Crestwood seminar to focus on alternative housing opportunities

By Mike Anthony

“Alternative Housing Opportunities” will be the topic of an interactive seminar planned next week by Crestwood officials to discuss redevelopment with residents.

“Economics of Density” and “Population and Sales Tax in St. Louis County” also will be discussed during the seminar, which will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at City Hall, 1 Detjen Drive.

Next week’s seminar is the third of four city officials have planned to begin a dialogue with residents about redevelopment.

“Why Redevelopment” was the topic of the first seminar, which took place Oct. 21, and “Redevelopment Tools and Plans” was the topic of the second seminar, which took place Nov. 18.

The fourth seminar, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, at City Hall, will focus on redevelopment from a business perspective.

During the second forum, the issue of tax-increment financing was discussed at length, particularly with regard to the new Kohl’s Department Store at the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads.

The redevelopment of the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington first was proposed in August 1997 when the city created a Tax-Increment Financing Commission. More than six years later — in October 2003 — a grand opening celebration was conducted for Kohl’s.

Under the terms of an amended redevelopment agreement, the developer of the site, THF Realty, is eligible to receive up to $2.285 million in tax-increment financing.

In addition, the amended pact created a transportation development district and a community improvement district, two funding mechanisms that will bring the total assistance package THF Realty is eligible to receive to $3.5 million.

The total cost of the Kohl’s development, Greer said Nov. 18, was more than $14 million, while the $2.285 million in TIF assistance represented roughly 15.7 percent of the total project cost. In contrast, Greer noted that for the $192 million Gravois Bluffs development in Fenton, the developer received more than $49 million in TIF assistance — more than 25 percent of the total project cost.

“… If other areas that we’re competing with — and that’s exactly what we’re doing — are using this much subsidy, it makes it very difficult for us to negotiate for some of these things,” Greer said. “That much participation really buys down some of the costs associated with the development, which allows them to pass it on and makes it very attractive for businesses who want to renegotiate their leases and things like that.”

During the first forum on Oct. 21, city officials had excluded nonresidents from attending. That wasn’t the case during the second forum.

At one point, Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance Chairman Kelley Isherwood of Oakville asked, “Was there a lease-purchase involved in the Kohl’s acquisition TIF? Was there a lease-purchase?”

Greer said, “A lease purchase?”

Isherwood said, “Yes.”

Greer said, “I’m not aware of a lease purchase issue.”

Isherwood said, “I’m asking if there was a $1 million lease purchase expressed in the TIF?”

Greer said, “I’m sorry, I’m not even quite sure I understand your question.”

Isherwood said, “OK, go ahead. Go ahead.”

Robertson interjected, “The proposal that was rejected contemplated the possibility that that might happen, but that was defeated by the Board of Aldermen and this proposal does not contain that lease-purchase condition.”

Isherwood said, “Thank you, sir.”

Robertson continued, “I don’t know if you remember, you may not have been watching Crestwood at that time, I was on the TIF Commission before I became a member of the Board of Aldermen and I was asked, I believe by (Ward 2) Alderman (Tim) Trueblood, why I voted against the original proposal as a TIF commissioner (and) that’s because I didn’t think it was worth the time and effort that it would take. And I can also tell you I have an entirely different view of the Kohl’s proposal. When you take the same numbers and run them back into the lease rates that big-box retailers are willing to pay, it makes sense.”