Mounds to be leveled after city cites Crestwood mall developer

Pictured above: ‘Mount Crestwood’ as seen in June 2018. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor

The redevelopment for Crestwood Plaza mall is still at a stalemate, but Crestwood officials expect the developer to start removing the many mounds of dirt sometime soon.

Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group, the developer that’s responsible for the proposed $100 million redevelopment at Watson and Sappington roads, had made little visible progress at the time the Call went to press in leveling what’s known as “Mount Crestwood,” the many mounds left behind after the mall demolition.

UrbanStreet is looking to level the mounds after the city started citing the company when its permit ran out last month.

The city approved a grading permit last week, and UrbanStreet is seeking prices from contractors for leveling the dirt this week, City Administrator Kris Simpson said.

Even after the developer gets those prices, “it will take some time for that contractor to mobilize so that grading can start,” Simpson said.

But residents should see bulldozers at the site in August, he added.

Once the mounds are gone, the flat area left behind will initially be seeded with native prairie grass, which is a temporary measure designed to prevent erosion and make the dirt look better.

The mounds have been a constant reminder of the lack of progress at the mall site for drivers going by since demolition ended last year.

Crestwood granted UrbanStreet tax incentives including tax-increment financing, or TIF, for a $104 million mixed-use development, but with the project stalled, the city has not yet paid out incentives to the developer. The proposed development project is set to include apartments, a grocery store, restaurants and an office building.

Once the mounds are flattened, they should be level with Watson Road, a new feature at the site, which previously had a steep drop from Watson Road down to the mall property.

Crestwood officials wrote in the August edition of the city’s newsletter that the city is “encouraged by a new local partnership” that UrbanStreet developed.

“They recently brought some new local partners into the mix and are trying to recruit tenants with a new energy,” Simpson wrote. “There is a new conceptual plan that they are working with, that I think residents will find exciting. I’m optimistic that the developer can pull the project together.”

But until then, the mounds are an “eyesore,” Simpson said. The city is working with UrbanStreet to fix “weeds and other site maintenance issues” as well.

“If they are not addressed soon, the city will dispatch its maintenance crews to address those issues ourselves,” Simpson wrote.

The city initially said in June that it would start citing UrbanStreet and asking for the mounds to be leveled if they weren’t down by the end of the month. At the July 24 Board of Aldermen meeting, Simpson said that he expected the hills to be flattened by the end of the next week. But that time line came and went with no action on the site.

“Despite us trying to work with them over many months trying to get this done, we have begun citing them since they are technically in violation,” Simpson said at the July 24 meeting.

Resident Martha Duchild brought up concerns about the safety fences surrounding the former mall at the July meeting.

“There’s ivy growing all over (the fences), so it’s being pulled down,” Duchild said. “So there’s some areas where there’s virtually no fencing at all, and I don’t know if they’re being cited for that, but that’s definitely a safety issue.”

UrbanStreet Group had a permit through July that allowed temporary storage of dirt.

The property has been a concern for aldermen as well as many residents. Ward 4 Alderman Ismaine Ayouaz and returning Ward 3 Alderman Grant Mabie heard concerns from residents while canvassing for election in May.

“People were anxious, if I can use that word, to see something moving forward. They are tired of that pile of dirt sitting there,” Ayouaz said.