South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Crestwood’s revenues to take ‘a very big hit’ with closing of Sears

Eastman says city’s budget for ’12 needs to be adjusted

The closing of Crestwood Court’s Sears is the “final nail in the coffin,” according to Crestwood City Administrator Petree Eastman.

“The mall won’t have but one or two retailers left,” Eastman told the Call. “There’s a few like Nolan (Interiors) and LensCrafters, but in terms of significant dollars coming into the city, it will be a very big hit to city revenues. It’s the last big hit, I would say.”

On Dec. 29, Sears Holding Corp. released its list of 79 of the 100 to 120 Sears and Kmart stores that will close due to lower- than-expected holiday sales, which included the Crestwood location. A specific date for the closures has not yet been set.

Economically speaking, Eastman said Sears provides “quite a bit of sales tax revenue” to the city, which helps fund fire, police, parks and public works.

“It’s a very critical part of our revenue stream for sure,” she said.

But with Crestwood Court’s owner, Centrum Properties, in early stages of redevelopment plans, Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink said there is a potential upswing with the mall.

“I don’t know if the Sears corporation realized there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” Schlink said.

Centrum Properties and Angelo, Gordon and Co. bought Crestwood Court from the Westfield Group for $17.5 million in March 2008, and plans have been in the works for an entertainment district redevelopment of the mall. Detailed plans for the redevelopment have not been announced, according to Schlink.

“It is my understanding that they are waiting on the timing of the announcement (because) they want most, if not all, of the leases taken care of,” Schlink said.

However, Schlink said he does not think the store closing will negatively impact redevelopment plans.

“If anything, it’ll be one less store to work around during construction. So maybe (they) … can focus on bringing some of the newer businesses to the entertainment complex,” Schlink said.

Eastman said she assumes the closure will have an effect on calculations and tax incentives with the mall’s redevelopment plans.

“We don’t have a proposal,” Eastman said. “I don’t know what tax incentives Centrum will be asking for … I just don’t know what they’re planning on, how long they’ve known (about Sears closing), if they’ve had indication if Sears would remain (open). It’s just undetermined at this time but would probably impact their calculations, at least at the outset.”

Rebecca Hawkinson, a member of the Centrum Properties development team, said redevelopment plans have not been committed to publicly and plans have not been finalized, though they are in the process of moving forward. They hope to have something to submit in a couple months.

Centrum Properties was disappointed to hear the news of Sears closing and company officials do not have information regarding the closing or its timing, according to Hawkinson.

“Sears has been a part of the mall for a long time, so we were hoping (for it to) continue to be part of the mall, but unfortunately it was disappointing to hear the news they’ll be closing,” Hawkinson said, “but it leaves us the opportunity for a lot of other creative ideas and uses.”

When Centrum Properties purchased the mall, Hawkinson said the company knew leases were going to be expiring with reduction in sales, so the closure of previous stores, such as Macy’s in 2009, was not a surprise to the company.

“Our intent is not to create a regional mall with typical tenants (like those that were) in there before,” Hawkinson said. “(We’d) like to do something more creative, not something like at West County (or the) Galleria.”

Crestwood Court’s former anchor stores, Macy’s and Dillard’s, closed in 2009 and 2007, respectively. However, Schlink said what makes the Sears closing different is that when the other stores left, the mall “was certainly on a decline.”

Now, Schlink said it has leveled off and is not getting any worse.

Exact figures come from the state and are confidential, but Schlink said he could “make a pretty strong guess that Sears is a strong retail (outlet) in the Crestwood area.”

Though Schlink said he was looking at the store closing from the perspective of the city, the employees also need to be considered.

“In today’s economy, it’s not that easy to transfer from job to job, so we can’t really lose sight of the personal aspect of it as well,” Schlink said.

Similarly, Eastman said the closure is sad and unfortunate because it is a good store and a lot of visitors and Crestwood residents use the store on a regular basis.

“That Sears has been around for decades, and it’s become a place people rely on for appliances, getting their car fixed and all their retail needs,” Eastman said. “It will be sad … It’s the last, big recognizable retailer to leave that has been there probably from the very beginning. It’s a sad day for sure, and not just from a city perspective.”

For Eastman, the Sears closing makes the redevelopment project even more important. She also said the budget will have to be looked at again to see where cuts can be made.

“It’s a game-changer in terms of, we just went through budget prices, assuming Sears would stay open, so we (will) have to go back and adjust,” Eastman said.

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