Monday, February 05, 2007

Northwest Plaza: Rebirth #2?

Northwest Plaza: Rebirth #2?

Today's story by Norm Parish in the Post-Dispatch starts off as follows:

"The financially ailing Northwest Plaza would receive an estimated $90 million face-lift under plans being considered by St. Ann officials.

"The Board of Aldermen is expected to approve a measure tonight that requests redevelopment of the plaza — the first step needed for the mall's owners to get tax increment financing, city officials said.

" 'It is very important to get this mall redeveloped and bring it back to its premier self,' said Mayor Carrie Cafazza. 'This is the highest thing on our priority list.'

"Northwest Plaza, which is at Lindbergh Boulevard and St. Charles Rock Road, is the region's largest indoor mall. It opened in 1965."

Now, let's go way back.... to November 5, 1989 (two days before my 11th birthday), when Judith VandeWater wrote in the Post-Dispatch:

"Northwest Plaza, transformed from an open-air center to an enclosed mall, is making a comeback at age 25. In its new incarnation, the mall hopes to reclaim customers it had ceded to younger and flashier suburban malls.

"Paramount Group, a New York real-estate investment company, is capitalizing on the center's two pillars of strength - its location at Lindbergh Boulevard and St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton and St. Ann, and its unique position as the area's only regional mall with four anchoring department stores.

"Paramount, which bought the mall five years ago, has turned Northwest Plaza inside out. Stores that once faced toward the parking lots in a maze of disconnected strip centers have been turned around to open onto a 1.76-million-square-foot, 210-store mall.

" 'At first it seemed like an impossible task,' said Judy Smith, a spokeswoman for Edison Brothers Stores Inc. The St. Louis-based apparel and shoe retailer has nine specialty stores at
Northwest Plaza. 'It was like putting a roof over Kirkwood, or Ladue,' Smith said. 'We feel like they did an excellent job of what was a very complicated process.'

"Paramount created 200,000 square feet of new retail space - room for 65 new stores - when it enclosed the center. The construction has been done in phases, so the center was able to operate during the two-year project...."

You get the idea.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Now the new owners say NW is too large, and want to remove that 1989 roof "to help create 'a lifestyle shopping center' atmosphere with outdoor access."

Ultimately, the death knell of NW Plaza over the past 10 years or so has been a combination of westward movement of shoppers to St. Charles, the development of (ugh) St. Louis Mills to suck in the remaining North County dollars, several years of neglect by Westfield, and a rash of shootings over the past several years, some fatal and some attributed to gang activity.

The other problem with Northwest -- as well as Crestwood Plaza -- is the lack of Interstate Highway visibility. While it is right on Lindbergh, and Crestwood is right on Watson (old Rt 66), that's just not as good as being right on I-270 like South County and West County, right on I-64 like Saint Louis Galleria, or right on I-70 like Mid-Rivers.

I just hope the rebirth of Saint Louis Centre is a bit better conceived and developed. Since it relies more on residential than retail, maybe it will do OK. I sure hope so.


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