Proposed shopping center would offer Lemay area a real boost, Campisi says

Construction on Ironworks project set to begin in late spring 2007

By BURKE WASSON

Plans for a 39-acre shopping center near the southeast quadrant of Weber Road and Interstate 55 in Lemay are making their way through the County Council and could be approved by next week.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, introduced a bill last week to approve a $30,000 consulting agreement with Development Strategies Inc. to develop a tax-increment financing, or TIF, redevelopment plan for the project, called Ironworks.

The County Council was scheduled to consider initial approval of the legislation Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The shopping center will boast some form of a “superstore” and also will add a new intersection at Interstate 55 and Weber Road, according to Campisi.

Representatives for the property’s developer, Pace Properties Inc., said that construction on the shopping center should begin by late spring 2007.

Campisi said he is looking forward to the prospect of adding more jobs to the area and characterizes the pending project as a “real shot in the arm for the Lemay area.”

“We’re hoping for some big boxes along the highway,” Campisi said. “I threw some names out for (Pace) to go after and was hoping that they would. I was hoping for one of those superstores. No Wal-Mart, but I was looking for like a Target Superstore or Bass Pro Shop or a big Best Buy or something big that would stay there for a long, long time.”

To make way for the new shopping center, the developer will use part of the former Stupp Brothers plant acquired last year and also acquire roughly 60 homes in the area.

Each homeowner had previously been under contract with Pace, and Campisi said the development firm is buying the homes at an average cost of $225,000 per home, which he said was “well over market value.”

As of Sunday, Campisi said he believed all but two homes in the area had been acquired, but that Pace was continuing to negotiate.

Even if they can’t, Campisi said he would not support eminent domain of any property that could be used for the Ironworks development.

At the same time, he hopes that the remaining homes can be purchased for a fair price.

“One (homeowner) definitely doesn’t want to sell, but I think there’s a price for everybody,” Campisi said. “I told (Pace) I wasn’t going to go in and do eminent domain on anybody. And so they wanted to make sure they were able to buy those homes. So they’ve achieved that.”

While the current project is on the cusp of getting TIF funding approved by the County Council, Campisi said there likely would be additional funding through a transportation development district, or TDD, in the future.

As for the TIF issue being considered by the County Council for the project, Campisi said he believes this area would be a perfect fit for that funding.

“There’s some places where TIFs are supported and some places where they were given and really not needed,” Campisi said. “I can tell you in my opinion, one of those was West County where they TIF’d property out there. I didn’t believe that should have been TIF’d. This most certainly deserves a TIF. It’s a project that’s revitalizing that whole corner and putting in a brand-new intersection.”

That existing interchange at Weber Road and Interstate 55 is slated to be converted from a two-lane intersection to a four-lane intersection to accommodate the extra traffic that the Ironworks development will be expected to bring.

Development Strategies Inc., which will provide consulting services for the TIF project if it is approved, likely would take three months to study the area.

Pace representatives said that the property would contain roughly 310,000 square feet of retail space. There would be enough room to allow for one large “superstore” that Campisi referred to, six lots for mid-sized retail stores and a handful of smaller lots for retail.

The developer also estimates that such a shopping center would generate roughly $155 million in new sales activity, which would mean roughly $2.5 million in sales-tax revenue going to St. Louis County.

With funding waiting to be approved by the County Council and a house or two to be still be purchased, the deal is not quite done, but Campisi said he is optimistic — especially when he thinks of the economic impact it could have on Lemay.

“It would be just a huge shot in the arm for the Lemay area,” Campisi said. “Not to mention the jobs that would help putting the whole thing together and the trickle down. What I mean by trickle down is there’s concrete, there’s wiring, there’s electricians, there’s plumbing and everything that goes with it. All the services needed to construct the whole thing. It would just be a big shot in the arm for the whole area.”