Crestwood developer disputes Barket; expresses interest in redeveloping mall

Grewe representative ‘vague’ regarding TIF use, Roby says

By Kari Williams

A Crestwood-based developer told the Board of Aldermen last week that his company does have an interest in the redevelopment of Crestwood Court, despite statements made by a mall owner to city officials indicating otherwise.

G.J. Grewe representative Bill Appelbaum said the comment Sol Barket of Centrum Partners made is “completely untrue.”

“We’re very much in favor of the redevelopment of that mall and working with the city of Crestwood,” Appelbaum said.

G.J. Grewe has been a “corporate citizen” in Crestwood since 1986, according to Appelbaum, and has developed Watson Plaza and Crestwood Square in cooperation with city staff — both of which utilized tax incentives within the city.

“Someday we might get control of the Crestwood mall and we wanted to come out here tonight and answer any questions you might have of our intentions in Crestwood and our thoughts as it relates to this board,” he said. “But most importantly, we wanted to make sure you understood that we didn’t say anything that Sol Barket and the Centrum folks had published in that newspaper.”

In a Nov. 14 email to Mayor Jeff Schlink, Barket wrote, “Let me just add that we have gone to several local developers over the past several weeks, including Pace, Grewe, Capitol Land, etc. to see if they might want to join forces and re (sic) capitalize the venture or simply buy us out.

“All of them had the same response. Given the city’s reluctance to provide public assistance, it is impossible to make anything work on the site, and until there are new people on the board that are pro-development and not anti-subsidy, they will not go near it.”

Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Centrum Partners LLC purchased the former Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood in 2008.

Centrum proposed the District at Crestwood, an open-air entertainment and retail venue at the mall site that would include restaurants, a movie theater and an upscale bowling venue.

The total redevelopment cost would be roughly $121 million, with economic assistance in the form of tax-increment financing, or TIF, a transportation development district, or TDD, and a community improvement district, or CID, reaching roughly $34 million, according to revised numbers presented to the city.

Appelbaum said G.J. Grewe has had discussions with Centrum since Centrum purchased the mall from the Westfield Group.

“We’ve not had that discussion with him, but we’ve had many discussions with him about trying to get control of it,” Appelbaum said.

When Ward 1 Alderman Dan Tennessen questioned if Appelbaum believed if TIF would be required to develop the property, Appelbaum said that will “depend on the ultimate use.”

“Whether it’s a TIF, TDD or CID or some other financial package that is out there — they seem to be changing all the time what is available coming out of Jefferson City,” Appelbaum said. “So I think a lot of it is just going to be determined by is it residential component? Commercial component? Mixed-use component? And how you’re going to address the project that’s brought before you.”

Regarding use of TIF at the mall property, former Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby said Appelbaum “was a little vague.”

“Certainly, it’s been indicated before and I believe it’s true that anyone who (is) going to develop the type of property that was proposed by Centrum is going to require some type of TIF,” he said. “Obviously, if you’re going to do a residential development in there or a park … you really have no way of recouping that money because you don’t have any sales taxes that you can charge.

“I think anybody that’s going to develop it commercially and build anything that’s going to draw people to our community is going to require a TIF for that, and I just wish that we would explore that a little further.”

Former Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan told the board the types of businesses coming to Crestwood — King of Kash and Aaron’s — make the city’s prospects “very disconcerting” compared to cities such as Fenton attracting the outdoors store Gander Mountain.

“That’s not the Crestwood that I have lived in for over 30 years, nor is it the Crestwood where my kids went to school and where I still live,” Duncan said. “So, the opportunities I think are there. We just can’t seem to pull the trigger and can’t seem to come to some kind of understanding of what the market is doing and how we need to tap into that.”

Similarly, Roby told the board it is discouraging to see that, for example, an IKEA will be built near Midtown in St. Louis.

“It just seems to me that we could be taking some initiative to again get things moving here, try to establish some type of a new relationship with the existing developer and I do think that there’s room for negotiation,” Roby said, “And I’m talking about negotiation from the standpoint of what goes into that property.”