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updated: 3/11/2014 11:37 AM

Plan B in works if St. Charles' First Street plans flop

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St. Charles aldermen expected an update from the would-be developers of the land at the gateway of city's ballyhooed First Street project Monday night. But when the agenda called for them to discuss their progress, only empty space was at the audience microphone, just like the property in question.

SMN Development representatives were a no-show for a progress report due one month before aldermen will decide if the development team will be given any future opportunities for updates. The purchase agreement SMN Development has with the city for a 52-foot parcel along First Street expires April 8. The company also owns the former Manor Restaurant lot.

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"Does this mean he's withdrawn his request for an extension?" Alderman Bill Turner asked.

City staffers said they sent SMN representatives a letter asking them to attend Monday night's meeting. They received no reply. But correspondence from the developer last month indicated every intention to continue moving forward, the staffers said.

The absence may be because no action is being required of the city council until next month, the staff speculated.

With some obvious displeasure, aldermen agreed to reserve judgment until next month. But they've already started thinking about Plan B.

That plan involves not just SMN's lots but also the redevelopment space encompassing the remainder of First Street LLC's efforts. Members of St. Charles' River Corridor Foundation are already privately pitching a plan to build a five-story building along Illinois Street, starting at First Street.

The strategy would use the rest of the land to build St. Charles' own version of Millennium Park, complete with an interactive water feature and an ice-skating rink.

Foundation members already have to-scale drawings and have engaged in conversations with potential developers should the plans on the table for First Street flop.

The foundation has already received positive feedback from aldermen about an overall push to make the Fox River a more central part of the city's appeal. The St. Charles Park District is also on board with that vision. And the foundation has its eyes on $50,000 from Kane County's riverboat grant program to keep the vision moving forward.

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