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Crestwood to issue RFP for Watson Plaza

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen recently authorized city staff to issue a 30-day request for proposals for the redevelopment of the Watson Plaza shopping center.

After hearing a redevelopment proposal from Gary Grewe of G.J. Grewe Inc., the principal property owner of Watson Plaza, aldermen voted 6-1 last week to authorize staff to issue the request for proposals to redevelop the shopping center.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding's motion to authorize the issuance of the RFP was seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox. Besides Breeding and Maddox, Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore, Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent, Ward 3 Alderman "Bernie'' Alexander and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe voted in favor of the motion. Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood was absent.

Though Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan voted against the motion, he said he was not opposed to the redevelopment of Watson Plaza. But Fagan said he believed the new RFP should encompass the same boundaries as the original RFP that the board voted to issue in December 2002.

Besides the boundaries of the shopping center, the original request for proposals included Rayburn Park. The new RFP that will be issued will include only the "footprint'' of the shopping center. A motion by Fagan to include Rayburn Park within the boundaries of the request for proposals died for lack of a second.

Watson Plaza is adjacent to the city's Watson/Sappington Road Redevelopment Area where a Kohl's Department Store opened last fall. The only piece of property not owned by G.J. Grewe in the shopping center 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.

During his presentation to the board, Grewe said, "... We all have great incentives for a vibrant Crestwood and we continue to receive strong competition from our neighbors to the west. (Assistant to the City Administrator) Matt Conley can speak in support of my concern of Novus group having the intersection of Watson and Lindbergh under control and Sunset Hills sending out that RFP. I know that some of the people in Kirkwood are shifting around and there's going to be some minor anchor tenants that are available there that continue to compete with us.

"We really need to move quickly to compete against Sunset Hills on a different playing field and although I applaud the efforts of the city to have the business forums that are coming up on the 20th and the residential forums that you've had, I will request this evening that you take whatever steps that (City Attorney) Rob (Golterman) thinks are appropriate to lift the moratorium on the request for proposal at Watson Plaza and the Grant proposal and move those forward as quickly as possible,'' Grewe said.

"We naturally would like for you to select us as developer tonight since we're the only person that responded to the first request and to the extension to the request and move forward with the hearings that are necessary to redevelop that shopping center. We do not want to have another year go by when something hasn't happened to these areas and we respectfully request that you do whatever you can tonight to move this process of redeveloping that forward. Things are a little different than our initial request for proposal inasmuch as we believe we can contract for the Service Merchandise building and not be asking for condemnation rights on that property, but the substance of our proposal with that exception remains with some exceptions the same ...''

G.J. Grewe is proposing a new Walgreens on the site of the vacant Tippin's restaurant, a PETCO and a Pier 1 for Watson Plaza.

G.J. Grewe was the only company to respond to the city's original RFP for Watson Plaza. The proposal's estimated cost of $12,527,025 included a request for $2.5 million in tax-increment financing assistance.

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. However, at the end of the 60-day period, no additional proposals were received. In September, the Board of Aldermen voted to establish the moratorium on redevelopment, ending consideration of G.J. Grewe's redevelopment proposal for Watson Plaza.

Breeding said he viewed the situation as an opportunity for "some good public relations.''

"We have someone who owns most of the complex, correct? I mean, except for Service Merchandise, you own the rest of the buildings, right?" Breeding asked.

Grewe replied, "Yes.''

Breeding continued, "So what we're doing here and saying to the rest of the business owners in Crestwood is that we're here to work with you — Mr. and Mrs. Property Owner, Business Owner — and he's coming to us tonight with a nice bird in the hand, I'd like to see what we can do to get this moving for not only Mr. Grewe, but for the citizens of Crestwood and for financial well-being.''

Breeding said that he would be willing to make a motion, but Mayor Jim Robertson said other aldermen still wanted to discuss the issue.

"Also, one other thing,'' Breeding added, "The moratorium that we did set up. Isn't it worded that we wouldn't pursue (redevelopment); people could still pursue us?''

Robertson said, "I believe that to be correct. I believe that the door is open for someone to approach the city and, of course, we'd be delighted any time an existing owner of property came forward with a reasonable plan to give it the consideration that it merits. There's no question about that. The moratorium addressed ... aggressive redevelopment, taking a time out to pursue an educational process which has been well attended.

"Intelligent questions have been asked. There's been obvious citizen interest. There has been a great deal of attendance by members of the Board of Aldermen, which I personally very much appreciate. I've tried to complement those with articles that I've written that have been published in Crestwood Connections. It is to be hoped that that educational process has benefited the residents as much as it has benefited us because we have learned a lot and that was the objective. But in terms of an existing property owner coming to the city with an idea, I personally do not believe that the moratorium precluded that,'' he added.

"That was my thought, too, and here's a perfect example,'' Breeding said. "So I think we have a nice opportunity that everyone, believe it or not, can win here. So when you need the motion, just give me a call.''

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