Cuts to the arts program at a West Aurora middle school where Connie Flores worked left her with an opportunity.
Flores, who lives in St. Charles, decided to move onto doing children’s community theater. For the last few years, she directed a mixture of plays and musicals, using local venues such as the for the shows.
Just last month, Flores moved into her own stage, inside the Charlestowne Mall.
Two more filled storefronts, including Flores' Marquee Youth Stage, and an indoor farmers market are the latest in the Charlestowne's efforts to redevelop itself as an entertainment destination.
“I believe that it’s a great place for us to start with,” Flores said. “And, hopefully, it will evolve into a bigger space, eventually.”
In addition to the youth stage, the Taoist Tai Chi Society, a charitable organization that promotes tai chi exercise, will open their newest location near inside the mall.
The society is scheduled to host an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 12, where members will provide demonstrations of Taoist Tai Chi movements.
Classes for the low-impact exercise will begin at the new, lower-level location on Nov. 14.
On Nov. 13, a new indoor farmers market will launch at Charlestowne, which is expected to sell soaps, spices, popcorn, dog treats and variety of other items. Pawprint Bakery owner Debbie Kasprzak had contacted the mall about running the market.
These new locations are just latest in the mall management’s efforts toward revitalizing. A group of California-based investors bought the 1 million-square-foot mall in 2010. They retained the Geneva-based brokerage firm Sperry Van Ness / Landmark, whiches handles the leasing of space and recruits tenants.
“I know that (mall) ownership is focused on making the mall into a shopping and entertainment venue,” said Jeff Renkert, marketing director for the mall.
Two other locations, an ice-skating rink and a sushi buffet, are expected to open this spring.
Mall occupancy has remained “pretty steady" in recent months, Renkert said. He also said larger stores, such as and , continue to see steady business.
“Those anchors aren’t going anywhere,” he said.