Westfield mall manager scheduled to address Crestwood board

By BURKE WASSON

While Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson has said that revitalizing the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood is his top goal, the mall’s new general manager was scheduled Tuesday night to discuss his plans to the Board of Aldermen.

Don Ziss, general manager of the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood, was set to make a presentation to aldermen Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Ziss planned to make his presence at the mall known Tuesday night and simply let aldermen know about some simple changes he has planned for the shopping center, according to Robinson.

However, any major plans for mall improvements remain under wraps and under discussion by Westfield corporate officials.

“What (Ziss) is going to do is introduce himself and some of his staff and talk about what he, as far as his area over there, what he’s trying to do to improve the area,” Robinson said. “Then the other (improvements) will come at a later date. Basically, he wants to impress on the people that they are going to be making improvements to that facility. And some of that is in progress now and more to come later.”

Aldermen previously had expected the arrival of Tim Lowe, Westfield’s vice president of development, but City Administrator Frank Myers said Lowe would be unable to travel to Crestwood for Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Myers did say, however, that he, Robinson and Economic Development Specialist Ellen Dailey spoke with Lowe about upcoming plans for the mall.

Myers declined to comment on any of those developments before the board’s scheduled Tuesday night meeting.

Robinson said those discussions resulted in laying out options for the mall, rather than any idea of final plans for its revitalization.

“We had talked to them before about what they plan on doing,” Robinson said. “So I met with (Lowe) last Wednesday (July 19). And the only thing I can say is that they’ve got some options, but they have to deal with people in Australia at their headquarters. And they don’t want to put out false information, you know? They want to find out what they can do. And from what I understand, many options have been sent down there to them to make a decision. So we’ll see what comes out of that.”

Westfield representatives said last summer in a news release that the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood would benefit from a “redevelopment plan which will integrate fresh new lifestyle and entertainment elements with the existing quality retailers at the center.”

That same release included an announcement by Westfield and AMC Entertainment Inc. officials of plans for a new megaplex AMC Theater to be built at the front of the shopping center near Watson Road.

Since those announcements last summer, none of those plans have materialized at the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.

“They don’t even tell us,” Robinson said. “So when they do make a decision, it’ll come from somebody who has the authority to talk about it.”

But in recent months, Westfield officials have discussed selling the Crestwood mall.

Such negotiations with California-based Somera Capital Management broke down in May.

Robinson said he was informed that Somera opted out of the purchase because of media coverage and letters concerning the proposed sale mailed by Westfield to mall businesses.

Officials from both Westfield and Somera have declined to discuss any details of the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood with the Call.

No discussed dollar amounts on the proposed sale of either mall were released to the public, but Somera’s Web site at www.someracapital.com indicates that company criteria require that a regional mall must be valued at more than $30 million in order for the company to buy it.

The Westfield Corp. paid $106.4 million to acquire the mall in 1998 from the Crestwood Plaza Shopping Center, a subsidiary of Hycel Properties. The Westfield Corp. bought the property at that time under the name Westfield America.

Robinson said that from his talks with Westfield officials, he does not believe that the corporation is planning to sell its Crestwood location anymore. At the same time, he concedes that nothing is certain.

“I think now they (Westfield) know that they’re staying, so now we’ll see what they’re going to do,” Robinson said. “When I say staying, it doesn’t appear — and I don’t know, I’m not firm on anything anymore — it doesn’t appear that there’s any consideration of selling that or they’re interested in it. It’s more or less … from what I gather, it’s going to be something different that will, or should, help the city of Crestwood. Like I said, I have very little details. And they didn’t give … even to me, when we were talking, they didn’t give any details. They just talked about certain options. And those options may never materialize. It’s still in the working part.

“At least it looks like we should be making some progress. As always, it’s not as fast as I’d like it. But the thing about it is at least we’re talking.”