The old St. Charles Mall site has sat vacant since aldermen killed a development plan that would have brought a mix of retail, apartments and large-scale parking to the property in 2010. St. Charles aldermanic candidates shared their plans for transforming the property into more of a tax generator Thursday night.
Fifth Ward candidate Kim Malay helped organize the group that defeated that Towne Centre project in 2010, mostly because of the residential element. Malay said she envisions a mini-Oak Brook that encompasses both the north and south parcels. She wants a large mass of commercial and retail on the site.
"The more mass the better," Malay said. "That's how retail succeeds. It is one of our last, key retail parcels in St. Charles."
Malay's opponent, incumbent Maureen Lewis, said her dream would be to have the "biggest, most beautiful park" on the site.
"But that's not possible because it's not going to generate any income," Lewis said.
Lewis called for a mix of retail, medical and office buildings on the site. She is also open to an education use, such as a satellite campus, on the property.
"Whatever needs to be done, we're going to have to come to terms with the fact that it is privately owned property," Lewis said. "We are going to have to negotiate."
Third Ward candidate Mario VanDerHeyden said he likes the idea of a CarMax or a large auto mall on the property. VanDerHeyden said car dealerships bring in a lot of tax dollars to the city. So something like a track for test-driving vehicles would also be appropriate in the city.
His opponent, Bill Turner, was not present at the candidate forum. In a candidate questionnaire, Turner said he would vote against any expanded tax increment financing -- where property tax money above a certain point goes into development rather than to local governments -- for any project that included residences at the old St. Charles Mall site.
"Retail and commercial uses would be acceptable, and could be offered sales tax incentives," Turner wrote.
Second Ward Candidate Art Lemke said a mall was once successful at the site and could be again because of the high volume of traffic on both Randall Road and Route 38.
"That would be my vision," Lemke said. "Put in a couple anchor stores there. That site is still the prime opportunity in the city to expand our retail base. We need to make that very clear to developers."
Lemke's opponent, incumbent Cliff Carrignan, was also not present at the forum. In a candidate questionnaire, Carrignan said he's open to all proposals for the old mall site, including projects that involve residential. However, any residential element must be much less dense than any idea that's come before the council to date.
"My primary focus would be on developing retail, commercial, entertainment and automotive uses," Carrignan wrote.
First Ward candidate Ron Silkaitis said his vision for the site has only two main parameters.
"I don't want to see housing there," he said. "It's too prime of a location. We need retail, tax-generating business there."
Fellow First Ward candidate Justin Osborne said he wants residents to decide what should occupy the property. His own preference is to have a business unique for the area at the site, such as a Dave & Buster's restaurant/arcade.
Incumbent First Ward Alderman Jon Monken was not at the forum. In a candidate questionnaire, he said the property has been vacant so long that all options must be considered at this point.
"I would like to see commercial development to provide shopping and services as tax-generating entities while providing our community with more options."
Mall: Auto dealer, homes, arcade offered as possibilities