Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Crestwood Court: Anatomy of a Dead Mall or Emerging Arts Center?

The former Dillards building at Crestwood Court

Last week I had to go out to my dentist at Gravois and Sappington and on my way back to the City I decided to stop by Crestwood Court (formerly Crestwood Plaza) to check out ArtSpace.  It was almost noon on a Tuesday morning when I arrived.  What I found was somewhat erie.  It reminded me of the last days of St. Louis Centre.  Of the 110+/- spaces, only about a dozen to 15 retail stores remain open.  Sears is the only of three anchor tenants remaining.  

The former entrance into Dillards from inside the mall now boarded

Of the vacated retail spaces, about half have been filled with arts organizations through the ArtSpace program where artists and arts related groups can lease storefront spaces for the bargain rate of $100 per month.  Many of the spaces are rented to small theater groups, so they are only open for limited times for shows and rehearsals.  A few storefronts were open as studio/galleries for artists, but the general level of activity was very low.  More than half of the few dozen people I saw while walking the entire length of the center and back were obviously mall walkers.

Limited and other Limited Brand stores are some of the few retailers remaining

While I find the concept of ArtSpace very interesting and the efforts of the center's owner, Sol Barket of Centrum Properties commendable, I wonder what is sustainable at the site for the long term?  To be fair, Centrum has let the arts tenants know that this could be a temporary situation.  Centrum bought the mall in March 2008 with the intension of demolishing it and building a new open air pedestrian friendly lifestyle shopping and entertainment center with about half a million square feet of space.  With the fallout of the economic crash though don't look for this to happen any time soon.  The retail marketplace is way over built and financing for additional retail centers is highly unlikely.  

Day Spring School of the Arts has taken the former Eddie Bauer space

Building a large amount of new office space or new a couple thousand residential units also seems unlikely for at least the next few years if not longer.  What then do you do with a million square feet of space sitting on 48 acres?  Some of the statistics about the mall are staggering.  According to an article in the St. Louis Business Journal, the market value of the center plummeted from $99.3 million when Westfield bought it in 1998 to $17.5 million when it was sold to Centrum 2008.  In terms of filling the million square feet, the ArtSpace initiative has filled about 200,000 s.f., and according to the article has actually helped attract about half a dozen new non-arts tenants, although it seems that others have closed in the last year.


Instead of demolishing the mall and starting over to create an outdoor center, Centrum could simply turn the front of the mall (the stores on the Watson side of the center corridor) inside out by building new storefronts on the exterior and marketed to typical mall retailers.  The vacant Macy's and Dillards building could be subdivided and marketed toward mid-sized retailers or altered for users looking for large blocks of open & relatively inexpensive office space.  Remaining retailers on north side of the mall corridor would be relocated to face Watson and these spaces could remain for ArtSpace tenants with the mall corridor itself being transformed into a linear gallery.  This type of transformation would cost far less than a tear down & re-built, and with the relatively low acquisition cost (less than $20/sf), would be far more feasible to finance.


For an interesting history of the evolution of Crestwood Plaza from its beginning in 1957, take a look at Mall Hall of Fame (pan down past the Northland entry).  Also interesting to note, on Monday there was a story in the Post about Chesterfield Mall offering a smaller number of spaces to arts organizations.  Also, yesterday, Macy's announced it would close its store at Northwest Plaza, so like Crestwood, only Sears will remain as an anchor.


10 comments:

Cockbag LLC said...

It seems like retail fronting Watson and high density housing behind would be a good mix once the economy rebounds. It's a central location within 270 in a good school district. Seems like it would be a great location to build homes if it is financially feasible.

atorchandtonic said...

Watson road in Crestwood has too much retail space now as it is (much of it vacant); Crestwood has been a poor steward of regulating it and always counted on the MALL tax revenue to support them.....something about all your eggs in one basket... oops. As for the theaters (performing art centers, small-box groups etc) I like the idea and wish them luck, but for art galleries it seems a bit unrealistic; if art galleries are having a difficult time 'WHERE THE MONEY IS AT, the Crestwood location will not be the answer.

Cockbag LLC said...

Once I looked at the layout on the linked site it seems like it would be best to keep the Dillards and movie theater along with the parking garage to be repurposed for some kind of retail. With 48 acres and an $18 million dollar investment already I am not sure if you could sell residential lots in that area for $375,000/acre not including demolition and site construction costs. It will be interesting to see how it will be transformed.

john w. said...

It won't be transformed for some time. It will remain as is, which is better than a vacant lot.

Anonymous said...

Chevy's pulling out last year was another (last)blow, probably more so than Sears remaining. If the owners were smart they could use the parking garage for events or turn it into a skate-park.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand the parking garage is in really bad shape and not a very safe place of a gathering.

Anonymous said...

As a Crestwood resident I have grown increasingly irritated and disgusted with Crestwood Court. I understand that the current owners could not have predicted a financial meltdown but at the same time should have been responsible in purchasing the property and planned funding appropriately. I now refer to "Art Space" as "Waste of Space". I believe that if the facility was rebuilt or redesigned, that with the buy in of major retailers, people would return to shop. I know I would prefer to shop there instead of SoCo or WestCo Malls. The Crestwood Govt has also failed in assisting these developers with long term plans. Such a shame...

Nicholas Allen said...

Hi, I was wondering if one was to say, have art (drawings anyway but they're good) where I'd have to actually GO inside of the mall to get invited to the event happening on October the 22nd (the art thing)... Are there any rules regarding media of said product? I really just want to put some 18x24 drawings up. Also, is nudity a humongous problem? It shouldn't be. This is art. I hope I can get in. I dont expect anyone to buy this shit but I at least want people to SEE what 36 hours of penciling looks like....

Vanishing STL said...

Nicholas, I would say try calling the management of Crestwood Court. The number on their website is: 314 962-2395. I don't have any contacts there. I must say their site is weak on details about the event and your comment is the first I've heard of it, so some outreach on their part would be good to get the word out. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

With the announced closing of the Crestwood Court Sears, the last link to the original Crestwood Plaza will be gone. The shopping mall that once symbolized the outward suburban expansion and explosive population growth of the 1950's now has one foot in the grave. The city of Crestwood, decaying from within for a number of years, might soon follow.