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Despite foreclosure and lots of empty space, Jamestown Mall remains open for business

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 30, 2011 - Redevelopment plans for the half-empty Jamestown Mall in north St. Louis County are still on the table, but foreclosure on the property has introduced a new wrinkle to the longstanding plans.

Ever since urban planners came to town more than two years ago to present their vision for a new gathering place on the site of the mall, plans have moved forward slowly. Earlier this year, a makeover plan that included a new neighborhood that would be primarily residential, with some local retail, was unveiled by the Florida firm hired to help make proposals come true.

At this point, Sears and Dillard's have closed their retail locations at Jamestown, with the Dillard's site becoming a hotel furniture outlet and Sears using its space as a temporary distribution center. Macy's remains open, and the former J.C. Penney store has become a J C 5-Star Outlet location.

A smattering of other spots remain open as well, and Tom Curran, the director of intergovernmental affairs in St. Louis County, says that that situation is likely to remain for a little while at least.

Meanwhile, he added, he wants potential shoppers -- and prospective retailers -- to understand that Jamestown remains open for business.

"What we want to do is make sure we are encouraging, not discouraging, businesses of all types in the Jamestown area," Curran said.

He said that despite the foreclosure action, two firms are continuing to lease space and keep tenants in the mall while the longer-range plans remain in place. Curran wants to make sure people understand that long range means not right around the corner.

"The economy will continue to improve, hopefully, but I don't think we're at the point yet where we can expect redevelopment," he said.

"It's going to be a slow return to normal, whatever the new normal is. Because the plan is a long-range plan, we are sticking with it. We hope that Jamestown is redeveloped as a mixed-use center, but we obviously would like to keep as many businesses as possible in the mall right now."

And, Curran added, people interested in what the property will become have to take the long view, including the possibility that the big stores will remain, even if the rest of the retail space is turned inside out and stores have entrances that open to the parking lot, as malls like the Galleria and West County Center have begun to do.

"We're a long way from where we were," he said. "If you look at the plan, long range it was always part of it to keep the anchor stores in place. We also have a mall that has a lot of tenants. Unless the bank is interested in changing the mall property, we just want it to operate as best it can, given the current conditions.

"I'm not saying those stories will stay forever, but this is all built around the fact that those stores could stay if they choose. A lot of people have said they want their Macy's and their Penney's to stay."

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.

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