St. Charles mayor: City's becoming a development trendsetter

 
 
Updated 10/10/2018 7:37 AM
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  • Work is under way on the last of three riverfront buildings being constructed along First Street in St. Charles.

      Work is under way on the last of three riverfront buildings being constructed along First Street in St. Charles. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • The redevelopment of the Charlestowne Mall property has not made much progress since the plans were presented to city officials last year, Mayor Ray Rogina said.

      The redevelopment of the Charlestowne Mall property has not made much progress since the plans were presented to city officials last year, Mayor Ray Rogina said. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A new Wahlburgers restaurant is being constructed on the Meijer parking lot at Route 38 and Randall Road in St. Charles.

    A new Wahlburgers restaurant is being constructed on the Meijer parking lot at Route 38 and Randall Road in St. Charles. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles

It was at a global retail and real estate conference that St. Charles Alderman Dan Stellato realized his town has nationwide name recognition.

And it's largely thanks to the impending development of a new Wahlburgers restaurant.

As depicted on the A&E TV show of the same name, St. Charles soon will be home to the first Illinois location of the burger chain, co-owned by singer, actor and local resident Donnie Wahlberg.

But the city's development and economic growth extend far beyond the Meijer parking lot on which the restaurant will be built.

During a St. Charles Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, Stellato and Mayor Ray Rogina gave city leaders and stakeholders an update on several projects and explained how they fit into market trends.

A vision for redeveloping the Charlestowne Mall property, for example, is supported by a notion that purely retail shopping malls are no longer feasible, Stellato said. Specialty restaurants and mixed-use developments are becoming the way of the future -- a concept St. Charles already has implemented in its downtown.

In many ways, the city has been a trendsetter, they said. But officials still are constantly searching for new development opportunities.

"At the end of the day, what are we trying to do?" Rogina said. "Improve a great, great community."

West-side projects

A mix of residential, commercial and public projects are hitting the west side, some of which aren't far from the Wahlburgers site at Randall Road and Route 38.

Construction has begun for 100 of the 675 apartments planned for the former St. Charles Mall site, which sat vacant for 15 years, Rogina said. Plans for the Prairie Centre project call for adding affordable senior housing units, as well as a possible retail component, on the 26-acre property off Route 38 just east of Randall.

Additionally, the 250-unit Prairie Winds apartment community is nearing completion behind Lowe's. And construction is moving along on the Anthem Heights subdivision, which contains 78 houses north of Route 64.

Less than a mile down the road, St. Charles has broken ground on a project of its own: a state-of-the-art police station. The nearly $25 million facility is being built at the site of the former Valley Shopping Center.

Downtown

When police officers move into their new headquarters next fall, their existing downtown station will be left vacant. "That means we're going to have a development opportunity along the river," Rogina said.

That project, along with other proposed attractions in the Fox River corridor, could complement the ongoing efforts to redevelop five blocks along First Street, he said.

The goal of the First Street project has been to create an urban downtown environment using a mix of restaurants, shops and residences, Stellato said. The first two phases, which included a plaza and other streetscape upgrades, were completed in 2009.

Now in the project's third phase, construction is under way on the last of three riverfront buildings containing retail, office and residential components, Stellato said. The next step is to secure a developer for the final three parcels -- and the city already has a "very interested party," he said.

Charlestowne Mall

A concept plan presented in May of 2017 called for the complete revitalization of the Charlestowne Mall property.

Apartments and townhouses would be built, the size of the mall building would be reduced, free-standing commercial structures would be created, and anchors such as Von Maur and Classic Cinemas would be retained.

Nearly 18 months later, mall owners have yet to make a deal with developers, Rogina said. But the city remains optimistic.

"I can't tell you the number of hours I've watched staff put into this particular project," he said. "It's not for lack of trying."

The city has seen some success in the Main Street Commons on the other side of Route 64, where discount stores such as TJ Maxx, Five Below and Ross have moved into the shopping center, Stellato said.

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