Time for city officials to cut to the chase with Centrum

By Mike Anthony

Centrum Properties’ proposal to redevelop Crestwood Court appears to be moving forward.

Mayor Jeff Schlink broke a 4-4 aldermanic tie last week to name Centrum Properties the preferred developer for the mall’s redevelopment.

Centrum, the mall’s owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., submitted the only development proposal, and was rejected as the preferred developer by the Board of Aldermen with a 5-3 vote Oct. 9. The board voted 6-2 Oct. 23 to reconsider that resolution.

The next step, according to Schlink, is to convene a St. Louis County TIF Commission to consider Centrum’s proposal. Interestingly enough, Schlink says he is against Centrum’s proposal in its current form and will oppose it during a TIF Commission public hearing.

The total cost of Centrum’s proposal for an open-air entertainment and retail venue is roughly $121 million, with economic assistance in the form of tax-increment financing, a transportation development district, or TDD, and a community improvement district, or CID, reaching roughly $34 million, according to revised numbers presented to the city.

Centrum earlier this month reduced CID and TDD sales-tax requests from 1 percent to 0.75 percent.

Sol Barket, of Centrum Properties, has told Crestwood officials he has a personal interest in the mall’s redevelopment because Crestwood Plaza was the mall of choice for he and his family when he was growing up in the Kirkwood-Ladue area.

But some question whether Centrum has the financial ability to see the redevelopment of the mall through to completion. Barket acknowledges such concerns are “100-percent legitimate,” but contends any difficulties his company has had are a result of the economy.

We believe the Board of Aldermen could help clear the air by imposing two simple conditions on the proposed redevelopment of the mall.

First, aldermen should publicly ask Centrum if it will agree the economic assistance being sought is nontransferable. That would quell any speculation Centrum’s looking to recoup its initial investment — and then some — by flipping the mall property.

Second, we believe aldermen should insist Centrum provide proof it can obtain the required financing from a lender.

If those two conditions can be met, we believe the redevelopment should proceed to the next step. If not, we would have to question the logic of moving forward with the project.