An effort to redevelop the shuttered Jamestown Mall is headed back to the drawing board.
The north St. Louis County mall has been closed for several years. A first step toward redeveloping the structure is classifying the mall as blighted, which allows the county to use eminent domain. But Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger have disagreed on who should oversee the effort.
Walton Gray wanted the Council to take charge. Stenger contended that the only legally proper option was the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of St. Louis County.
Tuesday night, the St. Louis County Council voted down legislation that would have tasked the council to oversee redevelopment efforts. Because Walton Gray’s bill failed, it means that it could be several weeks before alternative legislation can be sent to Stenger.
After her legislation failed to pass, Walton Gray said she wasn’t happy with her fellow councilmembers. The Blackjack Democrat also expressed frustration that councilmembers have to depend on legal staff appointed by Stenger to craft legislative proposals. (Walton Gray’s father, former state Rep. Elbert Walton, helped draft the legislation.)
“It’s not appreciated,” said Walton Gray, D-Blackjack. “If someone wants to see something happen in their district, you don’t get a lot of opposition from the other councilmembers with bills that only affect your district.”
Stenger, though, said the Council’s decision to reject Walton Gray’s bill places the process to overhaul the Jamestown Mall on a better footing.
“This has caused a significant delay,” Stenger said. “But I will tell you on behalf of the residents of the district and really the whole county, I am committed to that process of moving this project forward. Because it is something that is desperately needed – and it something the public desperately wants.”
“I will continue to fight for it and move it forward,” he said.
The Council’s decision came amid some tense moments Tuesday night. Before the meeting, councilmembers held a caucus that featured some harsh words directed at Walton Gray.
And the council’s public forum section included blistering comments from former Councilman Mike O’Mara, who Walton Gray defeated in a landslide last summer.
“A vote for this [bill] is a vote for the Waltons’ corrupt city politics,” O’Mara said. “A vote for Rochelle Walton’s amended legislation will continue to allow the corrupt Walton politics practice of shaking down developers and contractors. Good luck to the 10,000 residents that voted for the Waltons, and Godspeed to the 130,000 residents of the 4th District who deserve better representation.”
Walton Gray said she was glad O’Mara spoke at the public forum so her colleagues could see the “bullying that I’ve been going through since I implemented this bill.”
“I appreciate the support that I’ve had from my community for my bill and for standing up for what I think is right,” Walton Gray said. “And this is the right thing to do, no matter what anybody else says.”
Stenger emphasized that whatever happens to the Jamestown Mall site, Walton Gray will have input on how it proceeds.
“This causes no bad blood. This causes as far as I’m concerned no setback,” Stenger said. “We are here to work together to make this project a reality for the people of North County – and for our entire county. And that’s what I’m here for. And I pledge that as I sit here. I pledge that to her. And we’re going to work together on this.”
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