Crestwood officials await revised mall plan

Mayor says developer ready to move forward with project

Crestwood officials await revised mall plan

By Mike Anthony

Crestwood officials are awaiting a revised redevelopment proposal from the owner of the former Crestwood Plaza, according to Mayor Gregg Roby.

UrbanStreet Group of Chicago, 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 48-acre site at Watson and Sappington roads.

UrbanStreet has proposed a mixed-use development for the mall property that includes four components — a three-acre retail area for such services as a specialty grocery store, fuel station, pharmacy and fast-casual dining; a 20-acre entertainment and destination retail area that includes a movie theater, office space, restaurants and a town-square space; an 11-acre area with a 225-unit apartment complex with primarily one-bedroom apartments; and a roughly 14-acre area of open space and community gardens, including stormwater management.

The mall owner is requesting nearly $28 million in tax incentives, including tax-increment financing, or TIF, for the roughly $99.5 million mixed-use project.

Of the current status of the project, Roby told the Call last week, “We are waiting on the financials and basically a final or a revised redevelopment plan … There is fluidity to this project, and there have been some changes that have been made by the developer, basically as a result of both tenant inquiries and as a result of the public-imput session held at Whitecliff Park.”

Over 700 people attended the July 8 open house at the Community Center that was designed to obtain public input on UrbanStreet’s proposal for the mall site, last known as Crestwood Court. In addition, the developer received more than 500 comment cards about the proposal. At the open house, UrbanStreet Group managing partner Bob Burk said redeveloping the mall property will be a daunting task.

The mayor said both he and City Planner Adam Jones have asked Vector Commun-ications, the public-engagement firm that organized the open house for UrbanStreet, about the input that was received.

“… Vector Communications has provided us with some very, very — I mean, really sketchy information — nothing that would provide anybody with any, really any direction,” Roby said, adding information city officials received included the number of people who attended and how many Post-it notes were made. “There was a lot of response with regard to the apartments. There was also a lot of response with regard to specific type of businesses people wanted to see there … Everything from Trader Joe’s to Whole Foods to Lucky’s. You name it.

“So that information is the basic information we’ve gotten, but really we have not received the full report and, quite frankly, that will go to UrbanStreet and I’m guessing that the reason he (Burk) hasn’t released it is because a lot of that information will dictate what his final proposal contains.”

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.

UrbanStreet has made some changes to its initial proposal, according to Roby, including increasing the size of a 60,000-square-foot office building.

“At this point in time, the changes I am aware of are adjustments to the size of some of the buildings,” he said. “For example, I think there was one office building that was originally identified as 60,000 square feet. I think that’s changed … There was some space next to the theater — proposed space. I don’t know who that was that was supposed to go in there or what they intended that to be, but I be-lieve that increased slightly.”

In addition, a proposed fast-food restaurant on an outlot has been eliminated, Roby said, adding that UrbanStreet is ready to proceed with the project.

“This process is little more lengthy than what I’ve been used to, but there again, it’s certainly not the longest project I’ve been involved in …,” he said “The last word I got from this developer is he’s ready to move forward. I mean, he wants to get going on this thing. He’s anxious to see demolition start because he’s got a lot of money invested in this process …”

UrbanStreet purchased the mall property at auction for $2.625 million from Chicago-based Centrum Partners and New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co.

In 2012, Centrum presented a roughly $121 million redevelopment proposal to the Board of Aldermen for The District at Crestwood, an open-air entertainment and retail venue. Centrum requested $34 million in public subsidies, including $26.6 million in TIF assistance, for the project.

The city’s planning consultant, Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, performed a preliminary analysis of Centrum’s proposal. However, after aldermen deadlocked 4-4 on a more in-depth study — a precursor to sending the redevelopment project to a TIF Commission — for the third time in July 2013, PGAV withdrew its planning proposal.