Owners of Crestwood Court eye 2012 for redevelopment

Centrum officials in process of finalizing their plan for mall

By MIKE ANTHONY

Owners of Crestwood Court anticipate the long-awaited redevelopment of the shopping center at Watson and Sappington roads will begin sometime next year.

Centrum Properties and Angelo, Gordon & Co. bought the mall from the Westfield Group in March 2008 with the goal of redeveloping it, but their plans have been on hold due to the economy.

“… We really haven’t made a public statement yet on our plans for the redevelopment, but we do plan to start something in 2012 …,” Rebecca Hawkinson of the Centrum Properties development team told the Call Friday. “But we hope to make a public announcement within the next couple of months here.”

Hawkinson said she couldn’t provide specific details on the redevelopment of the mall at this point, but added, “… We’re aiming for an entertainment-based development. There will be some retail component, but St. Louis doesn’t really have an entertainment center, so we’re hoping to bring something very unique, something that’s never been seen before in the city.”

Crestwood Court is situated on roughly 49 acres and features about 1.1 million square feet of retail space.

Currently many of the mall’s retail spaces are vacant, and only one anchor store, Sears, remains open after Macy’s closed its doors in April 2009, taking with it hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected sales-tax revenues for the city. Another anchor store, Dillard’s, closed in 2007.

In late 2008, Crestwood Court 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.

ArtSpace won a MAXI award from the International Council of Shopping Centers last year for public relations.

Asked if Centrum would seek additional anchors for the redevelopment of the mall, Hawkinson said, “Well, I think the market’s really saturated with the retail mall. You have West County. You have South County, the Galleria, Plaza Frontenac. So I don’t think there’s really room any more for a traditional mall like that with anchors like that. We bought it with the intention of hoping that some of them would stay, but after they’ve left, it’s kind of hard to get them to come back … It’s not really what we’re going for.

“We’re trying to bring more unique concepts to the center — definitely an upscale theater, an upscale bowling alley, some great restaurants, hopefully some entertainment/music concepts and something unique. Something that’s not the West County (Center), that’s not the South County (Center) and Gravois Bluffs, and something that’s definitely different,” she added.

Asked if the redevelopment would include Sears, Hawkinson said, “I can’t really say at this time. We haven’t announced our plan yet, but they have been a tenant there for many years and we’d love to have them stay.”

Mall representatives previously have indicated to Crestwood officials that the redevelopment of the shopping center would incorporate an open-air streetscape quality similar to the Promenade in Brentwood.

This would open such possibilities as retail and restaurants and also an entertainment center that could be used for activities and possibly outdoor concerts.

“… That’s still our plan … opening up. It’s not going to be a traditional mall — definitely have a lot of open, public space,” Hawkinson said. “It’s going to be very pedestrian friendly and a place where you’d like to go to spend a Friday evening or Saturday evening or Saturday day, and just be able to walk around and shop and dine and entertain.

“Hopefully, we’ll have some of the Art-Space component coming back to the redevelopment, art galleries and just a lot of creative, unique concepts.”

Asked if the redevelopment would include both demolition and renovation of the shopping center, she said, “… Absolutely. It’s a large site. So yes … primarily the Dillard’s wing where that parking garage is. I think we’re going to start there … That’s probably where we will start the demo.”

Some loose ends need to be tied up before a formal announcement can be made, Hawkinson said.

“We have to tie some things up still before we make a formal public announcement. We don’t want to promise something that we can’t deliver. So it just takes time and I know everyone’s really anxious to find out what’s going on because that mall has been dying for a couple of years now …,” she said, noting Crestwood Court has a special significance for St. Louis native Sol Barket, a principal at Centrum Properties, and his late brother Keith, who was a senior managing director of Angelo, Gordon and Co.

“… They used to go there and shop when they were kids. So this is a really special project to him and he hopes to deliver something really great and make his hometown proud,” Hawkinson said.

Unfortunately, ArtSpace tenants are going to have to find a new home, she said, noting, “We definitely will give them 90 days’ notice and hope to do that in the next couple of months.”

Hawkinson said, “That’s what the agreement has been from the beginning. So it’s sad that we have to see them leave, but we’re grateful that we were able to give them such a great opportunity to grow their business, their personal interest or what not.”

ArtSpace has been a great success, she said.

“… The ArtSpace component has been a great fill-in in the interim while we have been planning this redevelopment and while the mall has been emptying out,” Hawkinson said, recalling that she and Sol Barket were walking through the mall one day, noticing the vacancies and he said: “Let’s fill it. Let’s fill it with antique shops, with art galleries, with boutiques — get people in here. We have all this space. It should be utilized … Our property managers, Jones Lang LaSalle, did a great job of teaming up with the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission and have created this amazing concept that has been mimicked in other malls throughout the country. And it’s won an international award. It’s gotten a lot of press, a lot of praise. It’s changed a lot of people’s lives.

“So we’re grateful we were able to do that in the interim and hoping to have a component come back to the redevelopment when we are ready and have a permanent home for them,” she said.

Mall representatives are anxious to announce their redevelopment plans.

“We’re hoping to get a plan in front of everyone soon so we can get the support that we need,” Hawkinson said.

Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink has met with Centrum representatives to discuss their plans for the redevelopment of the shopping center.

“… I’m familiar with the entertainment concept that they’re moving toward,” he told the Call, adding that he is encouraged with the news that an announcement of Centrum’s plans for Crestwood Court will be forthcoming.