St. Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force members gave a thumbs-up to three community-created visions for the redevelopment of Charlestowne Mall Wednesday night.
They also chimed in with a big-picture view of what would be appropriate development on the proposed Corporate Reserve site on the west end of town.
Community members brainstormed the three plans for the mall several weeks ago. A consultant tweaked those plans into visions suitable for would-be developers to consider.
The "Main Street" Shopping District plan keeps much of the existing mall intact, but it adds more access points and transforms the inside to more of an open marketplace and community gathering spot for artwork or other attractions.
The "Entertainment and Events Center" plan leaves the eastern portion of the mall intact but revises the western half to make it green space or an entertainment plaza. The plan makes the cinema the centerpiece of the entertainment complex but adds water features, sculptures and other outdoor community attractions such as a small performance stage.
The "Town Center East" plan preserves all the existing anchor stores but creates a large, central event or open space that would be used as a town square for farmers' markets or other seasonal activities.
Consultants told the task force the mall site could be used for a number of things if the building was completely demolished. However, the three visions provide insight into what the community would like to see there -- with or without the current building.
"I like the three plans because it sets out not that this is THE plan, but this is the type of redevelopment that we're looking for," task force Chairman Mark Armstrong said. "It also tells me we're willing to look at a variety of ideas for the site."
Task force members all agreed the mall is in trouble because of the many empty stores it contains. The pending East Gateway Subarea Plan of the new comprehensive plan draft identifies the mall as "in jeopardy of closing."
"Internal hallways are desolate," the draft reads. "Parking fields are vast and empty, and the Charlestowne Mall needs intervention to reposition the site to improve the mall's future viability or its full-scale redevelopment."
In other action, the task force took a look at the Corporate Reserve site on the west end of town. The group weighed in on what level of redevelopment they'd be comfortable with but didn't comment specifically on the rental housing development plan currently pending before the city council.
Task force members agreed they all like the idea of residential development on the site, given the surrounding residential development. However, task force members also said they are not opposed to more office space on the site as was originally proposed by the current land owners.
The task force also had slightly different views on how dense residential development should be at the site. All members agreed they were comfortable with density comparable to nearby residential developments -- about four residential units per acre, far below what the pending development proposal before the city council calls for.
However, several task force members said they'd be comfortable with more dense residential, even on a level comparable to the AMLI apartments in town, if the area was able to handle the increased traffic.