Some now describe one of South St. Louis County's most iconic properties as a war zone. Some say it's an eye sore. Some drive by it on Watson Road, sighing about all the great memories of hanging out there. At one time, it was "the" place to be, even a place to see Santa arrive via a helicopter.
Amid the mounds of dirt and rubble on the 47-acre tract that used to be Crestwood Plaza hangs a silent optimism about the start of a new year. Yet, Crestwood City Administrator Kris Simpson said the redevelopment project is still in a holding pattern, but one that's expected to progress soon.
Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group representatives paid $3.6 million in 2014 for the defunct mall in an online auction, and since reportedly worked on concepts to reinvent the space through a tax-supported plan. This initiative is UrbanStreet's first big suburban redevelopment project.
Simpson said demolition of the mall's previous structures was completed last fall, and that Crestwood officials are waiting for new site project plans to review. During 2016, the teardown and rebuilding route was estimated to be a three-year process.
"They (UrbanStreet Group) could call tomorrow, or then again, it could be in a couple of months. We'll trumpet it out loud when they do," he said.
Simpson said the redevelopment team definitely had been focused on concepts regarding new retail space executions with entertainment and a senior housing component. A zoning change for the site from planned development/commercial to planned development/mixed use was put in place by Crestwood Board of Aldermen to allow options.
"We remain open to offices being included there as well," said Simpson.
Crestwood City Planner Adam Jones said grading plans would be a likely next phase for the redevelopment project. He said some dirt mounds were placed on-site when unearthed soil became available from a Centene building project elsewhere. More soil is needed to level the slope of the overall parcel of land. He added that the dirt mounds can't be rearranged over the area until a grading plan is approved for the overall property.
To receive the tax incentives offered by Crestwood city officials, Simpson said any new plans must qualify for the conditions set forth in 2016.
The 1.1 million-square-foot enclosed mall went dark in July 2013, after 56 years of operation. The once popular site, originally erected in 1957 as an open-air, L-shaped shopping hub, previously was known as Crestwood Shopping Center and then Crestwood Court. It was the first truly regional mall in the St. Louis area.
By the mid-1980s, the mall had been expanded six times, growing to include 140-plus stores and restaurants and nearly 5,000 parking spaces. The three major retailers were Sears, Dillards and Famous-Barr Co.
By June 2012, the U.S. Post Office was one of two surviving businesses at Crestwood Plaza .It closed in 2013, along with Lens Crafters.
Prior to being a mega-shopping destination, the property was a worm farm and popular stop for fishermen on their way to the Meramec River.
Will it once again be in the forefront of South County by becoming a new lifestyle center? 2018 may be the year for this local phoenix to rise from the ashes.