“What we got then was the accelerated demise of Macy’s with no replacement of that revenue,” she said. “… Anybody who tells you the TIFs don’t cost taxpayer money is not telling the whole truth.”