Plans call for Crestwood mall property to be transformed into ‘lifestyle center’

Aldermanic president finds ‘encouraging’ efforts under way to revitalize city’s mall

By BURKE WASSON

When the planned redevelopment of the Crestwood mall property begins in the next two to five years, it may no longer be known as a mall, but as a “lifestyle center.”

“People will refer to it as that shopping center where Crestwood mall used to be …,” Jones Lang LaSalle marketing manager Leisa Son said. “It’ll be that dramatically different than what’s been there before.”

Son, who has been contracted by the mall’s owners to manage the property on a third-party basis, revealed last week to the Crestwood Economic Development Commission that redevelopment of Crestwood Court is planned to take place in the next two to five years. When that redevelopment is complete, the finished product will feature retail, restaurants and features new to the region along with such already-existing mall businesses as Macy’s.

“The conversations about leasing and restaurants and those kinds of things start with: ‘What don’t we have in St. Louis?'” Son said. “It’s not: ‘What’s working across town that we can bring in town?’ So, just the idea being to offer something completely unique to the entire St. Louis area.”

Mall owners Centrum Properties of Chicago and Angelo, Gordon & Co. of New York intend to redevelop the former Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood into a lifestyle center, which Son simply describes as not being enclosed by a roof.

“That’s kind of the simplest explanation,” Son said. “The strategy behind what they’re developing, what they’re planning to develop there is something unlike anything else that we have in St. Louis, which is something that’s really exciting.”

“… The plans are not complete, but it may involve tearing down most of what’s sitting there and rebuilding. It may involve tearing it all down. That green roof will not be a part of the new center. It would be … across from the Galleria (in Brentwood), they have that streetscape, the Promenade. That would probably be the closest thing to it.”

Son added that this streetscape quality similar to the Promenade in Brentwood would create more of a neighborhood atmosphere to Crestwood Court. This would open up possibilities that could not only include retail and restaurants, but also an entertainment center that could be used for activities and even outdoor live concerts.

“The Galleria is more square and you’ve got several blocks that you could walk all the way around,” Son said. “Ours may not have that same design to it. The idea being that you’ve got the streetscape type like with all of the stores having an exterior entrance. The idea is to create an entertainment center, so you would expect to see a lot of restaurants and things to do and activity-type things.”

This streetscape quality also would be accomplished by raising businesses up to street level at Watson Road.

“The current grade of the center where you kind of like drive down into this dome is something that they’re looking to correct or change,” Son said.

While the redevelopment plans would involve demolishing most of the existing mall, Son believes that the project could be done in phases to allow existing businesses to stay open during parts of the redevelopment.

At the same time, she said “part of that depends on our current retail partners” and not mall owners.

“Macy’s may stay open during the redevelopment,” Son said. “And if so, that affects the timetable and what gets torn down then. Or are they going to close and redo their store as a part of it? Those kinds of questions are what hasn’t been answered.”

Asked if the mall redevelopment would be done in phases, Son said, “Speculation at this point is yes. But it’s speculation.”

Son also said that residential components on the Crestwood Court property remain “a possibility.”

Previously discussed plans for the mall, which has sustained annual declines in sales-tax revenue and a deteriorating structure, have included converting the mall into a mixed-use development as part of a project valued more than $200 million.

While city officials reported last year that 53 percent of Crestwood’s sales-tax revenue comes from the mall, that percentage has dropped in recent months.

Mayor Roy Robinson has indicated that he would be interested in offering such economic-development tax incentives as tax-increment financing, or TIF, to ease the owners’ costs of the mall’s redevelopment.

That cost would be eased through the collection of an additional sales tax imposed on the mall property. In a TIF district, tax receipts for school districts, fire districts and other taxing entities are frozen at existing levels for the length of the TIF — up to 23 years. As land within the TIF district increases in value, the incremental tax revenue — 100 percent of property taxes and 50 percent of sales and utility taxes — is used to retire the TIF obligation.

Besides the redevelopment, the mall’s owners are making plans in the near future to keep existing businesses and attract more before the holiday shopping season.

“We’re working very hard on leasing for the holidays,” Son said. “I’ve got about five or six tenants that will be in for the holidays. So it may just be for the holiday season. If they have some success, they may stay.”

Plans also are in the works to schedule some public events to draw more traffic into Crestwood Court and have it become more involved in the community. Residents can keep apprised of mall developments and activities by going to the mall’s Web site at www.crestwoodcourt.com and signing up for e-mail reports, she said.

“We will periodically release, as we have this information, we’ll release construction updates on the redevelopment that way,” Son said. “But also in the short term, new stores that are opening and again with events. We’ve opened a community room available to organizations to use as meeting space.”

Board of Aldermen President Chris Pickel, who serves on the Economic Development Commission, said he is impressed with the mall owners’ commitment to not only redevelop the property, but improve it in the near future before that redevelopment occurs.

“I think it’s important to understand that from the development perspective there is kind of a dual track that they’re following,” Pickel said. “There’s the long term, which will probably take years. But there’s also the short-term focus. And I can say personally I get from them the excitement and the energy about bringing some traffic back into the mall that we didn’t necessarily see with the previous owners. So that’s encouraging to me.”