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The latest version of Crestwood mall redevelopment appears to be dead, this time killed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of Crestwood posted Wednesday on its official Facebook page that it has been notified that Walpert Properties, the St. Louis-based lead developer on the Crestwood Plaza mall redevelopment project, is not moving forward with purchasing the property from owner UrbanStreet Group LLC, the last developer to try to develop the 47-acre site and drop the plans.
“Walpert cited concerns with the current economic climate resulting from COVID-19,” the city posted. “The City of Crestwood will continue to pursue redevelopment of the mall property, and will discuss next steps with the property owner.”
Walpert is now the third developer to drop plans for the site in seven years.
The announcement Wednesday was a disappointing contrast to the last time the city had released an update about the $300 million Walpert project, which would have been called “Crestwood City Center” and modeled after high-density mixed-use developments like The Streets of St. Charles.
At that time, in January, Creve Coeur-based Walpert had told the city that the project was “economically viable and ready to move forward,” pending financing. Walpert said the project would be a $300 million redevelopment, increasing projections for its size from when it originally announced the possible development deal in October 2018. In January, the developer said it had wrapped up meetings with tenants and was now focused on financing the development, which would have been one of the largest in St. Louis County in decades.
But that was before COVID-19 decimated the entertainment and retail industries, bringing them to some of their worst months ever. In St. Louis County, businesses are just now reopening with limited capacities.
Walpert had not yet bought the property from owner UrbanStreet, which is based in Chicago. It had always said a deal would be contingent on signing up enough anchor tenants, but had hinted that that time was near.
UrbanStreet bought the mall site at auction from Centrum Partners, which saw its potential deal for a redevelopment and tax-increment financing fail at the city level.
The Crestwood TIF Commission granted tax subsidies to UrbanStreet, but the Chicago developer specialized more in apartments than retail and eventually dropped the project. But the developer did level the site, demolishing the mall buildings and leveling the property with Watson Road.
When Walpert picked it back up, the city transferred the tax incentive approvals from UrbanStreet to Walpert.
The mall closed its last tenants in 2013, although it had been deteriorating and closing many individual stores for years before that.
Walpert said in October 2018 that it was choosing to focus its redevelopment around a variety of smaller mixed uses like medical offices and a movie theater rather than anchoring it around a single big-box retailer, which is not the way of the future.
The two previous proposals for Crestwood mall, “The Crest” from UrbanStreet and “The District at Crestwood” from Centrum Partners, both unsuccessfully tried to include large big-box retailers as anchors at the site, without success.
Walpert’s preliminary plans outlined a possible 161,000 square feet of retail space with 60,700 square feet of mixed-use retail at the street level, with residential above. Two office buildings that total 240,000 square feet are planned, along with 42,000 square feet for entertainment. The development would have had one four-story and two two-story above-ground parking decks since the underground garage at the site was filled in by UrbanStreet.
See a gallery below of Walpert’s plans for Crestwood City Center.