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Redevelopment moratorium proposed by Crestwood official

A moratorium on the redevelopment of the Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area and Watson Plaza is being proposed by Crestwood City Administrator Don Greer.

Besides a moratorium on the redevelopment of the two areas, Greer is proposing one or more forums to begin "an accurate, truthful series of discussions with Crestwood residents'' about redevelopment.

Greer's proposal was outlined in a Sept. 5 memorandum to Mayor Jim Robertson and the Board of Aldermen. The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

"Consider for a moment the concept of establishing a moratorium on RFP (request for proposals) consideration for the areas of Grant and Watson and Watson Plaza. These are the two areas that we have aggressively pursued by issuing and reviewing RFPs. By instituting a moratorium, the board will be lifting the veil of redevelopment from these sites,'' Greer wrote, paving the way for discussions with residents about redevelopment.

The proposed forums would include such "factual rationale'' as:

• Why cities participate in redevelopment.

• Why public participation in the funding is appropriate for consideration.

• St. Louis County sales tax distribution — point-of-sale vs. pool.

• Alternative housing options for Crestwood residents.

• Other topics "related to what we're trying to accomplish for the good of the city as a whole.''

Greer last month issued a new 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. Members of the Boege-man 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.

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

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 last 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.

However, the new request for proposals voided the board's selection of Mills as the preferred developer.

A new group called the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance had asked the Board of Aldermen to issue a new request for proposals for the site, but Greer, who also serves as police chief, has been emphatic that the new group's request was not a factor in his decision to issue the new request.

After the new request for proposals was issued, members of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance contended the 30-day time period for proposals favored the city's preferred developer, Mills Properties, and was too short to provide enough time for other developers to submit viable proposals.

Regarding Watson Plaza, aldermen voted in December to issue a request for proposals to redevelop the plaza.

One proposal was received by the Feb. 28 deadline — from G.J. Grewe Inc., which owns 92 percent of the property within the redevelopment area. The only parcel within Watson Plaza not owned by the company is the former Service Merchandise site. 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.

In June, the board voted to reopen for 60 days the request for proposals process to redevelop Watson Plaza after representatives of DDR told aldermen they had not received the request for proposals and asked that the process be reopened so DDR could submit a proposal.

In his memo, Greer noted that the 60-day period for new proposals has ended and "... we have received information from DDR that they will not be submitting a redevelopment proposal at this time. What we have remaining is the original proposal submitted in February which seeks too much public assistance in return.''

However, Greer noted that the new Kohl's Department Store, adjacent to Watson Plaza, "will have a positive impact on Watson Plaza and its potential for redevelopment.''

Regarding the Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area, Greer noted in his memo that at the Aug. 26 board meeting, a resident — Jerry Miguel — addressed the board and posed questions regarding the site.

"In his presentation, he indicated that he had talked with other residents and from the information presented and questions raised, it is quite clear that there is considerable misunderstanding in the community about the advantages the Mills' proposal presents to the community as a whole and redevelopment in general,'' Greer wrote. "For months now, the board has been inundated with ridiculous innuendo by those who have a direct relationship to the success or failure of this project. False statements about the actions of the board, inaccurate representations, and misleading suggestions about alternative configurations have been the tactics used to confuse and posture the community against the project.

"We have even seen the creation of the 'Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance,' an organization purported to 'act on behalf of its members, at the discretion of its chairman.' Well, the chairman is not a resident of Crestwood and has a direct relationship to one of the property owners involved in the Grant and Watson redevelopment area,'' Greer wrote, referring to Kelley Isherwood of Oak-ville, who serves as chairman of the alliance.

Greer also noted that the attorney who represents the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, Mary Schultz, also represents the Crest Development Co., which is owned by the Boegeman family.

"One would never argue the rights of one desiring to be heard or question the property owner's lack of desire to sell his property,'' Greer wrote. "What I do question is the unethical tactics being used to frighten and mislead the residents of the city of Crestwood. These people are not residents. Their interests, it would appear, are purely economic.''

A moratorium, Greer wrote, "is a rather bold step. Our risk is that we will lose Mills as a potential developer; Watson Plaza may take some time to draw the type of interest it deserves. Our gain is truthful, objective information and exchange with the residents of the city of Crestwood. Mills may build somewhere else. His interest is to build one significant development in this area of the county.

"I'm sure that the CSGA will tout some form of 'victory.' They haven't been truthful or honest in their interpretations yet. But in reality, it is the mayor and the Board of Aldermen who properly represent the people of the city of Crestwood. It is you who are elected by the citizens of the community and only you can choose the course of action for the residents,'' Greer concluded.

The Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance touted its effectiveness in a news release the Call received just before press time this week.

An item headlined "CSGA ineffective?'' stated, "The more Chief Greer and the mayor (Jim Robertson) insist that your CSGA is not effective, the more we know we are. If the city didn't act as a result of the people's will, then (on) behalf of who's will are they acting?''

Another item headlined, "The CSGA represents Crest-wood'' stated, "The CSGA prides itself on presenting factual information. Crestwood citizens do not want a large apartment project forced on them. Crestwood citizens do not want unfair eminent domain — the seizing of private property for personal gain. Our chairman doesn't live in Crestwood, but as a retired lawyer/banker, he's been 'giving back' by being active in public service for many years — involved in the trash-transfer issue ... public financing of the stadium, other regional issues — many areawide concerns.''

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