Supporters of mall project should not be concerned

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Those who are in favor of UrbanStreet Group’s proposal to redevelop the former Crestwood Plaza should not be worried about those who oppose the project.

We believe that despite opposition from Lindbergh Schools officials and some residents, the project ultimately will be approved by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

Chicago-based UrbanStreet is seeking $25 million in economic assistance for a $104.3 million mixed-use redevelopment of the mall. The developer wants $15 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF, funds, and $10 million from other tax tools.

Mayor Gregg Roby unequivocally backs UrbanStreet’s proposal. If anyone doubts that, just read the latest post on his mayoral Facebook page.

As we’ve written before, the TIF process is like a runaway train geared toward approval of the project. The TIF Commission itself is a recommending body, as the ultimate decision will be made by aldermen.

We would be extremely surprised to see the proposal rejected, despite the fact that details of the project are murky and no retail tenants have been identified. About the only certainty is that the project will include some type of residential component.

City leaders have done their best to control the flow of information regarding UrbanStreet’s proposal, while at the same time hurrying the project toward approval.

Just consider the hastily approved Watson Road Corridor Amendment that city officials contend will meet legal muster with the state’s TIF statute, which requires that a redevelopment plan must conform to the comprehensive plan for the development of the municipality as a whole.

No public input was sought until after the amendment was drafted, and it was adopted despite the fact that every speaker who addressed the Planning and Zoning Commission last summer opposed the amendment.

Most speakers noted that Crestwood has never had a citywide comprehensive plan. The process to create one started in November.

City officials have barely bothered to pay lip service to the concerns raised by Lindbergh Schools officials about UrbanStreet’s proposal.

But the TIF train has been building up steam for quite some time and is ready to roll over any opposition.

After all, campaign promises must be fulfilled no matter the cost to the city and its residents, the developer must make money and lawyers must be paid.