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Blight analysis considered for Watson Plaza proposal


Executive Editor

An ordinance authorizing an agreement with Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets to conduct a blight analysis of Watson Plaza was scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

G.J. Grewe Inc. is proposing a $12.5 million redevelopment of Watson Plaza that calls for a Gordmans and a PETCO as well as retaining existing tenants. As proposed, a new Gordmans would occupy the former Service Merchandise building, a new PETCO would be built next to Gordmans and a new Walgreens would be built on the site of the former Tippins.

In a separate matter, aldermen were scheduled to consider an ordinance to be-gin condemnation proceedings for property owned by G.J. Grewe Inc. to extend Glen-wood Drive. As proposed, the extension would improve traffic flow at the intersection of Glenwood Drive and Watson Road as well as provide cross access between Watson Plaza and the Kohl's Department Store being built at the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads.

Regarding the proposed ordinance to authorize an agreement with PGAV to conduct a blight analysis of Watson Plaza, G.J. Grewe's redevelopment proposal in-cludes a request for $2.5 million in tax-in-crement financing assistance.

In a May 9 memorandum to Mayor Jim Robertson and the Board of Aldermen, City Administrator Don Greer wrote, "If we are to consider assistance in the form of TIF, a blighting analysis will need to be conducted.''

John Brancaglione of PGAV serves as the city's planning consultant and Greer is recommending the board adopt the ordinance authorizing the blight analysis at a cost not to exceed $9,000.

Should the board eventually select G.J. Grewe as the preferred developer for the project, the costs of the blight analysis can be recovered through a redevelopment agreement with the developer, the city ad-ministrator noted.

The Board of Aldermen voted in De-cember to issue a request for proposals to redevelop Watson Plaza and one proposal was received — from G.J. Grewe, headquartered in Crestwood, which owns 92 percent of the property within the redevelopment area.

The only parcels not owned by the company are Rayburn Park and the former Service Merchandise building. Service Merchandise filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and the rights to the Crestwood site are owned by Developers Diversified Realty, a real estate investment trust based in Cleveland, Ohio.

G.J. Grewe's proposal to redevelop Watson Plaza would utilize six of the seven parcels within the redevelopment area, excluding the parcel containing Rayburn Park. The total cost of the redevelopment project is estimated at $12,527,025.

As proposed, $4 million of the proposed costs is earmarked for additional land acquisition and assemblage costs. The proposal also states that G.J. Grewe will require that the city use its eminent domain power to acquire the former Ser-vice Merchandise building should the de-veloper fail to reach an agreement with the current owner.

During a March 25 work session, the board directed Greer to pursue the Watson Plaza redevelopment proposal submitted by G.J. Grewe.

In his memo, Greer wrote, "As indicated at the March 25 work session, the linchpin of any successful redevelopment of this site is the acquisition of the Service Mer-chandise parcel at a cost which is as close to market value as possible. The city be-lieves that the market value of the fee simple interest of this property is significantly less than what has been quoted by owner. It is clear that the only way to reconcile this difference is through an independent third party.''

Any attempt to have a third party determine the value of the property would have to have the blessing of the federal bankruptcy court, according to Greer.

"G.J. Grewe, the owner of the remainder of Watson Plaza, is prepared to form an Urban Redevelopment Corporation to do just this,'' Greer's memo stated. "As indicated at the work session, the city would need to participate in this endeavor. Mr. Grewe's attorney has indicated that he will bear the legal costs associated with petitioning the court to have the Service Merchandise parcel removed from the bankruptcy estate under the cloud of Chapter 353 Urban Redevelopment Corporation.

"The city's participation, at this point, would be limited to conducting a blighting analysis to qualify Watson Plaza as a redevelopment area under Chapter 353 and approving the formation of the Urban Re-development Corporation,'' Greer wrote.

Regarding the ordinance to begin condemnation proceedings for property owned by G.J. Grewe Inc. to extend Glenwood Drive, the city's Planning, Zoning and Architectural Review Commission voted unanimously last week to recommend the Board of Aldermen adopt the measure.

In a May 7 memorandum to the commission, Public Works Director Mark Payken wrote, "In order to provide for adequate safe driving conditions at the intersection of Watson and Sappington roads, as well as improve the geometric layout of the Glenwood Drive and Watson Road traffic signal, the city is proposing to widen the northern leg of this signalized intersection.

"With the redevelopment of the Kohl's site and the resulting increase in traffic at this intersection, it is necessary for the city to construct the proposed improvements as shown on the attached site plan, including providing cross access between Watson Pla-za and the Kohl's development,'' Payken's memo stated.

The proposed improvements, Payken noted in his memo, would address "several existing deficiencies'' at the intersection of Glenwood Drive and Watson Road.

"The city will be engaging in discussions with the property owners regarding the granting of a cross-access agreement be-tween Watson Road and the Kohl's site and acquisition of the property necessary for the Glenwood improvements,'' Pay-ken's memo stated. "Provided those discussions fail to result in an agreement, it will be necessary for the city to condemn and compensate the property owners for the necessary public right of way.''

Greer is recommending the board adopt the ordinance to begin the condemnation process for the Glenwood Drive extension.

"The Board of Aldermen should determine that the proposed right-of-way acquisition and construction of improvements is for a public need, purpose and benefit ... and adopt the enabling ordinance to begin the condemnation process ...,'' Greer wrote in a memo to the board.

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