A Crestwood-issued permit for temporary dirt stockpile storage was provided on March 1, 2017, to developers who own property that previously was the city's iconic shopping mall at Watson and Sappington roads. The permit just expired July 18, triggering the developers to be cited by Crestwood city officials.
At press time, Crestwood city staffers were still hoping to reach a new agreement this week with the developers so a proper grading permit for the site could be authorized.
After paying $3.6 million for the defunct mall in an online auction, Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group LLC executives proposed a $104 million mixed-use development for the previous Crestwood Plaza site. But, since 2014 they have yet to launch new construction for the project they call "The Crest."
In the meantime, the vacant lot is drawing complaints from residents and drivers who call it the "Mount Crestwood eyesore."
Some residents are now also concerned about the dense vegetation growing on and pulling down the orange safety fence at the site.
Crestwood resident Bill Olson said the unkempt, vacant property is "pulling down on community goodwill" from the perspective of city pride.
"What is this doing to the fabric of our community?" he asked.
Crestwood City Administrator Kris Simpson said city staffers met with UrbanStreet representatives on July 11 to discuss options for addressing the lingering, unsightly dirt stockpiles at the 47-acre project site.
The dirt mounds were placed on-site when unearthed soil became available from a Centene building project elsewhere. Even more soil is needed to level the slope of the overall land parcel. Simpson said the objective is to make the area even with Watson Road.
He said the recent goal was to outline a new grading permit that would enable the large dirt mounds to be moved and temporarily leveled. However, before a grading permit could be assessed and approved, a site plan regarding utilities was needed.
"They also need to deal with the dirt to remove the parking lot, so the situation reflects a domino effect. No one expected to still be dealing with the dirt mounds at this point, and to their credit, the developers recognize the situation needs to be addressed," Simpson added.
Simpson said the new plan was to level the dirt mounds, get rid of the tall grass and address the general cleanliness of the area. He said they hope native prairie grasses are planted on the lot after the dirt is rearranged.
"We're waiting to see the updated plan, after our third round of revisions. We're very close, and thought it would be taken care of this week," he added.
However, Simpson said the city's grading permit would be valid only through the next six months, likely through January 2019 if it's issued soon. If that new deadline passes and the developers have not begun grading out the dirt, he said UrbanStreet would be cited and potentially fined for every day they are in violation.
The administrator said citations are referred to municipal court, and potential fines to UrbanStreet would be handled by the judge.
UrbanStreet's original plan was to attract two or three adjoining, large retail businesses to anchor a new facility. It also was to have a walking path that links to nearby Grant's Trail. Now, Simpson said the mixed-use development plan is shifting to office spaces above first-floor retail shops, restaurants, a multi-screen movie theater, social spaces, loft units and senior living.
"The most recent plans emulate experiences like what people get at Kirkwood Station, Richmond Heights or the streets of downtown St. Charles," Simpson said.
The question remains about when UrbanStreet will land new tenants. Last summer, the developers reported they hoped to open new buildings, shops and apartments at The Crest to the public by late 2018.
Simpson noted that the city's redevelopment agreement with UrbanStreet, which covers public assistance incentives, expires in April 2019.