UPDATED: Crestwood aldermen grant 60-day extension for mall demolition

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen adopted an ordinance granting a 60-day demolition extension to the developer of the former Crestwood Plaza site at Watson and Sappington roads.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the ordinance amending a redevelopment agreement between developer UrbanStreet Group of Chicago and the city to provide for the demolition extension.

The ordinance was adopted as part of the board’s consent agenda.

Below is the story from our Oct. 12 print edition:

By Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
news1@callnewspapers.com

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen was scheduled earlier this week to consider granting a 60-day demolition extension to the developer of the former Crestwood Plaza site at Watson and Sappington roads.

Aldermen were set to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

As previously reported exclusively by the Call, demolition at the 47-acre mall site is nearing completion, but developer UrbanStreet Group of Chicago has yet to secure agreements with any potential tenants.

Under the terms of a redevelopment agreement between the city and UrbanStreet, the developer is required to complete demolition work to the city’s satisfaction within 18 months, or Oct. 4, according to a memorandum written by Public Services Director Jim Gillam to City Administrator Kris Simpson.

Aldermen voted in March 2016 to approve the roughly $104.3 million project and the redevelopment agreement, which was effective in early April 2016.

“Based on the current status of the redevelopment site, staff is recommending that the agreement be amended to allow for an additional 60 days to substantially complete demolition,” Gillam wrote.

Roughly a month ago, city staff visited the mall site because under the terms of the redevelopment agreement, city officials need to be reasonably satisfied with the progress of the demolition, Simpson said.

“… We gave them some feedback on the progress to date, some concerns that we had and things to address. And coming out of that meeting, we kind of thought: ‘Well, I don’t know if they’re going to be able to make it by the deadline …,’” he said. “We started having biweekly meetings with Pam Wucher with UrbanStreet to go over the progress of the demolition and just to make sure that we’re following exactly what they’re doing as they near completion of the demolition.

“And it was kind of this casual thing where ‘Do you really need the extension if you think you’re going to be done just a week or so beyond the deadline?’ Well, we felt like ‘Yeah, let’s make sure that the agreement matches the practice …’”

City officials also consulted with the city’s bond counsel, Mark Grimm of GilmoreBell, who said the redevelopment agreement can be amended at any time, the city administrator said.

“We thought, ‘Let’s just be on the up and up and get ahead of this,’ and city staff said, ‘Let’s put this on the agenda and get it done. It’s not a big issue,’” Simpson said, noting the proposed extension would be for 60 days in an effort not to revisit the issue. “… We think that 60 days should be plenty of time.”

Under the terms of the agreement, UrbanStreet is required to substantially complete the redevelopment project within 36 months.

UrbanStreet listed 19 acres of the mall site “for sale/lease/build to suit” earlier this year with the Sansone Group. A Sansone Group brochure cited a “deal pending” for the remainder of the property.

But now the entire mall site is up “for sale/lease/build to suit,” according to an updated listing by the Sansone Group.

Bob Burk, UrbanStreet managing partner, told the city’s Tax-Increment Financing Commission in February 2016 that he would not be opposed to selling parts of the mall site.

Commission member Charles Triplett, at the time chief financial officer for Lindbergh Schools, asked, “So you would sell a portion or all of the property, depending on who made the offer and what the piece was to fit into the development plan?”

Burk said, “If it fits into our master development plan, there could be component pieces, absolutely.”

Triplett asked, “… Have you had any offers for purchasing some or all of the property?”

Burk replied, “Yes.”

“And what’s the status of those offers?” Triplett asked.

“It’s in the LOI (letter of intent) stage per our discussions,” Burk responded.

Asked if the updated listing was a concern for city officials, Simpson said, “I have not looked at the Sansone listing any time recently. I’d say no, it’s not …”

Noting city officials meet periodically with Wucher, he said, “They’re continuing to work with different configurations (of the redevelopment of the mall site) and they’ve shown me enough to say, like, they’re not just giving lip service to it. They’re actually producing documents, and she’s getting pretty specific in terms of how they’re configuring different buildings on the site …”

City officials just want to see the site redeveloped, Simpson said.

“At the end of the day, I don’t really care who develops it, as long as it gets developed. If it’s up for sale, whatever. It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I mean, the mall’s down. That’s a very meaningful step towards progress because the presence of that large, outdated structure was an impediment to development. So it’s gone. I mean, yeah, you’ve got a couple monster truck ramps right now in terms of dirt, but a couple of bulldozers and that’s leveled out — no big deal.

“So then it just comes to who wants to build something on there, and whether it’s UrbanStreet or somebody else if they sold it, hey, I’d be happy for that. That’s great. That means to me it’s an attractive site and all I care about is getting a project that works for Crestwood.”

UrbanStreet purchased the 47-acre mall site at auction for $2.265 million in May 2014.

The board’s approval of the redevelopment project includes $25 million in tax incentives for UrbanStreet: $15 million in tax-increment financing assistance or a Chapter 353 tax abatement; $5 million in Community Improvement District funds; and $5 million in Transportation Development District funds.

The redevelopment agreement included a concept site plan that calls for UrbanStreet to construct “at least 200,000 gross leasable square feet of space accommodating retail tenants, including at least 35,000 square feet of such space to be designated for plaza-centered entertainment space accommodating a multi-screen motion picture theater, a microbrewery, grouping of restaurants or other use(s) approved by the city that are intended to attract people to the redevelopment area.”

UrbanStreet also proposes a 225-unit apartment complex currently envisioned as senior housing and 11 to 13 acres of open space and community gardens for the former mall site.