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Kohl's project initiated six years ago

The opening of a new Kohl's Department Store in Crestwood last week marked the final chapter in a process that began more than six years ago to redevelop the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads.

Mayor Jim Robertson told the Call that he couldn't be more pleased with the opening of Kohl's.

"I'm delighted that we have a first-class retailer on that corner after the long, long, long struggle to get that corner redeveloped,'' Robertson said Monday morning.

In August 1997, the Board of Aldermen voted to establish a Tax-Increment Fi-nancing Commission to consider the redevelopment of the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads, and Robertson was appointed the next month to serve on the commission.

"The fact of the matter is that in 1997 we successfully conducted a campaign to annex my neighborhood into the city of Crestwood and I was offered a seat on the TIF Commission,'' Robertson told the Call during a recent interview.

"I would have to confess I was ambivalent about it because I saw that as being something that could be a real problem. But I also believed that if you're not willing to step forward and get the job done, then you can't complain about the result. So I accepted that assignment,'' the mayor continued.

"As we sit today, on the eve almost of the opening of Kohl's, I take a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the original proposal which involved the Bank of America remaining on the corner, I believe, and potentially Walgreens moving from Wat-son Plaza to the corner, which would have helped the corner, but hurt Watson Plaza, and whatever else that was going to go in there, that's not what we're looking at,'' Robertson said.

As originally proposed, besides retail space, the redeveloped corner would have contained about 12,000 feet of space for the bank and professional offices. As an alderman, Robertson successfully led an effort to make the project an all-retail development, eliminating the space for a bank and professional offices and reducing the amount of time it will take to retire the TIF obligation.

The Board of Aldermen last year paved the way for the Kohl's store by approving three ordinances, including one granting a request by the developer, THF Realty, to rezone the Crestwood Swim Club property at 1475 S. Sappington Road to C-1 Local Business District from R-2 Single-Family Residential. The Swim Club property was needed to provide additional parking spaces requested by Kohl's.

A second ordinance conditionally approving a site plan for the construction of the Kohl's store also was adopted by the board.

The third ordinance, which amended the redevelopment agreement between the city and THF Realty by granting the developer additional time to complete the project, also was approved.

Former Mayor Jim Brasfield announced in June 2001 that THF Realty and the Swim Club had reached an agreement on the purchase price of the Swim Club property. THF agreed to pay $750,000 for the Swim Club property to provide the ad-ditional parking for Kohl's.

The developer will be reimbursed for the purchase of the Swim Club property through a sales tax levied on purchases at Kohl's. Swim Club members have built a new pool on a second parcel on Rayburn Avenue that previously was the site of two tennis courts.

After establishing the TIF Commission in August 1997, the city then sought redevelopment proposals for the corner and in January 1999, the Board of Aldermen voted to approve a redevelopment agreement with THF Realty that granted the developer nearly $2 million in TIF assistance for the corner's redevelopment.

In October 2000, the Board of Aldermen approved an amended redevelopment agreement with THF that called for the Kohl's to be located on the corner.

The amended redevelopment pact also increased the amount of TIF assistance the developer is eligible to receive by $375,000 — to $2.285 million from $1.91 million. In addition, the amended pact created a transportation development district and a community improvement district, two funding mechanisms that will bring the total assistance package THF Realty is eligible to receive to $3.5 million.

With the granting of TIF assistance by the board, tax receipts for school districts, fire districts and other taxing entities will be frozen at existing levels for the length of the TIF. As land within the TIF district increases in value, the incremental tax revenue — 100 percent of property taxes and 50 percent of sales and utility taxes — will be used to retire the TIF obligation. Under the terms of the redevelopment agreement approved by the board, the city has pledged an additional 5 percent of the incremental revenue in an effort to retire the TIF obligation at a faster rate.

Robertson said he believes the new Kohl's store will complement the West-field Shoppingtown Crestwood, as well as enhance the adjacent Watson Plaza , which is owned by G.J. Grewe Inc.

"We have a brand-new retailer, a high-class quality retailer coming to that corner ... it's going to enhance the attractiveness of Watson Plaza,'' Robertson said during the recent interview. "The improvements at the Glenwood and Watson intersection are going to enhance the attractiveness of Watson Plaza ... And it is my fervent hope that the impact of all of those improvements will be that Mr. Grewe's property blossoms.''

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