The proposal to convert the shuttered Shop ‘n Save building at 10461 Manchester Road into an enclosed drive-thru self-storage facility is now before the Kirkwood City Council.
The Nolan Brothers of Fort Worth, developer of the project, made their case for the project at a public hearing before the council on Jan. 3.
The four-part proposal comes without a recommendation for approval from the Kirkwood Planning and Zoning Commission. The commissioners, with eight of its nine members present, voted down three of the four parts of the proposal in a 4-4 tie. The fourth part, a plan to turn the rear 3.3 acres of the 8.6-acre property into a storage lot for surplus inventory from Kirkwood Audi, was defeated outright, 3-5.
The EZ Storage proposal will be on the council’s Jan. 17 agenda. Since all four petitions comprising the plan were voted down by the planning commission, a 5-2 majority of the council would be required to approve any or all of them.
Mark Kornfeld, managing director of Retail Services for the Sansone Group, provided the council a lecture on the economics of commercial real estate. He created a strong impression that the current state of the market presents little prospect of a high-end retail operation, as mused upon by members of the planning commission before their vote, occupying the site.
Why? Internet retail sales are dominating the marketplace.
“When I would come home during the month of December, my front porch looked like an Amazon truck had exploded there – boxes were everywhere,” said Kornfeld.
If the EZ Storage proposal fails, the 122,000-square-foot Shop ‘n Save structure likely will be remodeled into office space, Kornfeld said.
Meanwhile, Kirkwood would be fortunate to have an EZ Storage on its northeastern doorstep, as it suits the city’s Envision 35 master plan better than any likely alternative development, according to Robert Klahr, an attorney from Armstrong Teasdale representing the Nolan Brothers at the hearing.
A low-key self-storage operation – and an overflow lot for an auto dealership – combined with a row of retail operations on the border of the property facing Manchester, will make the project an economic winner and also a good neighbor to surrounding residential properties, said Klahr.
“We believe our proposed development strikes the balance between providing the highest and best use for the property while protecting the adjacent neighborhood,” Klahr said. “It allows for the repurposing of an older existing building that’s vacant and potentially economically obsolete, which furthers one of the goals of the comprehensive plan to foster economic opportunity.”
Representatives of some of the site’s prominent neighbors endorse the EZ Storage proposal. Each cited the relatively low intensity of the proposed usage as a major plus.
“It is imperative to our operation that the adjacent property not increase traffic and light and have minimal noise disruption,” said Ron Brunz, chief financial officer for the Carmelite Sisters, proprietors of the St. Agnes Home at 10341 Manchester, immediately east of the property.
Schnucks Markets, through Associate General Counsel Jed Penney, said it was glad to see “productive, attractive uses” come to the Shop ‘n Save property.
The Sansone Group has no interest in reconverting the property into a grocery operation, Kornfeld said. The competition in the area, primarily from Schnucks, is daunting. In addition, his firm’s sales agreement contains a deed restriction prohibiting food retailing.
The city of Huntleigh, just north of the property, also endorsed the project, sending Aldermen John Hughes as a representative.
For the project, the Nolan Brothers made an offer of cash in the form of a “Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)” program. The partners would compensate the city, at a rate to be negotiated, an amount to cover presumed losses of sales tax revenue resulting from a low-key storage operation replacing a high-volume grocery store.