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Crestwood Court: Inside an American “dead mall”

Petar Djajkovski

Crestwood Court, also known as Crestwood Plaza and Westfield Crestwood, is an abandoned shopping center located in Crestwood, Missouri. Originally built as an open air mall, Crestwood Plaza was enclosed in 1984.

It was opened in 1957 as the first mall to have more than one department store as well as one of the major malls in the area of St. Louis area. The three main brands that served as anchors to the store which were Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Sears, all closed, resulting in closure of the whole center.

Crestwood Plaza, Crestwood, MO, USA, exterior – Author: Khazar2Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

Crestwood Plaza, Crestwood, MO, USA, exterior – Author: Khazar2Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

The mall was a child of local retail developers Louis and Milton Zorensky. They managed to attract major local stores to the mall rather than international or interstate brands, a local patriotic move which led to a good business from the start.

Crestwood Court was the first major mall to have a split-level parking lot, a normal thing these days, allowing direct access to both floors of the anchor stores. Later in 1963, the Zorenskys developed the second mall in St. Louis, The Northwest Plaza. In 1967 they expanded Crestwood Plaza, adding Stix Baer & Fuller as its third big department store.

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

The mall operators had a problem which resulted in a lawsuit in 1975. One of the supermarket leaseholders closed their shop and sub-let it’s space in the mall to another brand. This was not okay with the owners as someone was making profit on their grounds. The lawsuit ruled in favor of the store that sub-let, making the owners of the mall pay for all the court expenses.

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Plaza was purchased by Westfield Group in 1998 and they renamed it Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood. The company operated several shopping malls in the St. Louis area until 2007.

Crestwood Center Parking Garage – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center Parking Garage – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Afterwards, they sold two of them to CBL & Associates Properties, leaving Crestwood Plaza out of the deal and still in their possession. They attempted to sell it a year earlier to Somera Capital Management but the deal was not finalized.

Stix Baer & Fuller/Dillards – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Stix Baer & Fuller/Dillards – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

At last the mall was sold to Centrum Properties and renamed Crestwood Court. During the next couple of years, Crestwood Court had difficult times with making ends meet.

Closed store in Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Closed store in Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Many stores closed or relocated in new and more attractive malls that opened in the region. At the end of this turbulent period, somewhere in 2009, the mall was left with only one of its original three anchors, Sears.

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Profit was falling due to the competition and vacancies were going up with the loss of the main brand stores. Initially, Centrym had plans to redevelop the mall into a lifestyle center, renting the vacant shops to art-oriented tenants, also art galleries and dance studios.

“Art Bar” – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

“Art Bar” – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

This plan failed as the mall never lived up to the expectation of becoming an arty kind of place. The last remaining tenant LensCrafter closed on September 16th 2013, thus leaving the mall completely vacant and closed off.

“Food Terrace” – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

“Food Terrace” – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

After the closure, a redevelopment plan was proposed, but the project failed and was abandoned after negotiations between the parties failed. In April 2014, Urban Street bought the whole property in an online auction for 3.6 million dollars.

Crestwood Center – Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center – Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Just to have an idea of the value, the previous owners paid 17.5 million when they purchased the same building in 2008. Urban Street had a great idea that would redefine the now one-year vacant mall. They wanted to develop it for mixed use as both retail and residential purposes, including open space community gardens and entertainment.

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

Crestwood Center – Author: Mike Kalasnik – CC BY-SA 2.0

However the municipality council refused to offer public tax incentives for this project. Since then the City of Crestwood has made some advancement in approving and supporting the idea of developing the property with intents to hold public meetings in order to reach an agreement between the board of aldermen and Urban Street.