City officials appears are growing more impatient as, they say, promises from owners to rehab the Charlestowne Mall go unfulfilled.
On Monday, a committee approved funding for a study that will look at the retail market for the mall area and possibly find suitable alternative uses that the aging shopping center property.
The market study and examination, which is expected to cost a total of $35,000, is needed to determine if the City Council has options when it comes to the property and what those are, Mayor Don DeWitte told the committee Monday.
The owner, a California-based investment group, has been “inactive” in fulfilling on promises made regarding updating and remodeling what has become a “very distressed piece of property,” DeWitte said.
“I’m not willing to let it fade away,” he added.
Since ownership changed hands in 2010, the already-struggling mall has since seen the vacancy rate climb. Strong sales at a few anchor stores, including and Kohl’s, make for an oddity in what has otherwise become a largely vacant shopping center.
The city sees pushing forward with the study now as fortunate timing.
In May, the City Council approved a contract to develop a new Comprehensive Plan for land use and development within St. Charles. An understanding of other, possibly better uses for the Charlestowne property could inform how the lays out the land use for that part of the city.
“What if another developer came to us with a contrary proposal and needed our help to this present owner that he had a better idea?” DeWitte said.
Having a better understanding of what that retail area could support, even if the market conditions change, is important for creating options for the council, DeWitte said.
Chris Aiston, the city’s economic development director, said that the “status quo” for the mall is not acceptable. Aiston, who presented the study proposal to the committee, called for a proactive approach and said the study would provide information about where the mall could go from here.
“From my perspective, the ownership is dragging their feet.”
According to a letter from consultant Melaniphy and Associates, the study will examine the spending trends affecting the mall, the retail performance in St. Charles and what area competitions, including Randall Road shopping centers, have siphoned business away from Charlestowne.
The study, which is expected to take about nine weeks to complete, also will specifically probe Charlestowne’s current tenants, its current performance and the alternatives possible.
“One of the alternatives is, always, to knock it all down. Nobody wants to hear that what that’s an alternative,” said John Melaniphy, president of the consulting firm. Finding another use for the existing building also remains on the table.