Crestwood officials show leadership with vetting of Centrum, mall plan

To the editor:

If it is forward progress on the Crestwood mall redevelopment that former Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel seeks, then he would be well-advised to stop complaining about the past.

A stamp of approval from planning professionals for Centrum Partner’s redevelopment concept would have guaranteed nothing. The fact that three different planners arrived at three different informal conclusions regarding the property’s best use underscores the arbitrariness of the planning profession; it is not an exact science.

Furthermore, setting the course for redevelopment requires that the developer be thoroughly vetted first. Of what use is a great plan, approved by a professional planner, if the developer cannot execute it due to a failure to secure the necessary commercial loans? All the professional advice in the world is not enough to overcome such an obstacle.

No matter how exciting the plan appeared, or how desperate the wish for something to be done with the mall property, the board still had to carefully assess any red flags before moving forward.

In Centrum’s case, there were too many to ignore, beginning with the plan itself, the developer’s creditworthiness and the developer’s responsiveness to and honesty with the board.

Ultimately, the prevailing opinion was that these red flags were too serious to ignore, and presented too great a risk for all of the stakeholders.

I am certain those “hundreds” of Crestwood residents joining with Metropolitan Congregations United in a chorus of criticism believed they were acting in the best interest of the city, but so, too, did those who disagreed with them.

I am also certain Mr. Pickel would concede that anyone who decides to get involved in civic affairs, regardless of their positions on issues, does so out of concern for a city’s best interest. Contrary to what Mr. Pickel asserts, the outcome of the redevelopment discussions was not the result of failed leadership, but rather the careful vetting of a developer and his plan.

Indeed, leadership is required during challenging times, and despite the boos, name-calling and threats of recall, the mayor and aldermen held firm in their conviction that neither Centrum nor its concept was a good risk. That’s leadership.