Artists at Crestwood Court Need to Find New Space, But When?

Categories: Arts
crestwood court 3.jpg
ArtSpace at Crestwood Court was an experiment never meant to last.
It was never meant to last forever. And already it's gone on a year longer than expected. That said, the end is on the horizon for the dozens of arts organizations that have made Crestwood Court their home for the past three years.

"It's been a great opportunity that has worked very well for us, giving a small and growing arts organization a home and a public space to build a relationship with our audience," says Larry Mabrey, producing artistic director at Avalon Theatre. "We knew that it was not a forever arrangement. And now it's looking like the time to leave is approaching."

Mabrey says that his group is currently searching for a new home after hearing through the grapevine that Crestwood Court's owner -- Chicago-based Centrum Properties -- is moving forward with plans to renovate the mall.

But when exactly arts organization will have to leave the mall has yet to be determined, according to Centrum.

When the company purchased the property in 2008, the once bustling mall with one million square-feet of retail space was down to just a few stores. It was then that Centrum began offering artists cheap leases to fill the mall on a temporary basis -- eighteen months to two years -- while the new owner looked for ways to redevelop the property. Thousands of square feet of space could be had for as little as $100 a month.

The mall has been "ArtSpace" for nearly three years now. Sol Barket, with Centrum, tells Daily RFT that the redevelopment plans for the mall are at last moving forward.

"We have always intended on redeveloping the property sometime in the year 2012, which coincides with the expiration of the Dillard's lease, and we're moving forward on those plans," says Barket, who adds that an official announcement on the future of the mall could come by the end of the year.

Still, he says it's premature to say when arts organizations will have to move out to make way for renovations. "Once we know a date, we'll sit down with tenants, the city and media and lay out the plan." he says. "Our goal is to have some kind of art space as part of the new project."

Daniel Tierney, deputy director of the Regional Arts Commission, which helped find artists to fill the mall, says that Centrum's desire to include artists in its redevelopment is proof that ArtSpace worked.

"Crestwood was the first mall of its scale to do something like this," says Tierney. "And already you're seeing the model being replicated elsewhere including Artropolis at Chesterfield Mall. I'd say the experiment was by-and-large a success."

Tierney says RAC recently received a grant to study ArtSpace so it can be used as template for other retail centers.

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19 comments
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huttonjustin
huttonjustin

F the Space, build a Good Gym like Golds Gym or Xist Fit because Anytime Fitness and Sports Medicine and Training Center Both Suck and I think a better Gym Would be more profitable.

Danny Riddell
Danny Riddell

If one thing fails, one idea succeeds. It happens, and when Artspace leaves, there is certainly someone who'd lease it. It won't be vacant for long - well, that's just my hunch.

Crestwood Local
Crestwood Local

Crestwood Mall isn't dead yet. There are many unique stores that you won't find anywhere else. The Sci Fi Lounge has already been mentioned, but there is also an anime store called Animeggroll, I haven't heard of another anime store in St. Louis. There is Joe Weber's Fire Museum, which is self explanatory except it is free and any donations go to the Shriner's hospital for Children. There is Green Rugs who makes rugs from recycled material. There a doll house store where you can buy a house or build your own. There is a model train store, vintage clothes, charity consignment, card game store, art co-ops and more. There is also not for profit organizations like the Teacher's Resource Center, ARC and International Autism Coalition.It is frustrating not to find them all open at the same time. I recommend checking out websites before you go.

Caldorah
Caldorah

Big reason why Crestwood collapsed in 2008 ALSO has to do with the fact of Westfield declaring bankruptcy on over 100 malls they owned in 2008 during the economic explosion then.  When that happens, chain stores with expensive long-term leases can pack-up overnight and move out with no penalty.  Many national chains were cutting back on store locations in response to consumers freeze on shopping in 2008 and in a matter of months dozens of stores left Crestwood Plaza.  Then when Macy's closed another wave moved out.  I own a business there and have clients that drive to my store from ALL over greater St. Louis and Illinois because of our unique and highly rated services.  It is not always about location.  Many people tell me they'd rather shop Crestwood (when it was fully occupied) over West County (messy parking & mall crowded) or South County (also congested, hard to get in & out and confusing floor plan) & Galleria further away or Frontenac is too pricey.  So there is a large base of support for the Crestwood location and if redeveloped will be success.

guest
guest

Growing up in Jefferson County, our two desintations were always Crestwood or South County.  As hordes of unsupervised teenagers invaded a mall, we made the other mall our destination of choice.  As the mall declined as other paying patrons made the same decision we did, the unsupervised teenagers switched their mall of choice, as did my family.  As an adult and a teacher, I have seen students of mine as young as ten years old allowed to prowl the malls without supervision.  Please note that most of these young children do not behave well when supervised, and are even more obnoxious when unsupervised.  I have found that my children who are well behaved and respectful are the ones I run into with their parents. 

