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Charlestowne Mall Renovations Still in 'Preliminary Stages' While Storefronts Empty

Charlestowne still has great plans for the future, but nothing seems to be getting off the ground just yet.

“We haven’t heard a hammer yet.”

That comment from The Limited manager Sarah Suchor basically sums up the renovation status of Charlestowne Mall. While hopes remain high for the struggling shopping venue that lost several more tenants within the last few months, mall Marketing Director Jeffrey Renkert said plans are still on track. 

“It’s gonna happen,” Renkert said. “These things take a lot of time. Permits still have not been issued. That means they’re still planning and in preliminary stages.”

Renkert is referring to the ice skating rink and sushi buffet, both of which were announced last fall and were scheduled to open this spring.

“An ice rink isn’t just a mom and pop store that’s gonna open in an empty space,” he said. 

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Still, with just a 20 percent occupancy rate, the mall remains painfully devoid of retailers. Sarah Mortenson of West Chicago brought her five-year old to play in a play area located across from a Gymboree before heading for the Wild Fun Mini Golf Center. 

“We’ll shop, but there’s not too many [stores] here but the big ones,” Mortenson said. “It’s hard to walk through here and see them all empty.”

She said they ride the carousel often and go to the movie theatre, but with only a Chinese Gourmet, Miyaki Japan and Famous Philly’s remaining as choices in the food court, they would most likely eat elsewhere.

The three remaining anchor stores—Kohl’s, Carson Pirie Scott and Von Maur—still regulary attract customers and provide a boost for the remaining stores located near them. 

Suchor said business has been going pretty well for The Limited, located just outside of Kohl’s and Carsons. She attributed their healthy holiday season to customers loyal to the brand and being the only Limited store in the area. She remains optimistic for the mall. 

“The customers we get coming in here say there’s no reason that this mall can’t be supported by the people who live here,” Suchor said. “St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, South Elgin, Bartlett; there’s no reason we shouldn’t do well.”

She said if the ice rink does become a reality, she’s not sure it would bring more customers into her store. 

“It wouldn’t help very much,” Suchor said. “It would bring birthday parties and more kids. I might get more traffic, but not serious shoppers.”

On the other side of the mall, Charlestowne 18 Classic Cinemas continues to see robust business and appears to be reaping the benefits of sequels and re-releases. Last fall, the hallways outside the theatre were jammed with fans dressed as prestidigitators and wizards for the overnight showings of the Harry Potter movies. There was similar interest in the final episode of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. The Star Wars films are being released in 3D—Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace is currently playing at the theatre—and will likely continue to attract ardent moviegoers. 

Matsi Singer, who works for Nickels and Dimes maintaining a merchandise kiosk just outside the movie theatre, said he believe the the mall is “dying out.”

“It is a terrible mall,” he said. “This movie theatre is the only thing going for it. When it’s snowing or when the kids are in school, there’s nothing going on.”

He also expressed some concerns about security in the mall, pointing to damage done to the kiosk.

“Security is never around,” he said. “They should be walking around all the time.”

Renkert said there are two officers on duty whenever the mall is open. He said one walks around the center and the other monitors television cameras that are placed all over the mall.

For now, Renkert said he is busy trying to keep the shopping center “in front of people.” He said it has served as a venue for a variety of community activities such as pinewood derbies with local Cub Scouts. He said most shopping centers have a marketing fund that is built into tenants’ leases.

“Every dollar spent is by the owners,” he said. “I have to be really frugal. But it’s warm and it’s clean. It’s not necessarily to attract customers, primarily to keep the center in the minds of the public.” 

He said a group of investors that purchased the mall two years ago also invested in a similar mall in California and turned it around. But that was before the current economic climate took over. 

Renkert said he’s confident that if a national tenant moves in, a lot more will follow. 

Sperry Van Ness is the mall’s real estate broker, and Managing Director Neil Johnson said that while there have been extensions on some of the current leases, the new vacancies have put the mall in a major planning mode.

“We’re really having to shift into a planning mode,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take a major effort to bring [the mall] back. Right now there are no specific updates, but there are lots of things still in the planning and approval stages.

“We continue to be optimistic and work with ownership for solutions.”

felicite February 23, 2012 at 01:20 PM
So sad, when we moved into the area 20+ years ago there were two malls, remember the old one that was finally torn down at Rte 38 and Randall? And remains a parking lot?.... All the retail is moving to the Randall corridor, which I personally hate to shop because of the traffic. And Honestly, all the stores opening now are geared towards younger customers... Sears gone, if Carsons and Von Maur ever leave I will not have anywhere to shop (being a 40+ yo woman) and will have to resort to driving to Woodfield. I wonder what Von Maurs numbers are like... this area could use some more upscale shopping for sure. AND a Trader Joes on the East side! Good luck to Charlestown mall in their turnaround!
JuleS February 23, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I think most everyone knows this mall is NOT coming back from the near-dead and will probably be closed in a couple of years, and the only factor keeping it open is that the anchors are still doing a good business. I, too hate the Randall corridor, but like the St. Charles Mall of yesteryear just east of Randall on 38), I'm afraid the Charlestowne Mall will go the same route. It's a shame it was taken over by such an uninterested entity which has seemingly bought it to use as a tax write-off.
MamaS February 26, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Why can't mall management lure stores that are not duplicated within 5 miles? So many of the stores that closed are also at Geneva Commons. It would be nice to have new stores like Aveda, Kiehls, MAC, Lucky Brand, dElia's, Urban Outfitters, bebe, Bakers, Under Armour and on and on....bring back Charlotte Russe. Arrange for all of them to open on the same day or week for a spectacular "Grand Opening". Certainly this community can support this mall, if only there were places to shop. I'm weary of the Randall road traffic nightmare and of traveling to other malls to shop.
felicite February 27, 2012 at 01:07 PM
EXACTLY... we do not need duplicate stores. And by the looks of the traffic at Oak Brook and Woodfield malls, there are still a lot of people who are still shopping and have money to spend. There are a lot of stores I am sure people would shop at - unfortunately the economic climate is such that corporations do not want to take on any risk. And for stores that are not chains - it is very difficult to get financing right now. In particular: restaurants - it is nearly impossible. Glad to hear those anchors are still there! Hopefully they can turn it around.
robert poznanski February 27, 2012 at 01:41 PM
If there is going to be a"secret" way of attracting people to this defunct mall, it will be by offering them something, you cant get anywhere else! VonMaur is one good example, (what a wonderful store) and that should be the direction, that they pursue!! Get a Trader Joe"s, Whole Foods, etc, in there, and watch the people "show up!" Give them something to go for!!!! Its not rocket science!!
JJMuenz February 27, 2012 at 02:36 PM
When were the permits applied for? That would be interesting to know.
T Johnson March 08, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Yeah, and an Apple Store and a Gap, just go get those guys - problem solved!

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