It’s almost high noon and a showdown looms. You can almost see the dusty brown sky, the squinting eyes, the dirt-covered boots and long coats with anxious hands and twitching fingers dangling from the sleeves. Six-shooters ready to be pulled, one set of eyes blinks…then, in an instant, a quick draw, gun fire, and one man falls. The other spins his pistol on his trigger-finger and slides it back into its holster.
OK, so maybe it’s not quite an Old West shootout, but as two rival outlet mall developers square off in the Chesterfield Valley, the stakes have rarely been higher. Both the Simon Property Group and Taubman Centers, Inc. are moving forward with plans to build upscale outlet malls in the valley just a couple of miles apart. Both have had groundbreaking ceremonies, and are ready to invest tens of millions of dollars. Both have said they’ll open next year, and each insists that when the dust clears, they’ll be the last man standing. But which one will be the first to blink?
Taubman’s Prestige Outlets is beginning to emerge just off Highway 40 at the Boone’s Crossing exit. The latest word is that the center will open in August 2013. A bit further west near theBooneBridge, ground also is moving at the site of the Simon project, to be called St. Louis Premium Outlets, with opening planned for fall 2013.
So the boots are on the ground while a war of words rages on. Taubman made one of its top planners available for an interview with Ladue News. Director of Development Nico Schultz has heard all the showdown comparisons, but says his company’s plan is so far ahead of the rivals that he doesn’t think it will be much of a fight. “I don’t see it as a showdown, I see it as one person is ready, the other person is not,” he says. “If they show up at the coral, it would be a pretty quick resolution.”
Rival Simon Property is playing its cards much closer to the vest. They referred all of our inquiries to a New York-based PR firm which responded with carefully worded written statement that read, in part, We look forward to bringing a high fashion outlet shopping experience to St. Louis, much like we have done over the past 30 years in top markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tokyo and Seoul. We are planning a September 2013 opening for St. Louis Premium Outlets. The statement went on to list its big guns, retailers which Simon says are committed to the project, names like Saks Fifth Avenue, Jones New York and Brooks Brothers, just to name a few. Some of those same retailers also are on Taubman’s list, indicating that stores are waiting to see which mall ultimately gets built. That’s where the serious speculation begins.
According to observers, there are a couple of scenarios that could develop. One is that both developers will complete their projects, and two malls will open and the free market will decide if either one or both survive. The City of Chesterfield has not done any kind of study to determine if the valley and the region could support both malls. The city’s planning and development services director, Aimee Nassif, says at this point, they are waiting and watching like everybody else. “Just as we have 70 restaurants in Chesterfield Valley, or two gas stations on the same corner, it’s a free market—free enterprise.” She says another more likely scenario is that at the 11th hour, one of the two developers will realize they are too far behind and simply bug out.
So the stage is set, the guns are ready and it’s almost high noon in the Valley. Don’t blink.