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John
John

I live in Crestwood and the whole Art Space idea could have worked if the occupants stepped up.  Half of the art space occupants were closed anytime of day you walked through the mall.  They were only open when they felt like it.   They generated little or no revenue for Crestwood.  Honestly,  I didn't even get what some of the places were supposed to be.   One store was just a "come in and draw on the wall for free store"    Everybody's idea of art is different I guess but the whole concept failed in so many ways.   It was sad more than entertaining.

Westfield dumped all of their money into renovating South County Mall and West County Mall and never dropped one penny into Crestwood Mall.   It sat in the middle of SC Mall, WC mall and the Galleria.  The Galleria is trying keep up with West County mall but is turning into the Ghettoria.

Mike
Mike

 I agree about ArtSpace; most of the stores were never open when I was there, and to be honest, with such cheap rent, they didn't have to try very hard to break even.  I hate to admit it, but the Galleria is going ghetto, as evidenced by the last time I visited it.

sbk93036
sbk93036

I have been there several times recently and the art there is not very innovative. I am not demeaning ANY of the artists that work/show pieces there. And I do hope that they find a new home for their organization.

sbk93036
sbk93036

I believe Kathleen is correct. The other assumptions, including location and demographics, are incorrect. These factors alone would not cause such an economic decline that a mall would become defunct. I have discussed this with others who have more knowledge of the situation and the facts seem to indicate that the prior owner wrote Crestwood Plaza off as a loss, raising rent and failing to renew leases, in an effort to force shoppers and revenue to the other properties it owned to increase their value exponentially. It is basically like flipping houses. I believe they made a fortune of their other acquisitions and resales. eg West County etc.

STLgasm
STLgasm

I hope the displaced arts organization will relocate to the CITY.  Certainly there's a funky mid-century building somewhere in the city that would be make a great home for the Sci-Fi Lounge.

Allison M Reilly
Allison M Reilly

I know Crestwood is far from downtown, but if any arts organizations or artists needs office space, Saint Louis Coworking has space available right now. If interested, please check out stlcoworking.com.

Mike N.
Mike N.

I've never understood why Crestwood Mall died -- back in the day, "The Ultra-Mall [Had] it All"!  I can't imagine it's due to it's location, because it certainly can't be said that the area has gone downhill.  I can only assume it was due to some really bad business decisions. It's sad that the arts orgs may have to go, but, honestly, it was kind of an odd (but novel) arrangement to begin with.  I can't imagine how Centrum plans to bring the mall back, but I hope if they kick out the arts orgs they can take up roots in more permanent locales. 

your mom's mom
your mom's mom

Minutes to Crestwood from the highway - 10-15Minutes to every other mall from the highway - 0

If you think this doesn't make a major difference in where suburbanites shop, you're insane.

Mike N.
Mike N.

Actually when I mentioned location I actually meant neighborhood; other local malls died when the neighboorhood went downhill and 'roving bands of youth' roamed the malls (see: Northwest Plaza). 

I can see how highway access makes a difference, but at the same time, the mall was quite popular for serveral years, even without direct highway access. I've heard it mentioned that Crestwood started to lose business after West County Center was upgraded, so I guess that's part of it.

Crestwoodian
Crestwoodian

Crestwood mall is about 3 minutes from the they hwy 44/big bend exit.

Kathleen
Kathleen

I've heard that Westfield Shoppingtowns, the former owner, basically gave Crestwood the shaft when they took it over.  They devoted their maintenance and resources to their other mall properties in the area, and I heard they even "reassigned" air conditioning units and other equipment from Crestwood to the other properties.  Owner negligence perhaps sparked by shopping trends they were beginning to see at the other malls?  Meanwhile, Galleria's new owner is pumping a lot of investment in there, as evidenced by the new Nordstrom building and continuous occupancy of storefronts with new, in-demand stores and boutiques like Vera Bradley and True Religion.

KittyLitterKing
KittyLitterKing

Location played a HUGE role in the mall's demise.  Look at the other successful malls in the area, all of them are visible from an interstate, Crestwood is not.  Also, demographically, the area has aged and the population has shifted around it.  Like all malls, it has suffered from the success of big boxes---Wal-Mart, Target, etc,  Finally, the rebuild of West County led to people driving there, rather than Crestwood.  

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