July 24, 2013 - A day after confusion arose over whether Centrum Properties had withdrawn its redevelopment proposal for the Crestwood Court site, the city's longtime planner has also withdrawn from the redevelopment of the former mall.
Mayor Jeff Schlink's announcement at Tuesday's Board of Aldermen meeting that Centrum Properties partner Sol Barket withdrew his proposal by email caused confusion over whether the board could even still vote on a planning study for a redevelopment proposal that may not still be on the table. The meeting followed a rally and prayer vigil attended by roughly 100 residents who called for the city to "Remove the Pall Over the Mall" and "Stop the Stall" and move forward with redevelopment.
In an email sent last week to Schlink and other city officials, but not the Board of Aldermen, Barket said if the redevelopment planning study by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, was not on Tuesday's agenda, his proposal would be withdrawn.
"If we are not on the agenda for Tuesday, consider our proposal withdrawn," Barket wrote July 19. "I will notify the press and my tenants on Monday afternoon … If we cannot sell piecemeal as I have described we will wait until after the April election when we can deal with a new mayor … If you believe I am bluffing as you so often do, be my guest and test it …"
Centrum, the mall's owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., had proposed an open-air entertainment and retail venue with restaurants, a movie theater, an upscale bowling venue and retail shops. Centrum is requesting public subsidies for the $121 million redevelopment project, including $26.6 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF.
The PGAV planning study is a precursor to sending the redevelopment project to the St. Louis County TIF Commission. On Tuesday, the board rejected the PGAV study for the third time, following previous rejections in December and June.
PGAV previously performed a preliminary analysis of Centrum's proposal, while the proposal rejected by the board would have cost $29,000.
PGAV withdrew its proposal Wednesday, however, writing to Schlink that it does not want to be associated with any more negative votes against the redevelopment project. At each PGAV rejection, members of the board who voted against the study noted they did not vote against PGAV itself, but were instead registering their discontent with Centrum's redevelopment proposal.
Despite those statements, PGAV, which consults nationwide and has been Crestwood's planning consultant since 1982, did not like its association with repeated rejections by the board.
In a letter to Schlink, PGAV Vice President John Brancaglione wrote, "Each time the name of our firm comes up in the context of a negative vote, we believe it can be publicly construed that something about our organization is the issue. We believe this is not true, but I've had emails and phone calls that suggest it can be perceived negatively.
"Therefore, based on what I believe to be the board's lack of understanding of the processes associated with redevelopment of a major property of this sort and our desire to no longer be the subject of 'no' votes at your meetings, we are formally withdrawing our proposal to assist the city."
At Tuesday's meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach made a motion for the PGAV study to be considered again, this time asking the planner to look at ideas the aldermen brought up in their July 9 work session: more housing, and how a Wal-Mart grocery store would affect the city compared to a specialty grocery store like a Trader Joe's.
The motion failed 5-3, with Wallach, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding and Ward 4 Alderman Daniel Tennessen voting for the study. Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter, who was first elected in April and voted to move forward with the PGAV study in June, voted "no" so that she could bring the study back up for a vote at the next board meeting.
A rejected ordinance can only be brought back on the agenda if it is changed or if someone who rejected it brings it back, which is why no one formally placed the planner on Tuesday's agenda in advance, Rob Golterman said in his last meeting as city attorney.
Look for complete coverage in the Aug. 1 print edition of the Call.