Crestwood panel weighs update of Watson Road plan


Executive Editor

A proposed amendment to the Watson Road Development Plan will be considered next week by the Crestwood Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the Board of Aldermen Chambers at the Crestwood Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive. A public hearing will be conducted before the commission considers adopting the proposed amendment.

The proposed update to the Watson Road Development Plan, which is the city’s comprehensive plan for the Watson Road Commercial District, was formulated last year by the city’s planning consultant, Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets, or PGAV.

Two meetings to obtain public input on the proposed update were conducted — on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19. Comments were scheduled to be sought from the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — before the final draft is presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission next week.

The Planning and Zoning Commission primarily is a recommending body. In this case, however, final approval of the proposed amendment to the Watson Road Development Plan rests with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

During the Jan. 12 public-input session attended by roughly 15 people, John Brancaglione of PGAV discussed the origins of the Watson Road Plan, which originally was created in 1984 through a cooperative effort between city officials and the city’s business community. The Watson Road Development Plan was updated in 1998 to reflect the implementation of the original plan’s recommendations and to incorporate new strategies.

“The city did the first development plan for Watson Road in 1982 or actually started the process in 1982 and formally adopted a plan in 1984. Most cities do a comprehensive plan for the entire community,” Brancaglione said.

“However in Crestwood’s case, they’ve really never done that, largely because at the point at which comprehensive planning was really a common process in the United States, Crestwood was significantly built out and so the development plan for the portions of the community at that point that were within the incorporated boundaries really would have been sort of pointless. And so Crestwood made the decision in the early ’80s to focus on looking at the future of its city along the Watson Road corridor because obviously that’s the city’s economic life blood. It was then and it really is today,” he said.

“And so the 1982 plan evolved into several things that, in fact, you see today,” Brancaglione said, later commenting that the plan was updated in 1998.

Noting the city once again is updating the plan, he said, “Cities really should, as a good planning practice, visit the subject of their land-use scenarios on an annual basis and typically do plan amendments like this on a five-year cycle. So the timing here was such that the city made the decision to take a look at this again, in part, because also the whole market area, if you will, the whole environment of retail development and other commercial development in this part of the county has evolved over the years and changed significantly … The whole development pattern along Watson Road, like it or not, is really influenced by market forces that the city can only, in part, control.”

While cities have limited control over development or redevelopment, he said they “in some instances can influence to some degree by providing some of the kinds of incentives that have been used for redevelopment and development projects throughout the state and in St. Louis County. But at the end of the day, you have to sometimes step back as a part of this process and say to yourself: OK, where is this picture going? What does the future look like and what do we need to do on two sort of fronts? One of them is, of course, to be an advocate for the business community to try to look at the area from the standpoint of how land use and development procedures at the municipal level can be used to help people locate in the corridor and, in fact, grow or expand if they need to do that.

“What do you need to do to bring new people in to the corridor? And then what do you do with things that are sitting there vegetating and seem to be in some sort of limbo land and you have a few of those in terms of what potential is for some properties that are within this corridor,” Brancaglione said, adding, “The city has become very proactive in trying to help those situations along.”

In the proposed amendment, five sites are identified as areas that require rehabilitation or redevelopment and contain existing improvements. Those sites are:

• Watson Plaza — The Crestwood Board of Aldermen voted last August to approve legislation relating the redevelopment of the Watson Plaza shopping center. G.J. Grewe Inc. is proposing a PETCO and a new Walgreens on the site of the vacant Tippin’s restaurant as well as retaining the center’s existing tenants.

• The Walnut Park Auto Body property — This site “continues to exhibit conditions that detract from the aesthetic appearance of the site as well as the Watson Road Corridor,” the proposed update states.

• Six properties, including the Meineke Muffler repair shop — This site contained two properties in the 1998 Amendment and now contains six. Besides Meineke Muffler, the site includes two multi-tenant retail centers, two residential properties and a vacant lot.

• The former Circuit City Shopping Center — This site contains seven parcels including the vacant Circuit City location and adjoining strip mall, Coldwell Banker Gundaker Realty, Mattress Giant, the former Magna Visual location, Pier 1 Imports and the Forest View Apartments.

• Two parcels, including the Value City Department Store and the Creston Center — The small parcel comprises two small retail buildings with small-retail tenants and is known as Creston Center. The large parcel contains a “big-box” retail building currently occupied by a Value City Department Store and a multi-tenant “strip” retail building.

The “primary difference” between the proposed amendment and the 1998 plan, Brancaglione said, “is that it talks about consideration of land-use shifts on some of these parcels that the previous plan, in effect, showed to remain as is, principally the Value City property and the combination of parcels that are made up of the Circuit City, Magna Visual and the apartment development. Some of these are not easy to undertake and in the case, for example, of Site D (the former Circuit City Shopping Center), maybe the solution could take one of several directions. The apartment complex could go through a significant rehab program and maybe you combine the retail center and the Magna Visual property into a new retail development.

“The only property along this corridor that is ideally suited to a planned residential development that targets the kind of demographic pattern changes we’ve seen and targets those residential markets, is, in fact, the Value City property. None of the rest of these are really conducive to that kind of development nor could there be a financial scenario, in our opinion, put together that would make that really work. Each of the other areas has some other costs associated with them that make it much more difficult to go from retail to residential, which is always a tough land-use shift to make economically,” he said.