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posted: 6/16/2012 2:48 PM

Injecting life into a dying mall

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  • Flanked by closed stores on all sides, St. Charles Director of Economic Development Chris Aiston speaks during a news conference exactly a year ago to announce new owners for Charlestowne Mall.

      Flanked by closed stores on all sides, St. Charles Director of Economic Development Chris Aiston speaks during a news conference exactly a year ago to announce new owners for Charlestowne Mall.
    RICK WEST | Staff Photographer


While St. Charles city officials contemplate what to do after a consultant told them what most everyone already knew -- that the Charlestowne Mall is dying -- some artistic minds have come up with a way to temporarily fill up at least a few storefronts.

A week after mentioning in this column that the St. Charles Arts Council has done a great job of keeping the arts in the forefront in the city, along comes a news release informing me that a spot in the mall will get put to good use for the arts.

The arts council is right in the middle of it, along with the St. Charles school district, library and park district.

This time it's a "Pop-Up" Arts Center -- Charlie's Center for the Arts -- in the mall to be on display from Sept. 22 to Oct. 27.

The folks behind this idea plan to convert multiple storefronts into visual art galleries and studios, jazz cafes, music venues, theaters (live and film), and "as much arts programming as we can pack into five weeks," a news release noted.

Those interested in participating as an artist, sponsor or volunteer should contact the St. Charles Arts Council at (630) 443-3794 or at

The mall has plenty of open space, as we know all too well. At least for a few weeks, a part of it will take on a new look.

Never forgetting:

In a sparkling example of never forgetting a friend, Sean McCurtain has again organized the Matt Kenney Memorial 3-on-3 tournament for July 21 at Geneva High School.

McCurtain and Kenney were best friends when the 21-year-old Kenney was killed in a car accident in 2004. Starting in 2007, McCurtain, a former Geneva basketball player himself, started the tournament in Kenney's honor.

Here we are five years later, and the tournament, getting bigger each year, welcomes players of all ages.

Teams interested can request a registration form at

Festivals keep rolling:

One festival ends, another begins. Or so it seems at this time of year. And why not? We are obligated to enjoy our summers in the Midwest, and the Tri-Cities loves to oblige.

After a successful Pride of the Fox RiverFest in St. Charles last weekend, we move right into Swedish Days this week in Geneva.

I intend to do my full share of music listening and food-booth eating during my favorite week of the summer.

For the animals:

Keep this date in mind if you feel good when helping animals.

The Anderson Animal Shelter will hold its "Night to Paws" dinner and auction fundraiser Nov. 3 at the Q Center in St. Charles.

Those interested in purchasing tickets or a full table for the event can send an email to

He's a star:

He doesn't get as much attention for his music, but I suspect Kevin Costner is going to put on a great show July 14 at the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles with his country-rock band Modern West.

And, hey, it's Kevin Costner, the movie star. So what's not to like?

You have to love all of the sports-related movies this guy has made over the years, but we'll make this much clear right away: "Dances With Wolves" and "Wyatt Earp" rank right up there with my all-time favorite movies.

Riganato's a winner:

It appears Jim Nicolaou has a winner on his hands. We visited his restaurant, Riganato Old World Grille, on the east side of Geneva last weekend and my meal was outstanding.

It was Italian sausage and a huge meatball stuffed with ricotta cheese over a bed of mostaccioli and covered with a terrific red sauce.

It took some time for Nicolaou to get this place opened in the former Rib House location, but it was worth the wait.

Scones and the scale:

I notice my pants getting a little snug these days. Could be from the kinds of meals I mentioned in the previous item. But it also might be time to lay off the cranberry and blueberry scones from Hahn's Bakery that I have been buying at Geneva's French Market.

Delicious, yes. But something that delicious usually adds the pounds.

Clean downtowns:

Keeping our downtown areas clean can be a tricky task, one that everyone should keep in mind when enjoying themselves in our picturesque cities.

The Tri-Cities generally stay in good shape, and residents and visitors alike should be pleased about that. My wife and I are out quite early with the dog on a regular basis, so we get a pretty good look at how the downtown streets look in the early morning.

Third Street in Geneva surely keeps it shine, but we do have one recommendation. Graham's Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream needs another garbage can in the front of the store at 302 S. Third St., or near its street corner. After a hot Saturday, for example, the one basket it does have can overflow from ice cream napkins and cups.

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