Crestwood officials have suspended a process initiated last year to field requests to redevelop the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.
City Administrator Frank Myers said that the city did not receive any bids by the March 3 deadline for developers to solicit proposals through the city’s request for development proposals, or RDP.
Crestwood aldermen unanimously voted in August to issue the RDP, which eventually was sent to more than 120 developers.
Myers, who resigned last week to accept a position as Glendale city administrator, said that after consulting with City Attorney Robert Golterman and Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets consultant John Brancaglione, officials have decided to suspend the RDP process for the time being.
“We have decided after conversations with the city attorney and with PGAV consultant John Brancaglione, decided to go ahead and let the RDP process suspend and/or terminate,” Myers said. “And then we can pick it back up at the appropriate time if that’s necessary.”
Mayor Roy Robinson emphasized Monday morning that the city would not stop its RDP process.
“I did not make that decision,” Robinson said. “So we’re not pulling out of anything … It’s not even suspended, we just didn’t extend it any longer. And all that baloney means is by not extending, we’ll have to spend more money if we want to get it generated again.”
Myers said the only expenses that the city has paid for the RDP process were to PGAV for consulting services. Aldermen agreed to pay PGAV no more than $7,000 for help with the suspended RDP.
The outgoing city administrator, whose resignation is effective March 28, attributed the lack of any responses to the RDP to the Westfield Group’s continued efforts to sell the mall property.
“We had not received any bids,” Myers said. “We had some interest in receiving bids. We didn’t receive any, and in large part, because it’s common knowledge that the property is going through a transitional process of ownership, which is yet to be determined how all the details of that are going to work out.”
Westfield officials, who last year objected to the city’s issuance of an RDP, have been attempting to sell the mall and continue negotiations.
Tentative plans for the mall property, which has suffered annual declines in sales-tax revenue and a deteriorating structure, have included converting the 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.
Robinson has said that he has told prospective developers that the mall “will” be redeveloped in phases to allow the city to continue collecting revenue from existing stores.
The mayor also said last week that despite the fact that Westfield officials have stayed quiet, he is confident that the property will be redeveloped.
“They have not told us anything,” he said. “Westfield probably has to be the one that tells us. The other people, I don’t know.
“You hear all kinds of rumors. The rumors I’ve heard from many different ones is that they’re still in negotiations, it’s over, they didn’t work out anything. I don’t know. I don’t have any clue. This is the honest God’s truth. Nobody has come to us about anything. And I find that quite unusual. At least give us details. We’ve been pretty good about not divulging what was going on. Of course, we were excited like everybody else. We were hopeful. And we still are. No matter what, we will get it done, OK? We will get it accomplished. I’m not even going to go any other direction.”
Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland said he was curious why city officials have decided to put aside the RDP considering that aldermen were told in December that it would be a back-up option in case Westfield’s talks with potential buyers fall through. Alder-men unanimously voted in December to ex-tend the RDP’s deadline to March 3.
“I guess the disappointing thing for me is we were told in December that not only did we have somebody that was interested in the property, but there were a couple of other suitors in waiting in the event that fell through,” Bland said. “And that if we extended three months, that would allow things to work themselves out and either the mall will have sold, which it hasn’t, or there will be somebody else that could theoretically step in and start negotiating …
“Now we’re essentially being told three months later that well, because of the pending sale of the mall, we don’t have any other suitors. So that’s kind of contradictory to what we were told three months ago … If that’s the case, then we should have just closed it down three months ago and said ‘Hey, let’s hope for the best.’ Because that’s almost what we’re saying now.”
Robinson said he saw no reason for city officials to talk with potential buyers because Westfield officials were already negotiating with companies interested in purchasing the mall.
“I know some that wanted to meet with us,” Robinson said. “Because of the ongoing (talks) over there, I saw no sense wasting their time and our time. But if this thing falls through for some reason, then I probably will be talking to others.”
Bland said with the hiatus of the city’s efforts to redevelop the mall through the RDP and no sale yet on the mall property, he worries that mall businesses might leave the city if nothing is accomplished soon.
“If we don’t get some sort of finality here in the very near future, I’ve got to believe that you’re going to see a lot more business leaving that mall,” he said. “If this thing is still floating, are you giving them a reason to stay? Or are you giving them a reason to go? I don’t know. It’s just a concern …
“We’re in some ways worse off today than we were before we issued the RDP. And that’s my frustration. This is a process. I would like to see it play out a little bit better. And it just sort of seems like we’re pulling the plug on it now. I guess if you tell me there’s a definitive sale, I’m OK with it. But otherwise, we’re no better off than we were before we issued the RDP.”
Board President Gregg Roby of Ward 3 said that as long as tax-increment financing laws remain in limbo for St. Louis County, he believes suspending the RDP might be best.
“Obviously, time has run out on that RDP,” Roby said. “If in fact we didn’t get any interest, it may very well be to everyone’s ad-vantage to wait a period of time now in kind of a cooling-off period to see what does occur with regards to the mall. Let’s face it.
“The economic situation of our area and, in particular, retail and commercial developments is not very strong. The situation with the current TIF laws is a deterrent to any developer wanting to buy any big parcel of property with the intent of going to the city for redevelopment assistance … Until that situation gets straightened out, I don’t know that it would serve any purpose for us to continue the RDP process.”
Despite the fact that no sale has been completed, Bland believes that issuing the RDP in August was the right move because it sent a message to Westfield, businesses and residents that city leaders were ready to act.
“I think we needed to step forward,” he said. “However, the outcome has been disappointing. But I think the lack of the outcome doesn’t negate the importance of the action.”