With Macy’s closing, Crestwood officials propose budget cuts

Artists’ colony ‘going fantastic,’ mall marketing manager says

By BURKE WASSON

With last week’s announcement that Macy’s will close April 1, Crestwood Court owners hope to set mall redevelopment plans this year while city officials have proposed additional cuts to the 2009 budget to offset the loss of sales-tax revenue.

Jones Lang LaSalle marketing manager Leisa Son, whose firm was hired by Crestwood Court owner Centrum Properties to manage the mall, emphasized that the Macy’s closing will not affect Centrum’s plans to redevelop the mall.

“This does not change the status for the redevelopment,” Son said. “The owners of Crestwood Court purchased the property (in March from the Westfield Group) in order to redevelop it into a vibrant, open-air, retail entertainment center that will better serve the community. And we continue to be actively engaged in evaluating that redevelopment plan with our architects and prospective retailers.

“Recognizing the challenging environment, we hope to solidify those development plans in 2009 with a development timeline, including the design and entitlement and construction fees, expected to be about a two-year process.”

Meanwhile, Crestwood City Administrator Jim Eckrich was set Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — to ask aldermen to direct that legislation be prepared to cut $237,900 from the city’s 2009 budgeted expenses of roughly $13.7 million.

Eckrich estimates that the April 1 closing of Macy’s will result in a 2009 revenue loss of $181,000. But he believes that in 2010 the Macy’s closing will result in an estimated $350,000 loss of revenue from sales taxes and license fees.

“The hit to our 2010 budget is greater than the hit to our 2009 budget,” he said.

This is why Eckrich also will ask aldermen to develop additional ideas for the city’s future before preparing the 2010 budget.

“As I’ve said all along with the ’09 budget and getting past that is we can pass the ’09 budget,” Eckrich said. “But the city and the Board of Aldermen are going to need to make some decisions regarding the future of the city prior to the creation of the 2010 budget.”

Aldermen in December approved a 2009 budget authorizing the use of more than $600,000 in reserves to balance it.

The city had an estimated $3.4 million in reserves as of Jan. 1.

Eckrich has recommended that aldermen approve the following cuts to make up for the loss of revenue from Macy’s closing: $84,700 for a vacant fire-captain position, $61,700 for a vacant police-officer position, $56,000 for public-works vehicles, $18,000 for a lifeguard-services contract, $9,000 for RecTrac Parks and Recreation management software, $4,800 in treadmill purchases and $4,000 for a mowing contract.

As for the mall, Eckrich said city officials remain in contact with its owners and management and hope to see an accelerated redevelopment occur.

“The owners are motivated to redevelop the property,” he said. “That’s why they bought it. And this provides an even greater motivation now that Macy’s has left.

“That being said, there’s still the current economic conditions to fight through to get this redevelopment going. They (mall owners) haven’t given me any indication that they’re going to move forward immediately. We have still not received any kind of formal plan from them. But they have told us that they’ve hired architects, they’ve hired engineers and they’re moving forward and hope to have something to us in the near future.”

Son last summer revealed to the city’s Economic Development Commission that the mall’s redevelopment could include a streetscape quality similar to the Promenade in Brentwood. This would open up possibilities that could not only include retail and restaurants, but also an entertainment center that could be used for activities and even outdoor concerts.

For now, Son said Crestwood Court owners have no plans to fill the vacancy that will be left with the April 1 Macy’s closing, which is expected to result in the loss of 176 jobs at the Crestwood store.

“There are no plans at this point to fill the Macy’s vacancy,” Son said. “… We’ve just received this information as well. It’s premature at this point to speculate about plans for that location.”

Macy’s Inc. announced Jan. 8 that it was closing 11 “underperforming” stores, including the Crestwood location.

“These closings are part of our normal-course process to prune underperforming locations each year in order to maintain a healthy portfolio of stores,” Terry J. Lundgren — chairman, president and chief executive officer of Macy’s Inc. — stated in a news release.

A clearance sale with marked-down prices was expected to begin this week at the Crestwood Macy’s.

The Macy’s April 1 closing leaves Crestwood Court with only one anchor store — Sears. The mall already has sustained the loss of Dillard’s, which closed its doors in October 2007.

In the meantime, Son said mall management will remain in contact with remaining tenants and added that “we are continually in conversations with all our retailers to ensure their success.”

Son pointed out that a recent Crestwood Court project — a local artists’ colony — is “going fantastic.”

The Crestwood mall and the Regional Arts Commission have teamed up to offer vacant retail space to artists, musicians and performance groups.

“We have been overwhelmed by the need in the community for artists who have needed space,” Son said. “So we’re moving full steam ahead with that project. We have commitments for more than 100,000 square feet of retail with applications pouring in. It’s very exciting. And this Macy’s announcement in no way affects our commitment to this art-space project.”

Groups can sign one-year leases with the option for a second year.

“At this point, it’s a little soon to tell what the economic impact on the center is going to be with this project,” Son said.

“Within the next 60 to 90 days, we should have most of these groups and organizations in place and open for business. And then that’s when we’ll really start to hear the difference.”