ST. LOUIS COUNTY — County officials seeking to make use of the long-shuttered Jamestown Mall site shifted strategy Thursday, announcing plans to tear down the blighted building in an effort to attract new development.
“We will work together,” Webb said, “… as we reimagine the vision for Jamestown Mall property.”
The Authority plans to seek a wide array of funding, Maupin said, including a portion of federal aid that St. Louis County is set to receive through the American Recovery Plan Act. The County Council is expected to meet Saturday to continue early planning talks for how to appropriate the $193 million in aid, which comes with federal regulations for use.
“Where we can get money, we’ll take it,” Maupin said during the announcement. “Because we need it desperately to accomplish the goals that we all want to accomplish at Jamestown.”
Closed since 2014
The mall, first opened in 1973, lost business over time as newer malls opened closer to the region’s interstate highways. After it closed in 2014, the site became a nuisance that troubled residents in neighboring subdivisions.
In 2017, the county moved to assemble all the property under one owner so the site could be more easily redeveloped. Webb’s predecessor, Rochelle Walton Gray, who also called for a community center or retail site, tried to put control of the project under the County Council, but the council rejected the move.
Later that year, a previous Port Authority board, under former County Executive Steve Stenger, bought the mall. In 2018, Port Authority officials thought they had a deal with Kansas City-based NorthPoint Logistics, a warehouse and logistics developer that was the only company to respond to the Port Authority’s request for proposals.
But the deal fell through amid political infighting and a federal indictment of Stenger on corruption charges, which revealed Stenger’s office believed Walton Gray would be bought off on the redevelopment plan by having the developer hire her father.
The political scandals prompted a newly seated Port Authority to reissue a request for proposals for the mall in January 2020, spending tens of thousands of dollars maintaining the property as well as legal and engineering fees while it sought a buyer and negotiated a contract.
After advertising nationally for a buyer, NorthPoint was the only respondent. In May, the Port Authority signed a resolution to have NorthPoint lead a roughly $75.8 million large-scale commercial and industrial development on the former mall site.
But Webb, who unseated Walton Gray in the August Democratic primary, announced last week that she opposed the plan, which would have required approval from the county’s planning and zoning commission and the seven-member County Council. Other members on the council were unlikely to challenge colleagues’ interests in projects within their districts.
Webb on Thursday said residents were hesitant about “making an industrialized area out of a middle-class neighborhood.”
“What we were presented with as an option was going to do just that,” Webb said, suggesting instead a mixed-use facility that could include a combination of retail, grocery stores, housing or a community center. ”I believe that the Jamestown site would be an optimal location for such a development.”
‘Something that is positive’
Maupin, who acknowledged community opposition to a large warehouse facility, said the Port Authority wants “something that is positive and something that is worthwhile for the Jamestown mall site.”
But it will take time.
“We want to make sure that everything is covered and everything is done completely above board without any question whatsoever,” he said.
Last week, Maupin said NorthPoint had estimated it would have spent about $4 million to demolish the mall building as part of its redevelopment plan.
He said Thursday that the estimate didn’t include a range of other costs, including demolishing the surrounding parking lot, the price of construction materials, and contractors’ wages.
Abatement would allow a contractor to assess the site for contaminants, from asbestos to mold, to inform the Port Authority of any environmental hazards to workers who demolish the building, Maupin said.
“You have to have a plan to abate the environmental issues before you could move forward to even receiving bids for the cleanup itself,” Maupin said.
Webb vowed to hold more community town halls and “make sure that we are accountable and transparent to the residents, the business owners, the laborers, all of us.”
“We all need to be able to fit, and benefit, from this opportunity,” she said.