Keep in mind that the conceptual plan for Charlestowne Mall that The Krausz Companies Inc. presented to the St. Charles City Council are “very “preliminary,” but they do indicate big changes are in store for the languishing mall.
Krausz Executive Vice President David Pyle and Project Director Charles May presented the “vision” or conceptual plan for the mall on Monday, laying out plans for more glass and windows, outside dining areas for the food court on the second level, more entrances and more retail buildings developed on the property’s out lots.
Here’s a rundown on some of the ideas — emphasis on the word ideas. This is, after all, a “very preliminary” conceptual plan that could change significantly in the coming months:
Charlestowne 18 Theatres would remain, as would the food court, which would be expanded to include outdoor dining.
Other retailers also would remain, although the Krausz executives noted there are few there. Still, Pyle said that will work to the developer’s advantage once construction begins — with so many vacancies, crews should have plenty of room to work without affecting the existing retailers.
No new development is planned on the north side of the mall property.
Partial demolition: Part of the mall would be demolished — Krausz officials said between 50,000 and 75,000 square feet would be eliminated. Ward 1 Alderman Dan Stellato said that’s about the size of the former Best Buy store in St. Charles.
May compared the downsizing to “right-sizing” the mall. Had the mall been developed a decade or so later, he said, the mall would have been build smaller to ensure its success.
By doing this, he and Pyle said The Krausz Companies will seek to ensure an occupancy rate of 92, 95 or even 98 percent — rates that never materialized even when the mall first opened its doors. At best, the mall’s occupancy rate never hit 80 percent, even in its hay day.
Carousel: The carousel likely will not remain, Pyle said.
That sparked more than a few protests Monday evening on the St. Charles Patch Facebook page, as St. Charles Patch updated residents via its own website and social media.
“NO!! not the carousel! i grew up with that! so sad,” posted Elizabeth Katherine. Minutes later, she added, “terrible they could at least try to find some place to put it in the new up coming changes they are making.”
“What??!!!!” posted Jill Atkins.
Added Collin Smudde: “Wait isn't that a landmark!?”
“Let's just be concerned with what will go in there and not about the carousel!” wrote Linda Ventrella Curcio.
“I can live w/out the carousel if it means new retail, restaurants & family themed venues!!!” posted Lauren Montemurno Barsotti.
Which makes a good segue into:
Appearance: By creating more entrances and adding more glass features, the developers plan to make the mall more appealing to the eye. “It will be an almost urban looking environment,” Pyle said. “Instead of looking like one big monster building, will look like several buildings.”
Good eats: The developers intend to draw to the mall new, quality restaurants — places that offer nice, sit-down, quality meals.
More retailers: Pyle and May said that The Krausz Companies are experienced at mall redevelopment and relaunching, including gauging what retail offerings will have the greatest likelihood of success in the community.
Retail closer to East Main/Route 64: The developer plans to replace some of those vast parking spaces with stores on the mall’s out lots, bringing retail closer to the highway.
That probably will require some reconfiguring of the roads looping the mall, he said, although those details have not been worked out yet with the city.
Amenities: Look for a fireplace or similar amenities where people can sit down and talk and relax — either while taking a break from shopping or to avoid shopping themselves while friends or family members do so.
“We’re working on creating a toddler area, gathering places,” Pyle said. “We want to keep the walkability … We want to create a place where people can come in and find something exciting and interesting.”
Similar features that also have been discussed include a possible performing area or display areas that could be used, for example, by the St. Charles arts community.
The developers said they also intend to preserve the mall’s walkability, and intend to “create a regional destination, a year-round, climate-controlled environment …”