Crestwood Plaza (or Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood as it is officially named
since Westfield's buyout several years ago) is an interesting subject. It was
created in it's current form in about 1983 from an existing mostly outdoor
shopping center, much like the now defunct Northland Center in Jennings, that
was built in the 1950's
The original "mall" had a Famous-Barr store [which actually started as another
retailer, but is still in place and basically unchanged except for interior
renovations], a Sears [also still open] a Stix Baer and Fuller [now Dillards] a
Walgreens [which was relocated further up the road to another strip mall in
1983/84] and a grocery store, that was replaced by a Tipton electronics and
appliance store when I was very young. There were a few small shops that I do
not recall specifically.
At the time of it's 1983 grand re-opening, it was the largest super regional
mall in the area I believe, surpassing even Northwest Plaza which is another
St. Louis area mall that seems to be in a bit of trouble as of late. The St.
Louis Galleria was not yet open in it's current (massive) state at this time.
Interestingly, both Crestwood and Northwest Plaza were initially developed by
the same local company, Hycel Properties. Both are now owned by Westfield,
though Northwest appears to have been sold to another investment company as of
this writing based on local business news accounts.
In any case, Crestwood thrived for many years as probably the second busiest
mall in town, after the St. Louis Galleria, several miles away in Richmond
Heights. It started to decline in the early to mid 90's though, as the
demographics changed and other malls were redeveloped while Crestwood became
dated and somewhat run-down for lack of major updates in over a decade.
Crestwood is a second ring suburb of St. Louis that historically has had a very
stable population - perhaps too stable. It is the kind of place that people
move into when they start a family and don't leave until they pass on. Thus,
they have had a population with a higher than average median age and fewer
children and teenagers. This is but one factor that has hurt the mall. Another
When the orignal center was built in the 1950's, it was at the corner of Watson
and Sappington roads, the two major streets in Crestwood. Obviously, this
predates the interstate system (at least in St. Louis) so this was deemed to be
a wise, highly visible corner for a shopping center. As suburban sprawl
occured, and the interstates 44 and 270 were built, this slowly but surely
helped take the wind out of their sails.
The most affluent suburbs of St. Louis are now either well west of Crestwood,
such as Chesterfield, or in older central suburbs that have always been highly
affluent like Ladue and Frontenac.
The middle class, average families that make up most of the population in
Crestwood and similar surrounding towns have largely turned to the so called
"lifestyle center" for most of their shopping needs.
Sam's Club and discount retailers have taken a big bite out of mall business,
but of course this is true just about everywhere. Indeed, too many of these
centers now exist and it is doubtful that all will remain profitable in the
long term. Someday we'll undoubtedly be reading a site titled "dead lifestyle
Anyway, Crestwood Plaza seems to be in a good deal of trouble. I would estimate
their vacancy rate at over 30% now (based on square footage, not number of
spaces) with a nubmer of large spaces that were formerly restaurants or other
large [but not anchor sized] tenants now unoccupied. It is also evident that
chain stores have begun an exodus, as many clothing stores are one-off mom and
pop places. The ubiquitous Eddie Bauer closed their store over a year ago. The
mall has shed 3 or 4 jewelers in the past several years.
The food court is a total disgrace. When it debuted, it was 100% leased and had
a lot of unique eateries with really good food, as well as an old-world style
market with fresh coffee and candy by the pound. As of May 2006, there is a
McDonald's, Subway, Sbarro and an Athen's Cafe, a locally owned Greek
restaurant. That is four spaces leased out of probably 20+ as originally
There is a 10 screen AMC theatre that was awkwardly placed in a back wing of
the mall, no where near the food court, probably 10-15 years ago. The original
5 screen theater that was in the food court was later converted to an arcade
after a long vacancy.
Under Westfield's direction, the mall received a minor remodeling inside to
make it a bit more contemporary, but this "freshening up" was minimal and is
now several years old. It seems that in desperation, they have leased a
multitude of "kiosks" that are crammed up the middle of the mall concourse -
mostly selling cell phones or body piercing or cheap costume jewelery and
Meanwhile, many of the retail spaces that line the mall corridor are boarded up
with the signage showing the Westfield red-coated lady, or in some cases a
static display of bathtub liners or mailboxes or other silly, non mall-worthy
merchandise. One large space formerly occupied by retail is now a call center
for a telemarking firm - a rather strange use of the space in my opinion.
To their credit, the anchors are still there - Famous Barr, Dillards and Sears.
The Dillards store has been an underperforming store it seems, and is rather
dated in it's appearance. I would not be surprised to see this store elimated
by the company in the forseeable future. The Sears seems to hold it's own,
still relying heavily on the lower-margin hardlines goods (appliances, lawn &
garden, tools etc.) and the Famous-Barr seems to do a decent business.
With the impending conversion of Famous to Macy's, it will be interesting to
see how the store fares, and how much money and effort Federated will invest to
remake this location. If this store gets a minimal amount of remodel work after
the offical changeover, I would guess that it is on the black-list.
There is a 5 year old Famous store at the much newer West County Center just a
few miles away in Des Peres, which could certainly absorb the business done at
Crestwood, as this much newer mall has not performed up to expectations either
since it opened. West County also has a more desirable demographic base with
younger families and higher incomes, placing it in a better position to begin
So, what will become of Crestwood Plaza? Westfield had hinted at a
redevelopment some time back, somewhat on the order of what did at West County
a few years ago, but there has been no public mention of this in several months
now. Additionally, with the apparent sale of Northwest Plaza, there is
speculation locally that Westfield may also divest themselves of Crestwood
Honestly, I would say that Northwest was probably a better perfoming center
financially, and was in nicer condition given it's more recent major remodeling
and lower vacancy. Their key issue was crime there, and the St. Ann Police have
made progress at combating that. If Westfield was concerned about the long-term
viablity of Nortwest Plaza, then they surely have doubts about Crestwood as
Given the lackluster performance of other area malls that are newer and have
much better occupancy, I think Crestwood's days are numbered barring a major
re-thinking and investment. I'm not sure Westfield has the stomach to take that
risk, as they seem to have a very cookie-cutter approach to developing their
locations and choosing their tenants.
Then again, that is part of what has killed malls this past decade - they are
all virtually identical by design. The formula has become homogenized to a
point of inducing boredom and disinterest in the shoppers. Without much of
anything unique to offer, people have gone off in search of better deals
I'd be disappointed to see Crestwood go, as most mall visits of my childhood
were there and I do still shop there once in a while. In it's current state
however, it is a shell of it's former self in the heydey of the 1980's. Maybe
it's time to put a fork in it and save us the indignity of watching it die
slowly and painfully.
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