Details scarce on new Crestwood mall TIF — but Dierbergs is confident

Housing part of plan won’t have TIF, developers say

Dierbergs and McBride homes will work together to develop the former Crestwood Plaza mall site.

Dierbergs and McBride homes will work together to develop the former Crestwood Plaza mall site.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

The Crestwood TIF Commission that will be examining whether to grant tax incentives for the redevelopment of the former Crestwood mall site proposed by Dierbergs and McBride Homes met for the first time this month, with a public hearing and possible decision expected by May.

The two developers did not give any specifics or dollar amounts on the tax-increment financing requests at the Feb. 4 meeting, but Dierbergs Director of Real Estate Brent Beumer, a Sunset Hills resident, gave a conceptual overview of the project and confirmed, as first reported by The Call, that the developers are not seeking any tax subsidies for the subdivision proposed by McBride.

The next meeting is slated for March 4, with a final public hearing anticipated in early May.

After City Administrator Kris Simpson gave a history of the last seven years of the property and the three previous developers who have tried to turn around the site, Beumer noted that the plans and process this time around are unique, from the McBride/Dierbergs partnership itself to holding a videoconferenced TIF Commission during a global health pandemic.

“I echo somebody’s sentiment that on a cold and rainy night it isn’t all bad taking this meeting from the comforts of our own home but hopefully before this process is done, we’ll have the opportunity to meet in person,” said Beumer.

Former Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby was unanimously elected chair of the commission, with Crestwood representative Mike Balles elected unanimously as vice chair. Most of the representatives on the TIF Commission represent St. Louis County, as part of the first TIF Commission appointed by County Executive Sam Page.

Dierbergs and McBride have the property under contract, but have not closed on the deal. Although Dierbergs has not yet named the price tag it will seek on the TIF, Beumer said it will be smaller than the $25 million in tax incentives now attached to the site, including the sales-tax districts.

The grocery store and other tenants would not generate enough sales to pay back those current districts, Beumer said.

“I feel comfortable in saying that the total incentives that we would be seeking from the TIF Commission and Crestwood is going to be substantively less than the $25 million,” Beumer told the commission.

The developers will not ask for a TIF for any of the housing on the site, Beumer said. But the proposed TIF could include two outlots that are not currently part of the mall property: the Firestone at 9415 Watson Road and City Music at 9299 Watson Road. The city wants those lots to be part of the TIF plan and Beumer thinks it’s a good idea, although “I’m not sure they currently look all that outstanding,” he noted. The lots could be potential sites for sit-down or fast casual restaurants or medical offices, he added.

Dierbergs is its own anchor

Beumer gave no details about the McBride/Dierbergs proposal such as cost or potential other tenants, but presented a conceptual overview showing where the Dierbergs and other shops and restaurants might be located on the 20.62-acre western half of the mall site. The roughly 26.31-acre eastern half of the site will be used for the McBride subdivision.

Dierbergs is already trending ahead of past proposals that struggled to secure an anchor tenant, Beumer noted.

“We’re confident about being able to bring this forward — unlike the other developers who I applaud for very ambitious development goals, we have one thing in our favor … We are the anchor tenant,” Beumer said. “We don’t have to go out to the market and find somebody. We’re excited about this being our 27th store.”

Under the conceptual plans, the Dierbergs would anchor the shopping center with a grocery store measuring 70,848 square feet. Two smaller retail areas on either side measure 8,118 square feet and 9,892 square feet, and four outlots in the parking lot range from 1.54 acres to 1.89 acres, separate from the two Watson outlots.

Dierbergs broke ground in December on the company’s 26th grocery store in Lake St. Louis, and Beumer encouraged anyone curious to know what the Crestwood Dierbergs will be like to visit that store when it opens. He noted that the Crestwood store covers a key area for the company and will draw shoppers from Sunset Hills, Kirkwood and Webster Groves.

For those concerned about Dierbergs finding other tenants, Beumer noted that the company is also a real-estate developer that has an ownership interest in 21 of its 25 current locations. Overseeing more than 3 million square feet of retail space, Dierbergs has successfully negotiated leases with stores ranging from Target and TJ Maxx to Panera and fast-food restaurants to local businesses, Beumer said.

Details are scarce at this point because the two companies have only had the site under contract since Dec. 21, and plans have been delayed by a succession of holidays and the pandemic, Beumer said.

“We’re still just really getting our feet wet in terms of due diligence, we’ve done all the concrete things by way of having title insurance commitment ordered, the survey has been ordered,” with a first draft due the week of the TIF Commission, Beumer said. He added, “We’re just starting the process of identifying tenants.”

Dierbergs has ordered soil tests and geotechnical analysis of the site, but “extraordinary” demolition work will still have to be funded since the demolition overseen by owner UrbanStreet left behind remnants of the former mall, Beumer noted.

“I would more accurately characterize it as a partial demolition,” Beumer said of what the bulldozers did while tearing down the mall buildings in 2016 and 2017. “To the naked eye as you drive by on Watson Road, the mall isn’t there — but when you start doing a little bit further digging … no pun intended, there’s a lot that’s left in place — those old foundations, old footings, building pads are there. …  And I don’t blame them for doing that, I probably would’ve done the same thing because without knowing exactly what the plan is and how the site needs to balance and whether soil or dirt needs to be taken off site, that’s very difficult to do unless you have a firm development plan.”

Dierbergs is working with the city’s planner, Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets or PGAV, on the project.

“We’re confident frankly that although the site or the mall was partially demolished, there are still significant incidents and indicators of blight,” Beumer said, based on PGAV’s analysis. “That’s why we’re asking to start the TIF process again.”

New TIF Commission Chair Roby welcomed the project after the overview.

“Certainly we’d be proud to have a Dierbergs here in the city of Crestwood, and I think that would be a big partner for our community,” Roby said.