High bid of $3.65 million submitted for mall; sale likely to be approved, Barket says

Barket says he has no ill will toward anyone in Crestwood

By Gloria Lloyd

Centrum Partners’ long quest to redevelop Crestwood Court appears to have come to an end, with an unnamed buyer submitting a high bid of $3.65 million last week for the mall site at Watson and Sappington roads.

Crestwood officials are waiting to hear more details about the new owner of the mall, and Centrum Partners developer Sol Barket said the sale is moving forward. Until the sale from the April 23 auction is final, Centrum co-owns the property with New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co., which owns the majority stake in the 1.3-million-square-foot mall property.

“We do have a signed contract with hard earnest money and do not see any reason why it would not go through,” Barket wrote in an email to the Call last week.

Mayor Gregg Roby, who took office last week, said he and other officials are anxious to hear who now owns the mall, but had not yet heard anything at the time the Call went to press. When Roby first talked to Barket last week, Barket did not yet know the name of the high bidder in the auction, Roby noted.

City Administrator Mark Sime said city officials were in the same situation last week as other residents of Crestwood who watched the auction website the day of the sale.

“We’re still waiting to hear something, we’re just kind of like most off the community — we saw what happened on the website and we’re just waiting,” he said.

The amount of the high bid for the mall surprised Roby, who took office for his first full day as mayor the day the mall sold.

“I’m just really surprised at the low number,” he said, adding that the mall has environmental problems that the state is currently studying through its Brownfields program, and many regulations exist now that also make the mall site a harder sell for a potential buyer.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has completed the first phase of its environmental study at the mall, finding asbestos, and the second phase looking for contaminants in the ground is now underway, Sime noted.

Centrum and Angelo Gordon bought the mall in 2008 for $17.5 million from Westfield Group, which bought it in 1998 from Hycel Properties for $106.4 million. Barket told the Call that he wishes his plans for an entertainment complex, The District at Crestwood, could have been realized at the site.

In 2012, Chicago-based Centrum presented a roughly $121 million redevelopment proposal to the Crestwood Board of Aldermen, requesting $34 million in tax-increment financing and other tax incentives, but the board deadlocked 4-4 on sending Centrum’s plan to its planning consultant, Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, with PGAV eventually backing out of planning the project altogether after repeated rejections by the board.

“I will certainly be sad to not fulfill what I had originally set out to accomplish for my partners and the community, but we gave it our best shot, no regrets,” Barket wrote. “Now it’s simply time for a fresh player to take a shot at it.

“We enjoyed many good years of income with the mall and took pride in providing the community and local artists with a very unique and special environment in which to showcase their talents and sell their products,” he added. “We hope that we have set the stage for the new, next chapter of Crestwood’s history and wish the new buyer and community nothing but the very best. We have no doubt that there are exciting things ahead for the community and an ultimate plan for the site that everyone can be proud of …”

Bidding on the mall site began with a minimum bid of $1 million on April 21 and went up to $1.5 million until the last hour of the auction, when bidding hit $3.65 million, with a bid deposit of $25,000.

Under the terms of the auction website where the Crestwood mall was listed,

, an unpublished reserve price has to be met before a sale of the mall site will be final.

The terms of the

website state that the minimum bid may not be the auction’s actual reserve price.

Once known as Crestwood Plaza and then Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood before Centrum renamed it Crestwood Court, the mall’s last tenant, LensCrafters, left last fall, and its last anchor store, Sears, left in 2012. The mall was once Crestwood’s top source of sales-tax revenue, but anchor stores Dillards closed in 2007 and Macy’s in 2009.

In late 2008, Centrum teamed up with the Regional Arts Commission and began leasing some of the mall’s empty spaces as part of ArtSpace, a community for local artists, musicians and performing artists.

Barket said he has no ill will toward anyone in Crestwood.

“We have no hard feelings whatsoever against the former mayor (Jeff Schlink) or any of the council members at all and in fact believe the mayor really had nothing but the best intentions for us and the community,” Barket wrote to the Call. “He simply may have miscalculated some things earlier on, in my opinion.”

Roby defeated Schlink in the April 8 election. Roby supported Centrum’s redevelopment proposal, while Schlink declined to break a December 2012 tie that would have selected a planner to study the proposal.

Barket had kind words for Crestwood’s new leader.

“With respect to the new mayor of Crestwood, (he is a) wonderful human being and someone who is clearly dedicated, with the highest priority, to seeing the mall redeveloped,” Barket wrote.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the correct year that Macy’s closed.