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City issues new RFP for Watson/Grant site


By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A new request for proposals for the Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area has been issued by the city of Crestwood.

The new request for proposals comes 16 months after the city originally issued a request for proposals to redevelop the 18.79-acre site that is comprised of two parcels at Watson and Grant roads. The larger of the two parcels contains Value City and is owned by Joe Grasso, while the smaller parcel contains the Creston Center and is owned by the Boegeman family.

The new request for proposals was issued to satisfy a recent amendment to a city ordinance regarding the use of urban redevelopment corporations, according to City Administrator Don Greer.

Two representatives of a group being formed to promote "smart growth'' in Crestwood, the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, recently asked the Board of Aldermen to issue a new request for proposals for the site, contending that better alternatives exist than the one currently being considered by the city.

They also suggested an alternative site plan for the area that would reposition the Value City building to face Watson Road, include an upscale condominium development and leave the Creston Center intact.

But Greer was emphatic that the group's request was not a factor in his decision to issue the new request for pro-posals.

"I want to make it clear that the reason for re-issuing the RFP for this site has to do with the integrity of the city of Crestwood to move forward with this project,'' he said. "It's not related to the request from Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance or whatever the name of that group is that came in. We are not adopting their proposal ... It was very clear from the board at the time that that presentation had no merit.

"The re-issuance of the RFP is consistent with legal advice and the desire to follow our own rules and be very responsible about doing the project the way the board has decided they want the project done. The key element here is the change in the assistance mechanism and the change in the assistance mechanism is what is initiating the re-issuance,'' the city administrator added.

In response to the city's original request for proposals issued in April 2002, two proposals were submitted — one from the Jones Co. and one from Mills Properties.

The Jones Co. later withdrew its proposal and the Board of Aldermen voted in March to name Mills Properties as the preferred developer of the site.

Mills Properties is proposing to redevelop the site as Boulder Springs at Crestwood — similar to the Boulder Springs at Maryland Heights project that Mills completed in 2000 at Interstate 270 and Page Avenue. Mills Prop-erties is proposing a $45 million development that would include about 240 luxury apartment units and 19 luxury condominiums.

Members of the Boegeman family repeatedly have told aldermen they will not sell their property and have vowed to fight any efforts to acquire their property through eminent domain.

Plans by the Boegeman family's Crest Development Co. to renovate the Creston Center have been approved by the Board of Aldermen and the Boegemans are spending $150,000 to $200,000 to renovate the Creston Center. At the time the board approved the renovation plans late last year, aldermen warned members of the Boegeman family they were taking a risk in proceeding because the Creston Center is situated in a proposed redevelopment area.

Regarding the new request for proposals, Greer said, "It has a duration of 30 days and the purpose for doing that has to do with an amendment the Board of Aldermen made in the ordinance that defines the rules for urban redevelopment corporations. When we initially did the RFP, we anticipated that tax-increment financing would be the primary mechanism for assistance in the redevelopment of that (site). As the negotiations and the plan have progressed, we today do not feel like tax-increment financing is an appropriate mechanism to assist with the development and have moved in the direction of having Mr. (Bruce) Mills establish an urban redevelopment corporation.

"The change in the ordinance requires us to issue an RFP in order to do that. So the RFP will be for 30 days. Obvious-ly, we'll send it to the same people we send all of our RFPs to, which certainly will include Mr. Mills. Certainly we'll in-clude the property owners and certainly will include other people. We'll be very specific about what it is that we're looking to accomplish and in 30 days the board will need to review any proposals that are submitted ... It does not affect our time frame one way or the other. We stay on the same time frame that we've been on for some time now to get this project moving. But it's important for government which has that power, that authority, that responsibility, to follow its own rules and make sure we're doing things in the best interest of the community. I know that based on advice from legal counsel, this is the appropriate way to do that. The ordinance does give the city administrator the authority to do that, to re-issue the RFP,'' the city administrator said.

The new request for proposals is "a little more specific as to what we're looking for,'' Greer said. "I mean the fact of the matter is, is the best interests of the city are addressed by that multi-family residential. That's a pool site. Retail doesn't do us any good.''

During the July 22 board meeting, Kelley Isherwood of Oakville, chairman of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alli-ance, and Mary Schulz, an attorney representing the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, asked aldermen to issue a new request for proposals.

Schulz also represents the Crest Development Co., which owns the Creston Center, but said she was at the meeting at the request of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance and was representing the alliance.

Terming the Mills' proposal as "limited,'' Schulz said, "... And actually the city's own planning consultants, PGAV, Peckham, Guyton, Albers and Viets, have concluded that the Mills' proposal is not responsive to the city's (RFP) and is incompatible with existing and future land uses along Watson Road, does not maximize the economic benefit to the city, and to the taxing districts and may be impeded by legal and political issues. Those criticisms are all by the city's own planning consultant, PGAV, in their technical memoranda that were submitted to the city.''

She later said, "... If you initiate a new RFP for the Watson-Grant Redevelopment Area then hopefully the city would have more than one proposal before it so that it would make a decision based on what is good land-use planning, what would be good for the Watson Road corridor and not simply by default. There could be increased revenue for the city, not only by the existing proposal which would eliminate commercial and retail uses and instead replace those with exclusively residential uses, there would be a diminution of revenue to the city and to the taxing districts.

"The only way that such redevelopment could be financed under tax-increment financing is by flipping money from another district to the proposed district and that may present some legal problems for the city and some entanglements,'' Schulz said.

Despite Greer's decision to issue a new request for proposals, representatives of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance contend 30 days does not provide enough time for other developers to submit alternative proposals.

Ken Boegeman said he believes a more reasonable time frame to submit proposals would be 90 days, a view shared by Ish-erwood.

Noting that a new request for proposals has been issued, a "news alert'' issued by the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance stated, "The new RFP seems tailored to suit the existing apartment proposal from over a year ago. The request demands all responses to be filed with the city by 4 p.m. Sept. 15, 2003. This is a ridiculously short period of time for such a large undertaking. The tight schedule affords the present apartment developer the opportunity to resubmit the current plan which he's had a year to work on.

"The city has been working on this for about a year and a half and hasn't been able to come up with a good solution yet. How can they expect new developers, who are just becoming familiar with the situation, to bring forth great ideas in just a couple weeks?'' the news alert stated.

Prospective developers need at least 90 days to formulate viable proposals, the news alert contended.

"Developers need at least 90 days to thoroughly study the area, assess the true needs of our community, rally their experts for ideas, compile their final plan and create a detailed presentation. Who knows how many great development plans we'll receive if the city properly publicizes the request — even this takes time — and allows 90 days for well-thought-out responses,'' the news alert stated.

Asked if he planned to submit a proposal, Boegeman said, "I'm already developing in Crestwood. I've got my hands full with my own development.''

Isherwood said he believes the Mills' proposal is not what Crestwood residents want to see at the site, contending they would prefer condominiums instead of apartments.

Both Boegeman and Isherwood said the membership of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance is growing on a daily basis.

"The Smart Growth Alliance has really grown in size,'' Boegeman said. "I can say that every day we have new members coming aboard.''

Isherwood estimated that by the next Board of Aldermen meeting on Aug. 26, the Crestwood Growth Alliance will have at least 10 times as many members as the 10 it had at the July 22 meeting.

He also contended Greer and Mayor Jim Robertson were out of touch with the desires of city residents.

"The mayor doesn't go out and talk to the people,'' Isherwood said. "The city administrator, he's also the police chief, he doesn't go out and talk to the people.''

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