Thirteen years since the Great Flood of 1993 ravaged parts of St. Louis, several hundred acres in Chesterfield Valley have morphed into a gargantuan 2.6 million-square-foot retail force, called Chesterfield Commons.

It all began when the city of Chesterfield planned to recreate the “Valley,” which was the area's industrial stronghold before the flood. That caught the interest of THF Realty in 1995.

At the time, THF began assembling 150 acres and hatched a plan for a medium-size power center with Lowe's and Wal-Mart. THF harbors strong ties to Wal-Mart since its chairman E. Stanley Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, an heiress to the behemoth retailer's fortune.

But the project just grew, and grew, and grew. More than a decade later, it is a powerful development with 2 million square feet of retail and entertainment, and 600,000 square feet of office space along a two-mile stretch just off I-64.

“THF has totally altered the Chesterfield landscape,” says John Langa, a senior associate with CB Richard Ellis. “They created the biggest retail center in the St. Louis region and Chesterfield Commons is a community gathering place. It has become Main on Main.”

Having an interchange built at the project's entrance and a newly reinforced levee system didn't hurt either.

With that, the vision for Chesterfield Commons expanded, and so did the development, says Michael Staenberg, president of St. Louis-based THF Realty. All told, THF assembled 400 acres as retailers clamored for space, including rivals of Wal-Mart and Lowe's: Home Depot and Target.

Today, Chesterfield Commons has no vacancy in its four distinct retail centers. Staenberg estimates the shopping complex rang up about $500 million in sales last year. Rents range from $25 to $30 per square foot, he says.

Tenants include 40 restaurants, Wehrenberg Theaters and a huge selection of retailers including Pier 1 Imports, Sports Authority, Borders and Kohl's.

And as for Chesterfield Commons? It's still not finished, Staenberg says. A medical center is under construction and more office buildings are going up as demand for those services increases. The project will have about 2.8 million square feet when completed within the next year‥

Of all the challenges — getting the interchange built, the levee's fixed and retailers to buy into the project. “I don't know if I could get this type of project done today,” Staenberg says. “Regulations are more stringent.”