Crestwood enthusiasts miss and clearly want their iconic neighborhood gathering spot back.
Various Crestwood residents envision creative plans for "Mount Crestwood" — the vacant, former Crestwood Plaza property along Watson and Sappington roads. So much so, they're getting vocal with city officials about how they'd like redevelopment efforts to step up the pace.
In the vacuum of reconstruction, residents are stepping up with suggestions.
Future development plans, however, are in the control of Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group LLC executives, who proposed a $104 million mixed-use development for the site after paying $3.6 million for the defunct mall four years ago.
Several concerned residents unexpectedly ended up at the same Crestwood Aug. 28 board meeting, and got to meet each other to swap ideas.
One trait they have in common is that they haven't given up on Crestwood's opportunities for increased consumer-based vibrancy.
During public comments at the meeting, Jan Butler, a Crestwood resident for 20 years, suggested Crestwood should return to looking more like a community, "not just a thoroughfare to get to Kirkwood where it's still fun."
She told board members it would be nice to reshape the former mall site into a thriving town square, such as ones she witnessed while traveling in other countries.
She's not alone in wanting something productive to happen on the 47 acres now referenced by UrbanStreet as The Crest. In May, Crestwood resident Jennifer Wood stated in a South County Times letter to the editor that Crestwood "should take a page from Kirkwood's book" and not put in apartments, condos and a grocery store at the site.
"Make the area a pedestrian-friendly destination. Have a mid-priced restaurant, a fast casual restaurant, a coffee place. Have a spot for food trucks, a farmers market and a snow cone stand. How about a multi-use amphitheater? Build a parking garage with free parking. What about a pop-up restaurant?" Wood posed.
"The key is to keep people coming back. If you need proof it will work, try finding a parking spot in Kirkwood on a Saturday."
Then in July, Bob Carpenter of Concord Village suggested: "While we wait for someone to come up with a viable commercial plan for the old Crestwood Mall property, let's make use of it for a park with athletic fields."
At the Aug. 28 board meeting, aldermen Mary Stadter and Justin Charboneau referenced ideas proposed by Crestwood residents Dennis and Patti Augustyniak. The couple indicated they were in favor of a mixed-use concept for the former mall site, but stated they didn't believe the site will ever be successful again as a regional shopping mall.
Instead, the Augustyniaks recommended a destination plan with all Route 66-themed venues, such as a craft brewery, restaurant, The Mother Road gift shop, "affordable" ice cream store, indoor/outdoor miniature golf course, donut shop and movie theater with a drive-in ambiance.
They also suggested a playground with wigwam and teepee motif, as well as an amphitheater sporting Crestwood's history and unique Route 66 connection.
"We don't have the entrepreneurial spirit ourselves. We humbly consider ourselves Crestwood citizens who would like to see sensible, carefully balanced and thoughtfully reasoned redevelopment that benefits the whole Crestwood community," the Augustyniaks wrote to their aldermen.
A Theater & Concert Venue
Other Crestwood residents who do carry an entrepreneurial torch are John and Angela Sebben. They submitted a thorough and documented plan for the former mall site in March to then-mayor Gregg Roby. That threefold plan includes a theater/concert hall venue for live entertainment to seat 400 to 600 guests; museums to showcase local and regional history; and an educational arts center.
"Together, these three parts serve as physical destination points — not something one can experience virtually — serving not only Crestwood, but the entire region," John Sebben said, adding that his goal is to make Crestwood, home of the original KSHE-95 radio station, the heart of classic rock in St. Louis once again.
The artifacts are already available to create four museums: St. Louis Classic Rock and Pop Culture Hall of Fame, Route 66 Museum, St. Louis High School Museum and International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, he added.
This grassroots effort is led by the St. Louis Classic Rock Preservation Society, a local 501(c)(3) charitable organization, he said.
Angela Sebben said they also want to restore the city's anchor as being one of America's Avenues by preserving and displaying history, "reminding the region that Crestwood is once again the place to be." She also suggested devoted space to a park, senior facility and office buildings.
The Sebbens said Roby promised to pass on the plans to UrbanStreet, but they haven't received any responses. However, their passion and seriousness about the project led them to launch a new website about it on Sept 4 – crestwoodmall.com – along with a Facebook page.
John said pop rocker J.D. Blackfoot was willing to financially support such a venue to use as a music academy when not hosting live events.
"J.D. also has other vacated retail spaces in mind along Watson, if something can't be worked out on the former mall site," said John Sebben.
Pamela Wucher, UrbanStreet project manager for The Crest, said she's heard different redevelopment ideas, many of them very good.
"It comes down to funding and finding the right backers," she noted, adding that they charged retail developers Walpert Properties with hunting and chasing down ideas.
Wucher said anyone with concepts can email email@example.com.