To the editor:
The closure of the Barnes & Noble in Crestwood on Dec. 31 and the recent announcement that Sears at Crestwood Court is closing in 2012 has been the flip side to the otherwise good news that Crestwood won the distinction by Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine as the best place to raise a family in Missouri.
For those of us who live in Crestwood, as my family has for 15 years, it goes without saying. Lower taxes, great municipal services and a high-achieving school district are tremendous draws, as is the very friendly, family oriented nature of the people who live here.
I served as the chair of the Crestwood Sign Commission back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Our committee did everything it could to streamline the cumbersome, overly restrictive city sign code and make it more business friendly. And at that time Crestwood Plaza retained three solid anchor stores and was nowhere near the lifeless shell it is today, which will be all but taken off life-support when Sears leaves. The impact on city revenues and services will be enormous.
How far away this reality is from my days as a boy growing up in South St. Louis, when Crestwood Plaza was “The Destination” for shopping and entertainment.
Over three decades ago, my older brother first taught me how to drive a car on Crestwood’s huge lot. We went on a Sunday, when stores were closed, and it was the only time the area was empty. Sadly, that’s just one of the few things the old site is now good for.
Most who have lived around here long enough understand that shifting demographics and the business that have followed it have spiked the Old Giant.
Many people have moved further south and west over the years, keeping older outlets like the South County and West County centers still vibrant, not to mention large scale retail expansions that have since sprung up in Fenton, Sunset Hills and Kirkwood. These developments have now nearly encircled Crestwood only a few miles to the north, south and west, leaving the city in a virtual “doughnut hole” of retail decline. As empty storefronts in many of our strip shopping centers attest, the poor economy has been no help to small business either.
I’m sure that Centrum Properties, the owner of Crestwood Court, has taken all this into account in their soon-to-be-unveiled redevelopment plans for the site, including a thorough demographic and market analysis.
It will be interesting to see what unfolds when the upcoming site plan goes public in a few months. Whether it’s to be an “entertainment and lifestyle” center or some other alternative venue to conventional shopping, one thing is certain: A new way of thinking about what this once-prime location has to offer area residents must emerge from the ashes.
Should it be successful, maybe Crestwood’s family friendly status will one day go from statewide to a national recognition.
Michael Tsichlis, Ph.D.