CRESTWOOD, MO. (KTVI) – Residents in Crestwood got their first detailed look at a developer’s plans for the all-but-defunct Crestwood Mall. The proposed revival, dubbed The District of Crestwood, would involve the tearing down of all but one building on the current property, and building a $102 million entertainment complex. But they’re asking for public money to help.
There was a rainbow over Crestwood’s civic center as people filed in for the Tuesday meeting. Residents are just wondering if there will be a pot of gold where a white elephant of a mall currently sits.
Centrum Partners is the name of the Chicago developer pitching the project, but the man in charge, Sol Barket, is quick to point out to the crowd of more than 200 that he’s from St. Louis. For those asking the old question, high school was in Ladue.
“I am a St. Louis guy, born and bred here,” he says.
And that’s a big part of selling himself and his group to a room full of people wanting to know why their tax dollars should be part of the deal.
He pitches them on the fact that his company is picking up the vast majority of the cost, in the neighborhood of 75%. The remainder would be covered by a tax increment financing district. (TIF) Such districts essentially draw a portion of newly created tax revenue from a project and help pay the bill.
Barket says that kind of funding is necessary to pay for a project so large.
“We’re not taking anything that’s already theirs,” he says of taxpayers. “It’s something we are helping to create. And it’s creating increment for them to the city’s coffers. It’s a positive for everyone and a necessity to get this type of development approved.”
The development is not a shopping mall. The plan calls for demolition of everything currently in place except the old Macy’s building. That would house a fitness club of some sort. There would also be a grocery store. (Whole Foods is among the companies that have been approached.)
The remainder of the property would be home to outdoor dining, a movie complex, a “high end” bowling alley, a comedy club, a music venue, and other similar businesses.
“The type of retail that we’re proposing, the entertainment, is unique, and we feel really viable, and really doesn’t exist in St. Louis,” Barket said.
He also says the demographics of the surrounding area are perfect for such a development.
“They are phenomenal, and actually beat, in terms of density, any other location you could pick in metro St. Louis.”
Many residents who showed up at the meeting skeptical left impressed by the presentation.
“Initially I thought, ‘How’s another mall that’s not a shopping mall going to make it?’” Mary Vieth said. “I thought he explained it quite well and I tried to envision people coming from Kirkwood, Webster, Sunset Hills, and even west county, to try this interesting new concept. If they do it well, they’ll come back.”
Sarah Scollay owns a shipping store in town, and likes what the new complex would bring to the local economy, even with Crestwood pitching in millions of dollars.
“I think it’s a fair deal. I think Crestwood needs revitalization and as a Crestwood business owner I definitely think so,” she said.
Opponents actually proved to be tough to find. Those opposed expressed concern about using taxpayer dollars to help pay for a private project that stood to make the developers millions of dollars. None of the opponents we spoke to were willing to talk on camera.