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Research to be done by Crestwood staff on redevelopment of Watson/Grant corner


Crestwood aldermen recently took a step toward lifting a moratorium on aggressive redevelopment when they voted to direct city staff to research redeveloping the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads.

The Board of Aldermen previously had issued two requests 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.

In response to the city's first 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 2003 to name Mills Properties as the preferred developer of the site. Mills had proposed a $37.1 million development that would include about 240 luxury apartment units and 19 luxury condominiums. The second request for proposals was issued last fall to satisfy a recent amendment to a city ordinance regarding the use of urban redevelopment corporations and Mills Properties submitted the only proposal.

Before the second request for proposals was issued, two representatives of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance began voicing concerns to the Board of Aldermen about Mills Properties' proposal to redevelop the site at Watson and Grant. The organization's attorney, Mary Schultz, also represents the Boegeman family's Crest Development Co., which owns the Creston Center. 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.

Both CSGA Chairman Kelley Isherwood and Schultz addressed the Board of Aldermen several times to voice their concerns about the redevelopment proposal submitted to the city by Mills Properties.

At the urging of City Administrator Don Greer, the Board of Aldermen voted in September to withdraw the request for redevelopment proposals for the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads and to establish a moratorium on aggressive redevelopment. Since then, city officials have conducted four interactive seminars about redevelopment, engaging residents and business representatives in a dialogue about redevelopment issues.

During the March 23 board meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood asked about the status of Mills Properties' proposal to redevelop the corner at Watson and Grant.

"I would ask staff to bring back to the board the current status of Mr. (Bruce) Mills and his project at the corner of Grant and Watson,'' Trueblood said. "I know we've had that in limbo and I'd like to have an update on where we stand with that as he has been the chosen developer and it's been some time since we've had any action on that. And I'd like to hear further on where he stands and where we're going with that at this time. Can I request staff to have that Mr. Mills come back to us, speak to us or send us a letter bringing us up to date on what his position is and where he's going and where we're going with this project?''

Greer said, "In essence, when the board adopted the concept of the moratorium, that would have withdrawn any plan or anything pending with regard to that, and unless the board is — I mean Mr. Mills and I have not talked at any great — in fact, we talked not too long ago and it was about something else.

"We've not talked about that site or developing that site in quite a (while) ...,'' Greer said, asking Assistant to the City Administrator Matt Conley if he had spoken to Mills. Conley said he had not discussed that site with the developer.

Trueblood said, "What's the legal term of moratorium mean?''

Greer said, "At the time when I brought that before the board, I asked you to withdraw any RFPs that were out. So if it was the board's desire, it would be my opinion and maybe (City Attorney) Rob (Golterman) would be better (able) to answer this, but it would be my opinion that if you wanted to select a redevelopment site or a site to redevelop, you would have to re-issue a new RFP and see what kind of a response that you got to it, but there is nothing pending with Mr. Mills at the present time.''

Golterman said, "This is similar to what we did with Mr. (Gary) Grewe's proposal (for Watson Plaza). We, in fact, issued a new RFP for that area and that would be what we would have to do for this area.''

Trueblood said, "I'd be willing to have staff present to this board the issuance of RFPs for the redevelopment of that intersection. I'd like to have the board's opportunity to vote on it ...''

Acting Mayor Richard Breeding said, "So what you're asking for is staff to research the issue of redeveloping that corner?''

Trueblood said, "Absolutely.''

After some discussion, Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe seconded Trueblood's motion.

Ward 3 Alderman "Bernie'' Alexander said, "I have been campaigning for three weekends and I get input from residents as far as what they think we should have at Watson and Grant. Now, granted I have not spoken to more than 30 percent of the people, but how does staff know how to issue an RFP without direction from the board as far as what we want there?''

Greer said, "I was going to approach it from the standpoint of doing some research and putting together a number of options that presented the board with information so that you could make some of those decisions because I really don't know, I don't know how else to go about it without the board kind of mulling over exactly what you want to see. That would be some historical and statistical impact kinds of things, just kind of a general summary report of the site itself, acreage, and then at some point in time I think the board's going to have to discuss that and decide if, in fact, they want to move forward, and if they do, in what fashion — prior to us developing a request for proposals because I wouldn't know how to write it ... I wouldn't know what to put together without some direction from the board, you're correct.''

Breeding noted that the motion was not to issue an RFP.

Alexander also suggested having the question of what to do with the corner placed on the city's Web site after the April 6 election to obtain residents' comments.

Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox said, "I would suggest that research include face-to-face meetings and discussions with the owners of the properties involved. I don't see how you can decide how to use someone's property without talking to them.''

Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore suggested the research also "could describe what would happen if you did nothing ...''

Breeding asked for public comments and Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance member John Foote said, "... You guys are seeing me basically because the moves that were made, at least the information coming through to me as a Crestwood citizen, upset the heck out of me. I did not care for the idea of rental properties one bit. A fair amount of our property in this city has started to drift towards rental property. We all understand the difference between owner occupied and rental occupied. The city is full of rental property in St. Louis and look what's happened. I'm not opposed to condominiums and I'm not opposed to a fair and equitable settlement involving people who have been taxpayers, i.e., the Boegeman family, being treated fairly.

"The way this was gone about smelled. That's why I got interested and I'm not by myself. So I strongly agree with Aldermen Maddox, LaBore and Alexander, listen to your citizens. You're trying to somehow explain almost a disastrous financial management and now you're going to go right back into: 'Oh, we're going to plow along.' I would hope you would sit and think. I've got a lot of smart people here, right in front of me, and I mean I'm very impressed with all of you. Don't make the mistake that we're all asleep at the switch ...,'' Foote added.

Aldermen then voted 7-0 to approve Trueblood's motion. Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent abstained.

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