An injury to a disk in his lower back nearly crippled Lars Michael Henriksen's campaign for the Ward 3 seat on the St. Charles City Council. But now, back on his feet, Henriksen hopes a blitz of effort in the final weeks before April 5 can still carry him to victory over Ray Rogina and Vanessa Bell-LaSota.
That's not to say he didn't think about bowing out.
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"But that's not me," he said. "It hasn't been exactly what I anticipated in the campaign. But I'm not a quitter."
Residents who recall the outcry during the proposed Super Walmart expansion near Charlestowne Mall already know that about Henriksen. He was one of the leaders of the group of residents who continually expressed concerns about the plan.
"It wasn't that we weren't fans of Walmart," he said. "It was the use of the land. Our position was always, 'Why don't you just expand where you're already at?' And look what happened at the end the day. That's what they did."
Therein lies where the city will find the answers to the rest of its development puzzles, Henriksen said. He believes a volunteer task force of residents should be recruited to brainstorm the best use for the city's available spaces. Charlestowne Mall and the site of the former Towne Centre project top his list of projects for such a task force to tackle.
Henriksen has his own thoughts about what should be done. For one, he's not a fan of any proposal that includes a residential component.
"I just don't see it being a great play given that there's a lot of homes sitting vacant in St. Charles," Henriksen said.
Instead, Henriksen favors open air, mixed retail uses with restaurants and office space curbside to pull in traffic from the major thoroughfares. He also doesn't see anything wrong with attracting more big box retail to the city.
At Charlestowne Mall, he envisions moving Kohl's to the soon-to-be vacant Sears space, then concentrating on adding retail to the outer portions of the mall land until it becomes more incorporated with the adjacent Walmart. Henriksen believes creating synergy between the two campuses would make Walmart almost an anchor store to the mall and spur mutually beneficial traffic among the outlets.
More shopping will only be good for the city as it strives to shore up its budgetary coffers, Henriksen said. He'd like to see the city create a vehicle sticker to bring in more revenue. And if that's done, the city should pair it with the creation of a new St. Charles Value Card with up to $100 of incentives to shop and eat in area stores. Buy a sticker, get a card.
"As far as the budget, the fact that we have a shortfall, is that necessarily a bad thing?" Henriksen said. "A lot of municipalities have a lot worse shortfall than we have. However, whenever you're running a business and your receivables are less than your payables, you've got to make changes. You have to decide if you have the right level of city staffing and providing the right level of city services to match the economy. And you have to realize there are ways to attract more revenue to the city other than raising or creating taxes."