Mall redevelopment on hold until after election, Schlink says

Former alderman requesting a town-hall meeting on mall

By Kari Williams

Centrum Properties, the owner of Crestwood Court, has no intention of moving forward with the pending redevelopment of the mall until a new board is elected in April, according to Mayor Jeff Schlink.

“… Centrum, as of right now, they are not interested in moving forward with the project,” Schlink said last week at a Board of Aldermen meeting. “They’re not going to come to St. Louis. We’re not sitting on our hands. They’ve told us and (former Ward 3 Alderman Gregg) Roby that they’re not going to do anything. They’re going to wait until a new board is elected in April and then they’re going to see if there’s people that’ll support the TIF (tax-increment financing) that they’re requesting.”

Schlink said he spoke with Vic Pildes, of Centrum Properties, Feb. 12 and told Pildes it was his intention “to not pass along this information because it has been shared with Mr. Roby.”

But Schlink’s remarks came after comments from resident Mary Chubb, who said it appears “a portion of the board wants to sit on its hands and wait for something to change with Centrum.”

“Our experience is you don’t sit on your hands and wait, you initiate the action,” Chubb said. “So, I’ve heard it said that the ball is in Centrum’s court. The ball is in Crestwood’s court as well. You have equal needs, equal worries and so to sit on your hands and wait for them to come up with something different isn’t going to happen.”

Roby has addressed the board over the past several months requesting updates on the status of the redevelopment.

Last week, he asked about the possibility of arranging a town-hall meeting “so Centrum could explain the actual costs” related to “their $17 million requirement for TIF (tax-increment financing) on phase one” of the redevelopment project.

“I know that TIF has long been a point of contention with our Board of Aldermen,” Roby said. “However, it is a legal and legitimate tool developed and governed by the state of Missouri statutes for just this purpose — to revive an otherwise blighted property to a state of economic viability for the community in which it is located, but it’s further reaching than that.

“It will provide jobs for several-hundred construction workers and then several-hundred full-time and part-time workers to man the businesses that locate here,” he continued. “It will increase commercial and residential property values and provide additional revenues for the Lindbergh School District and current Crestwood businesses that stand to benefit businesswise from the additional traffic that will come to our area. All these things add badly needed revenue to our city.”

Roby also said, “… It is not my interest to undermine the Board of Aldermen or your efforts with Centrum Properties, but I will tell you, and which I’m sure you know, I am in the business of construction. My business is calling on developers, general contractors and on architects.

“And that is how I got involved in this project and got involved with this developer. So to insinuate that I am, in any way, trying to interfere with your efforts is incorrect.”

Centrum, the mall’s owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., proposed an open-air entertainment and retail venue last June that would include restaurants, a movie theater and a bowling concept.

As proposed, the total redevelopment cost is roughly $121 million, with economic assistance in the form of TIF, a transportation development district, or TDD, and a community improvement district, or CID, reaching roughly $34 million, according to revised numbers presented to the city.

Centrum’s initial plan listed the total cost at roughly $102 million, not including the second phase of the project, and economic assistance for both phases at nearly $42 million. Sol Barket, of Centrum Properties, told the board during a work session in November that Centrum reduced its CID and TDD sales-tax requests to 0.75 percent from 1 percent.

Resident Jacqueline Stockhausen told the board she spoke for “many residents” in saying they are “still interested in the redevelopment of Crestwood Court.”

“Therefore, many of us residents would like to request another town-hall meeting be held about this matter,” she said.

Before announcing Centrum’s intention, Schlink said Pildes and he were trying to “pin down a date in the month of March” for a town-hall meeting.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said the proposal from Centrum “lacked specifics,” which is why he voted against previous motions related to the redevelopment.

“When Centrum can come back with specifics, such as we have a Menards that is interested in moving in, then I’m very interested in sitting down,” Miguel said.

Until Centrum is able to come forward with specific companies that could produce “the revenues to pay off the tax support” Centrum is requesting, the redevelopment “is just not financially viable,” according to Miguel.

Centrum and Angelo Gordon purchased the mall property from the Westfield Group in 2008.