Crestwood mall not sold, city administrator tells newspaper

After redevelopment, Crestwood Plaza likely will not be a mall, mayor says

By BURKE WASSON

Despite a report published last week that the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood had been purchased by a pair of investment companies, Crestwood City Administrator Frank Myers told the Call Friday that “the mall has not been sold.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Jan. 24 that “according to knowledgeable sources,” Chicago’s Centrum Properties and New York’s Angelo, Gordon & Co. had entered into a contract to purchase the Crestwood mall from the Westfield Group.

But one day after that report, Myers said no deal had occurred.

“No one from Centrum or the other company (Angelo, Gordon & Co.) that was mentioned, they didn’t initiate that (report),” Myers said. “The Post-Dispatch, I guess, came up with that information somehow on their own …

“There’s a lot of people who think the mall has been sold. The mall has not been sold. It’s not sold,” the city administrator added.

Angelo, Gordon & Co. officials also told the Call they could not confirm a sale while Centrum Properties did not respond to the Call’s request for comment before press time.

Tentative plans for the mall property, which has suffered annual declines in sales-tax revenue, have included converting the Crestwood mall into a mixed-use development as part of a project valued more than $200 million.

Crestwood officials speculated last year that the mall’s redevelopment likely would be done in three phases at a cost of more than $250 million.

But Mayor Roy Robinson told aldermen last week that after the planned redevelopment occurs, the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood likely is “not going to be a mall anymore.”

Robinson also said that prospective tenants at the new Sappington Square shopping center across the street from the Crestwood mall on Watson Road are waiting to see a sale announced before they decide to make a commitment to rent retail space.

“Many of the people who (Sappington Square owners) are contacting are very much interested in knowing what’s happening to the mall,” Robinson said. “And a lot of it has been held up until they know that the mall has been sold … Once that happens, that will expedite all of the property that you see …

“But a lot of it is dependent on what happens at our shopping center. I hate to call it a mall because it’s not going to be a mall anymore. It’s going to be a shopping experience. You’ll know soon enough.”

City officials already had taken steps on their own to help facilitate a sale of the mall property as aldermen unanimously voted in August to send a request for development proposals to 82 developers to solicit offers to re-develop the struggling Crestwood mall.

Because the mall is the source of one-third of the city’s overall sales-tax revenue, city officials felt the need to issue an RDP and since have delivered it to a total of 124 developers.

While city officials took steps in August to solicit redevelopment bids, Westfield representatives employed the consulting services of Eastdil Secured to assist in their efforts to sell the mall property, which is the only shopping center in the St. Louis area that the Westfield Group still fully owns.

To keep the city’s options open if Westfield’s sales efforts falls through, aldermen voted unanimously in December to extend the city’s deadline to receive requests for proposals to redevelop the mall.

The new deadline for the city’s Crestwood mall RDP is March 3. The original RDP deadline was Dec. 14.

Myers has said he knows “for a fact” that the city would receive at least one bid to redevelop the mall through the RDP.

At the same time, Myers has said that because the mall’s sales negotiations could be described as “fluid” in recent weeks, he and city officials would refrain from releasing any information to the public until a sale has been completed.

Myers also has said that parties close to the mall’s sales negotiations have asked city officials to keep that information “highly confidential.”

City officials have grappled in recent months with the loss of revenue at the mall from the October closing of Dillard’s, which was one of the shopping center’s three anchor stores.

The administration has projected that the closing of Dillard’s will result in an annual loss of $300,000 to $350,000 in sales-tax revenue collected by the city.

The Crestwood mall currently is anchored by Macy’s and Sears.

The RDP states that the city would be open to approving TIF, a community-improvement district or transportation-development district as an incentive for a developer to take on the mall project and be reimbursed for project costs through a sales tax on that property.

But city officials also will face an uncertain timetable this year concerning the use of tax-incentive tools to develop the project.

Because of action taken last year by the state Legislature to establish new tax-increment-finance commissions in St. Louis County, the powers of already-existing TIF commissions in various municipalities has been questioned.

Bond-counsel firms in Missouri will not issue bonds for any TIF district until the legality of the newly formed TIF commissions has been settled.

Lindbergh School District Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane, who also serves on TIF commissions in Crestwood and Sunset Hills, recently said a decision on those TIF commissions could come as late as August, delaying development or redevelopment projects in the county until then.

The state Legislature established new TIF commissions this year in St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County.

That legislation approved the establishment of a new 12-member TIF commission for projects proposed in cities in each of those counties.

Six members of that commission would be appointed by the county executive, three members would be appointed by the city in question, two members would be appointed from the local school district and one member to represent all other tax districts.

However, if the countywide TIF commission rejects a project, it still can be carried by a two-thirds vote of the governing body of the city in which that project would be situated.