ArtSpace at Crestwood Plaza

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Crestwood Plaza, Watson Road & Sappington
Crestwood, MO

When’s the last time you went to Crestwood (yes, I know it has a new name but it will always be to me) Plaza? Judging by how dead the place was, I’m guessing “don’t remember” would be a common answer.

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Even before Macy’s permanently closed the doors in March 2009, one had to dodge the tumbleweeds blowing through. Walking through the mall made me think of Dawn of the Dead, waiting for zombies to pop out of what used to be Walden’s Books and rip my arm off.

It used to be ultra creepy, now it’s “come in and play” because the owners of this dying mall followed through on some creative thinking,  and they may just wind up making more money from this new venture than any attempts to revive it as a retail destination.

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ArtSpace just threw a grand opening party, and everything about it was inspiring and delightful. Just to see the parking lots full and people crowding the mall was a minor miracle. That the hubub was for cultural arts rather than vacant consumerism was a major miracle.

I was itching to check out this brilliant adaptive re-use idea during the formative stage, but just never got around to it, as Crestwood Plaza was still creeping me out. So, throwing this party assured there would be live human beings around to keep me safe. Another incentive was to see the photography of Robert “Ferd” Frank (he was John Mellencamp’s bassist back when he was Cougar), whose work is displayed – and for sale – within Design Extra Interiors (photo above).

Yes, there’s a full-service interior design firm in the mall. It just makes so much sense that you have to wonder why this hasn’t happened before!

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Remember all the art studios in downtown St. Louis before the loft rehab boom? That same concept in urban vertical has now gone suburban horizontal. All of the empty spaces inside the mall are renting for insanely cheap prices to anyone willing to put their own money and sweat equity into re-purposing dead retail spaces (where – as above – dressing room doors become display space) . That’s insane amounts of square footage already tricked out with everything you need in a setting designed for high traffic with maximum visibility.

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Along with all the merriment of the day, I took perverse delight in Structure becoming Three-Legged Productions

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…and Mrs. Fields serving as advertising for the dance hall across the way…

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…and Frederick’s of Hollywood goes Chicque.

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There’s still a handful of “real” retail in business like Footlocker, Victoria’s Secret and Claire’s Boutique, but on this day those stores were pretty dead because there was too much excitement elsewhere. Actually, “dead” would be a normal day for Claire’s at Crestwood, but that’s the beauty of this venture: any of the retailers who have hung on will certainly reap the benefits of increased traffic.

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And because the place is alive with music, and performers and playful shenanigans, it will inspire folks to make spontaneous purchases of arts, crafts and glitter lip gloss and Kenmore appliances.

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As I was taking the photo above, a lady walked up to me and said, “When I moved to St. Louis in 1965, this was the place to be. It’s been painful to watch it die. But today, I’m feeling like it can become that again, and I couldn’t be happier.” Then she caught sight of a stilt-walker sauntering by and drifted off with a huge smile on her face.

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7 thoughts on “ArtSpace at Crestwood Plaza

  1. I used to love going to Crestwood Plaza. I rememeber in the good ol days when the Labor Day telathones used to be there with Mike Bush as host. I rememeber the food court being full and I rememeber being not able to get into a rated R picture when I was 16 at the mall in the food court. WestField is responsible for killing this mall. I wish I had a ton of money I would buy it and bring it back to the glory days it used to be. Even the new name is lousy CrestWood Court! Beware if you are at South County Mall that creepy Anthens Greek guy Bronco walks around in there now. He still smells!

  2. Not to worry, Atorch. All the artists were fully informed of the upcoming transformation of the mall which is estimated to be approximately two years away. This is an interim project which provides we artists with a wonderful opportunity, and the community with a unique opportunity to have a cultural powerhouse right in its midst.

    Come by and say hello. We are happy to be here.

  3. I attended the opening, there was an overwhelming amount of theatres and dance/performance groups there. What happens to all these clients when they decide to raze half of the mall at the end of next year? The open-air lifestyle-center developer has not mention keeping any of these tennants except for maybe one theatre. Add the large budget shortfall and lack of vision that comes from the current Crestwood government and you got a big problem coming soon…. I wish them luck and a lot of money to bid against the new developer….

  4. I am going through this with a big smile still on my face:) I virturally grew up at Crestwood Plaza, but I too, have been creeped out by it recently. I’m going to make a point to get over there!

  5. Toby,

    I spent all winter mall-walking at Crestwood with Ophelia. We watched as more and more stores closed (and took advantage of closeout sales to buy $3 clutches and $30 Fossil bags), and once Christmas was over, it was a complete dead zone. There were plenty of walkers, but very little spirit. I was heartened to see the art spaces beginning to be utilized, but I wasn’t convinced that it would amount to anything. Nonetheless, I loved walking past storefronts where mini-orchestras were rehearsing, actors with booming voices practiced their lines, and photographs and sketches hung where mannequins used to pose.

    I drove past Crestwood today and was wondering why the parking lot was so full. Then I heard an ad for Art Space on either KDHX or KWMU, and I was tickled pink to know that so many people had turned out for this. If Ophelia hadn’t been asleep in the car, I would have stopped to see.

    I worked at the Pasta House in high school and hung out there in gradeschool, hot after all the guys with Z. Cavariccis and jealous of the girls wearing Units. I loved terrorizing that mall, and I’m so glad that it isn’t going to die just yet…

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