'Hopefully this is it': St. Charles mayor confident in anticipated Charlestowne Mall proposal

St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek admits to not always being the most patient person when it comes to progress in her town.

With the beleaguered Charlestowne Mall location, though, patience by city leaders finally may pay off.

Through plans and disappointments, Charlestowne Mall - a blighted icon on the corner of Route 64 and Kirk Road at the eastern gateway to St. Charles - has continued to deteriorate as interior shops and anchor stores closed or departed.

But in the next few months, Vitek is cautiously optimistic a new development plan may be approved. While details are scant, communication between the developer and the city have been fruitful.

So fruitful, in fact, that Vitek believes a breakthrough is possible when Schaumburg-based UrbanStreet Group makes an expected presentation to the city council as early as next month.

"Hopefully this is it," Vitek said. "I think this could be a good partnership.

"I can be a very impatient person," she said. "But in this case I've been patient, knowing we've got a good city. We've got good growth going on and something will happen."

'Just put something there'

It's been more than five years since the interior of Charlestowne Mall was shuttered. One by one, retail anchors such as Sears, Carson's and Kohl's abandoned the mall, leaving only Von Maur and the Classic Cinemas movie theater as occupants.

Cooper's Hawk restaurant and Starbucks were added in an attempt to create an outlot revival, but nothing else arrived.

In the meantime, the mall has been used for all sorts of odd uses. A car commercial was filmed inside, and St. Charles Unit District 303 officials rented empty Sears space for storage.

Vitek, elected in 2021 as mayor after serving a term as alderperson, feels the frustration growing in St. Charles. Especially for residents longing for an east-side rebirth.

"People say, 'Enough already. Just put something there,'" she said. "But my argument is that we're a great city and we don't have to be a hostage to settling. Yes, we want something there and I understand the frustration. But I also understand that residents will be frustrated if it's not the right fit."

Grand plans have come and gone, the latest from S.R. Jacobson Development and Lormax Stern Development to purchase the property from Krausz Companies and create a mixed-use landscape of apartments, townhouses, restaurants and a hotel.

Last year the St. Charles City Council rejected the proposal, questioning the density of the apartment complex as well as the reality of attracting a hotel.

'Why is this different?'

Enter UrbanStreet Group.

According to St. Charles officials, the Charlestowne Mall location is under contract to be acquired by UrbanStreet. Representatives, who couldn't be reached for comment, are working with city staff to create a concept plan.

To cynics in the city, on the surface, it may look like another development attempt bound for nowhere. But Vitek has a feeling about this one.

"People may argue, 'Well, why is this different from anything else?'" she said. "The difference, I'm hoping, is we have a developer that's had success. They have a great reputation. They're willing to work with us. I think that this is doable."

Vitek pointed to the UrbanStreet project at the Motorola campus in Schaumburg as a prime example of what could occur at Charlestowne Mall. The Veridian mixed-use redevelopment will feature homes, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment options.

It's that kind of combination Vitek envisions for Charlestowne Mall.

"I know our city and I know that people want certain things," she said. "After gathering all the feedback, we know there's going to have to be some sort of residential there. We do believe there could be recreational or entertainment opportunities."

Another benefit of working with UrbanStreet, Vitek said, is they'd handle every angle of development. That would eliminate the potential for confusion and conflict between different residential and commercial developers, an issue that's derailed past projects.

'We have ideas'

That's not to say UrbanStreet won't face challenges with Charlestowne Mall.

Is it more practical to raze the mall or work within the framework of the current structure? If the massive facility is demolished, what becomes of the movie theater and Von Maur?

According to Vitek, Cooper's Hawk and Starbucks representatives have expressed a desire to remain on the property. She'd like any development to contribute to the success of all the existing businesses on the site.

"We have ideas, our council has ideas," she said. "What we told (UrbanStreet representatives) is if you don't think it's doable, we want to know why. They're in constant communication with staff."

There's no doubt, Vitek said, the east side of St. Charles is bursting with potential.

Even after the Pheasant Run Resort closed and large portions were destroyed by fire, development is occurring with McGrath Honda soon opening on the former Mega Center property.

The southeast corner of Kirk Road and Route 64 is being primed for redevelopment and an industrial park is planned for the former Pheasant Run golf course. Residential construction is underway at the Springs at St. Charles, a 27-acre parcel northeast of Charlestowne Mall.

Without something significant occurring at the mall itself, though, Vitek knows the eastern gateway to St. Charles will continue to struggle.

"For various reasons, it just hasn't happened," Vitek said. "Hopefully this is the partnership we've been waiting for."

  The Classic Cinemas theater is one of the few spots that remains open at Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles. Brian Hill/
St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek
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