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Crestwood considers first steps of mall redevelopment proposal


December 15, 2004 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

The first steps toward the proposed redevelopment of the West-field Shoppingtown Crestwood were scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

In a memorandum to the Board of Aldermen, City Administra-tor Don Greer noted that city staff and representatives of Westfield have met periodically over the past year regarding a potential redevelopment project at Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.

"Westfield representatives informed us in early November that they would like to move forward with a redevelopment/rehabilitation project at Crestwood Plaza,'' Greer wrote.

To proceed with the proposed two-phase project, city staff has asked Westfield to advance the city funds to pay for planning studies, reports and legal documents needed to proceed with the proposed redevelopment, which could in-volve such economic development tools as a Chapter 353 corporation in which the project area could be designated as blighted, and the creation of a Community Improve-ment District.

No specific details about the proposed redevelopment were included in Greer's memorandum.

An ordinance approving a preliminary funding agreement with Westfield was scheduled to be considered by aldermen Tuesday night in which the company would advance the city $97,250.

As proposed, $32,750 of the advance funding would be used for the services of a planning consultant — Peck-ham, Guyton, Albers & Viets — and an ordinance approving an agreement with the firm also was scheduled to be considered by aldermen Tuesday night.

"At Westfield Corp.'s request, city staff is seeking assistance from the consulting firm of Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets — PGAV — to assess the feasibility of a combined program of rehabilitation and redevelopment of Crestwood Westfield Shoppingtown, the potential for creation of a Community Improvement District in the project area, and the potential for designation of the project area as 'blighted' under various redevelopment statutes,'' Greer wrote.

Regarding PGAV, the city administrator wrote, "The proposed scope of services includes preparation of a blighting analysis, preparation of a redevelopment RFP (request for proposals), evaluation of proposals, the development of revenue projections, as well as other items to assist city staff and municipal officials. PGAV is proposing to undertake the work described in the contract's scope of services for a fee of $32,750, including reimbursable expenses. Compensation associated with the attached con-tract for technical services is to be paid with advance funds provided to the city by Westfield Corp. pursuant to the preliminary funding agreement.''

Advance funds also would be used for:

The primary legal counsel for the redevelopment pro-cess. As proposed, the city would appoint the firm of Arm-strong Teasdale as special Chapter 353/Community Im-provement District counsel at a cost of $25,000.

Under the state's Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law, Chapter 353 tax abatement is an incentive that can be utilized by cities to encourage the redevelopment of blighted areas.

Community Improvement Districts can utilize several fi-nancing options to fund improvements and services, in-cluding special assessments, real property taxes and fees.

A market analysis and feasibility study that would cost an estimated $32,000.

"The city desires a market study to increase the city's understanding of the potential impacts of the proposed project on the city's existing retail base, as well as the position of the greater Watson Road Commercial District in the market, particularly compared to nearby competing commercial districts,'' according to documentation accompanying the proposed preliminary funding agreement.

Expenses of City Attorney Rob Golterman beyond his retainer with the city — an estimated cost of $7,500.

The ordinance to approve the preliminary funding agreement with Westfield, states, that the "developer seeks to redevelop the Crestwood Westfield Shoppingtown and certain parcels immediately adjacent thereto ...''

The ordinance also states: "... The city desires to further explore the feasibility of such improvements, as well as financing such improvements, in part, through a Section 353 corporation and formation of a Community Improve-ment District ...''

During a recent town-hall meeting sponsored by Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Mi-guel, Mayor Tom Fagan addressed a number of issues, in-cluding the city's financial difficulties and the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.

"... I've had a number of meetings with Westfield. You're right. I have — we all have tremendous concerns about the mall,'' he said. "Let's face it, it is the 800-pound gorilla for our city. We are sales-tax driven. If the mall does not perform, we don't perform. So what do we have to do? We've had a number of discussions. Westfield has concerns, obviously. They have a couple proposals that they're looking at, but unfortunately these things take time and you have to keep in mind, Westfield is a multi-billion dollar industry or company out of Australia with their U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. They have other malls, I think they have six or seven other malls in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. As most of you know, they spend an enormous amount of money at West County, fixing that up. Now that obviously hurt us somewhat with rehab because what they told me the other day is it has taken people who are younger, maybe 16 to 25 to 30, who would normally spend their money or who formerly spent their money at Crest-wood, now go to West County. So that's hurt us.

"... The other thing that's hurt us is they've spent a lot of money updating South County mall,'' the mayor continued. "Frankly, that's hurt us as well. There is nothing we as a city can do to prevent Westfield from spending money at other places to update their malls. So what do we do? We try to work with them. We're going to try to take a pro-active approach about seeing anything that the city can do within reason — that doesn't mean we give away the store — but if they say: 'Listen, we need to do this. We need to partner up.' We're willing to do it. We've been having talks ... The city, obviously we're doing things with Westfield. I'm unfortunately not at liberty to say what the proposals are at this time. I know that you hear that all the time from politicians. I'm not a politician. I'm a lawyer by trade. That probably makes you more unhappy about that,'' he said to laughter. "But it's one of those things that hopefully we have some news for you coming up. You have to keep in mind that Westfield has an enormous interest in seeing this mall do well as well because they spent a lot of money when they bought it a couple of years ago.

"Now here's what I'm going to tell you what the problem with the mall is and you know what, we can't fix it. The mall is not on an interstate. Think about the malls today. How many of them are on a major interstate or have interstate access? West County. South County. Mid-Rivers. Ches-terfield ... So that's a structural defect that we are not going to overcome, unfortunately,'' Fagan said.

"The other thing is that they're landlocked, per se. If the want to do some things, they may have to tear down or they may have to add on. It makes the cost prohibitive. And that leads me into the next point. You know, a lot has been bantered about in the past years about TIFs (Tax Increment Financing) and TDDs (Transportation Development District) and CIDs and all these vehicles that the state has for use for municipalities. A lot of people I think have some misconceptions about what they're for and what they mean. You know, frankly we're getting our heads caved in by Kirkwood, Sunset Hills and Fenton because they've been pro-active in taking an approach and using these developments or these type of vehicles to go out and get Gravois Bluffs, to get Kirkwood Commons, to get the Plaza at Sunset Hills,'' he said.

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