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Market study critical to redevelopment of mall, Greer says


December 22, 2004 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A market analysis and feasibility study is critical to the proposed redevelopment of the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood, according to Crestwood City Administrator Don Greer.

The Board of Aldermen last week took the first steps toward the proposed redevelopment of the shopping center at Watson and Sappington roads by voting to adopt two ordinances — one approving a preliminary funding agreement with Westfield and the second approving an agreement with planning consultant Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets.

Under the terms of the approved preliminary funding agreement, Westfield will advance the city $97,250 to pay for planning studies, reports and legal documents needed to proceed with the redevelopment, which, as proposed, would in-volve such economic development tools as a Chapter 353 corporation to designate the project area as blighted and the creation of a Community Improvement District.

Westfield representatives, including Todd Rogan, development director, attended the Dec. 14 Board of Aldermen meeting, but did not provide any specifics of the proposed redevelopment, which city officials have described as a two-phase project.

Construction activities could begin in early April.

"... We're hoping to see a proposal on a new movie theater, similar to some of their other properties,'' Greer told the Call, citing the $70 million renovation and expansion project that is under way at the West-field Shoppingtown Chesterfield.

That project includes a 14-screen AMC Megaplex Theatre, new restaurants and ex-panded retail options.

"We're expecting to see a larger, newer facility. I think it's reasonable to assume that you'll see something done with the food court. You'll see much more effort on the east end of the mall or what we typically call the Dillard's end of the mall be-cause that's not as strong producing and I think that's where you'll see a lot of their effort,'' he said, adding that other work may involve the parking garage.

"A lot of that is why I really insisted on this market analysis, this feasibility study because it does more than just take a look at what Westfield is proposing, but it takes a look at the market that we're competing in ...,'' Greer said. "You've heard my big speech before about moving the dollar around. I think that happens a lot, especially in the economic times that we have be-cause everybody's so eager to get a store, get something going, we don't stop and think sometimes perhaps there are enough widget stores in town or in this market.''

Of the $97,250 in funding that will be advanced to the city, the market analysis and feasibility study will cost an estimated $32,000. The city will issue a request for proposals for the study, which will:

Define the primary and secondary market areas — including a demographic profile — for the Watson Road Commercial Corridor as well as the proposed project and compare this market area and profile with other existing retail development nodes that represent potential competitive locations.

Develop a projection of the future market profile for the next 20 years focusing on demographic characteristics of the market area population, potential housing, retail, and office markets; and review the developer's proposed project and anticipated development program.

Review the developer's proposed project and anticipated development program.

Westfield owns six malls in the St. Louis area and renovations and expansions malls in south county and west county have had a negative impact on Crestwood mall, Greer said, adding that he also is concerned about the merger of Kmart and Sears.

"I'm eager to see what happens to this Sears/Kmart thing right now. I think the smart money says that all these Sears are going to be leaving the malls and that's not a good thing. That's one of the three anchors that's in our mall and one of the anchors already doesn't do real well ...,'' he said.

Also working against the Crestwood center is its location.

"We're rightfully so, a little concerned. Crestwood Plaza doesn't sit on an interstate and that means you have to want to come here and that means you've got to have target stores, destination places, and that's what we're really pushing for,'' Greer said. "That's why the market analysis is so important. What does this market not have? Is there something we can do to support, bolster all the other stores that are in there? You know, one end of the mall is very good; pro-duces very well. One is just not as strong and their efforts right now look to me, at least from a preliminary standpoint, are de-signed to bolster that, to work that. We're very excited to see the depth and breadth of what they're discussing ...,'' Greer said.

Besides the market analysis and feasibility study, advance funds will be used for:

The primary legal counsel for the redevelopment process. The city will appoint the firm of Armstrong Teasdale as special Chapter 353/Community Improvement Dis-trict 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 financing op-tions to fund improvements and services, including special assessments, real prop-erty taxes and fees.

The expenses of City Attorney Rob Gol-terman beyond his retainer with the city — an estimated cost of $7,500.

The services of PGAV — $32,750. "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 Shopping-town, the potential for creation of a Com-munity Improvement District in the project area, and the potential for designation of the project area as 'blighted' under various redevelopment statutes,'' Greer wrote in a memorandum to the board.

Tax-increment financing will not be used in the redevelopment of the Westfield Shop-pingtown Crestwood, Greer emphasized.

"Westfield came to us with a TIF. I told them no TIFs. I don't like TIFs. There is a time and a place for them. This is neither the time nor the place and the project is not as fully developed as I'd like to see it with regard to all of the aspects. There are some things we talked about and I think it's reasonable to assume those things will occur, those things I listed earlier. But there's so much more that's in there that I'm looking forward to seeing. Westfield is working very hard and I am very pleased with the preliminary looks that we're getting at some of their long-term plans — the long-term, five-year kind of stuff. We're really happy to see that. It's confirmation that Westfield is in-vesting Crestwood,'' Greer said.

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