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City seeks redevelopment proposals despite possibility of eminent domain

May 18, 2005 - The city of Crestwood will seek proposals to redevelop the southeast corner of Wat-son and Old Sappington roads despite the possibility that the use of eminent domain might be requested.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last week to issue a request for proposals to redevelop the 5.7-acre site that is comprised of six properties containing a muffler repair shop, two multi-tenant retail centers, two residential properties and a vacant lot.

Aldermen voted to issue the RFP after re-ceiving a request from the primary owner of the property seeking the city's assistance in redeveloping the site. Bob Brink-mann of Brinkmann Constructors, representing Old Southwest Square, asked the city to initiate the RFP process, Ellen Dailey, the city's economic development specialist, wrote in a May 10 memorandum to City Administrator Don Greer.

"The proposed development project is the culmination of over two years of planning and discussion on the part of both the city and the property owners,'' Dailey wrote.

In her memo, Dailey notes that the site is included in the city's Watson Road Commercial District Plan that was approved earlier this month by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.

"The proposed project area is also identified as a key property — Site B — in the Watson Road Commercial District Plan. The plan recommends the complete redevelopment of the site as a planned commercial development with primarily retail commercial uses,'' Dailey wrote. "Mr. Brinkmann and his partners currently control approximately 93 percent of the proposed redevelopment area ...''

During the May 10 Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore asked, "... What assistance has the proposed developer asked for already? What does he have in mind?''

City Administrator Don Greer replied that the concepts of such economic tools as a Community Improvement District and a Chapter 353 urban redevelopment corporation have been discussed.

LaBore asked, "... Eminent domain included in that 353?''

Greer said, "... The potential is there.''

Mayor Roy Robinson later said, "... I looked at this development that the owners are proposing and I was pleased with it, and it takes a lot for me to go along with the potential of an eminent domain. But in our talks with the owners of that, I have emphasized the fact that I wanted them to make every effort to purchase any properties they needed and they assured me that they were making every effort to do that to keep us out of that business.

"But this particular project is very important to our city ... I think you all ought to know I think this will clearly send a signal to the business community that Crestwood isn't dead, that Crestwood has something to offer and I think, as I cannot speak about the tenants, I think most of you will be very pleased to know the kind of tenants we will be getting here ...,'' the mayor continued. "It takes a lot to make me happy about something like this because of the 353 being involved, but it's a very small thing. It's not like we're trying to take over a whole area. They have control of all but just a little small portion and I might be persuaded to agree with them because I think it's — I've always said if this is something that will provide Crest-wood, all of Crestwood, something, which it will, that's revenue. I'd be hard to go against it ...''

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel later asked, "So they're asking for some tax abatement in addition to eminent domain?''

Greer said, "Potentially. They're all going to be evaluated.''

Robinson said, "I think, Alderman Miguel, that they're asking for all this in anticipation that they may need them. What I stressed to them very strongly is I don't — I would prefer they take care of this on their own and not rely on the city to take care of all of it. I am aware of the CID, which I just read about this weekend, but the TIF — the TIF, I specifically asked one of those people about TIF and they said TIF was not part of this project. So if it changes, then I will, I'll have to re-look at it too, so.''

Ward 4 Alderman Joseph O'Keefe said, "The 353, just for clarification, I'm not trying to belabor the point, but that involves the potential of eminent domain ... and you're OK with that potential?''

Robinson said, "... Let's not talk about eminent domain because I've asked them to buy the property.''

O'Keefe said, "OK.''

Robinson continued, "... Although as I said before, be-cause of the importance to the whole city, and I've always stated this, if one little piece was the stopping block and we could not get any results any other way after every effort had been made, then I wouldn't be opposed to doing it because we have to do what's best for the city overall.''

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding later said, "A lot of people in the audience told this board to wake up. I say the whole city wakes up. We're visiting possible eminent domain here and it's an old scar and an old bruise, but we had an opportunity to bring in 700 residents down at Value City, which would have added our own captive audience to buy things there, to play here, to work here, but yet that wasn't good enough ...

"We revisit these things and we think we live inside this box. Hell's bells, tonight, across town in Sunset Hills, they're voting on a $42 million TIF and we're crying about a 7 percent eminent domain. Wake up, people. This is not Crestwood Plaza where the big stores are. Who remembers that jingle?

"This is a new territory. We're not on a highway. We've got to create a market and for us to even be fretting about using any kind of financial vehicle to get these awesome retailers in here, we need to slap ourselves and say wake up,'' the Ward 1 alderman continued.

"And it's also time to revisit Value City again. People are dying to move in here. It's a great community — if you don't come to board meetings. So let's move forward with this. I was going to vote no on principle for the fact that in my book that Value City thing started the whole deterioration. But yet, if you would have 700 to 1,000 people there right now in attached villas, condos, apartments, we would not be talking the same way we're talking today. Crest-wood Mall would not be as dead as it is today because people would live here, work here, play here and hope their dollars would stay here ...,'' Breeding said, making a motion to issue the RFP.

Board members then voted unanimously to issue the RFP with proposals due in 30 days.

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