St. Charles mayoral candidates Jotham Stein and John Rabchuk on Monday each responded to 3rd Ward Alderman Ray Rogina’s vision for downtown renewal, with Stein saying the plan does not go far enough and Rabchuk saying he is the only candidate with a comprehensive economic development plan.
“The Arcada Theatre (105 E. Main St.) is a fantastic source of culture and entertainment and building on the Arcada’s accomplishments will certainly help our downtown grow,” Stein said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. “The more the Arcada offers quality shows that people want to see, the more vital our downtown will be and the more tax revenue the city will collect.
“To the extent Mr. Rogina’s plan works to grow downtown’s culture and entertainment offerings, I am all for it. It is a good start, but only a part of what downtown needs, just as Mr. Rabchuk’s bicycle-hub plan, is a good start, but only a part of what downtown needs,” Stein said. “Because it is only a partial solution, Mr. Rogina’s plan to focus growth downtown on the Arcada is shortsighted and too limited in scope.”
Rabchuk Touts Own Plan
In a statement he issued Monday evening, Rabchuk insisted, however, that his bicycle hub proposal, as well as his plan to establish a volunteer corps, are only two parts of a larger economic development plan that is comprehensive in scope and whose aim is to fill the city’s vacant storefronts.
“My proposals to establish St. Charles as a cycling hub and to create STC Corps of volunteers are part of my comprehensive plan to create” a new synergy that enhances and multiplies the city’s existing assets, while making the town a recognized leader in attracting new business, Rabchuk said in a release he issued Monday evening.
“With little cost, we can attract residents and visitors to our downtown and establish a vibrancy that will make St. Charles a desirable destination for new business,” he said. Rabchuk’s plan also includes investigating methods for transforming the Fox River into a diverse recreational asset, and turning the First Street Plaza into a high foot-traffic hub with regularly scheduled entertainment.
Stein: Diverse Businesses Needed
Stein said the city needs a mix of all types of businesses on both the East and West sides of St. Charles, saying such diversity will be healthier for the city’s economy than focusing on one type of business or industry.
“To focus the revitalization of downtown on the Arcada, as Mr. Rogina wants to do, or on bicycle events as Mr. Rabchuk wants to do, will not maximize growth nor create a truly flourishing downtown. We need to focus on recruiting all types of businesses to downtown. Not just entertainment businesses, not just bicycle businesses, but all types of businesses.”
Stein, who has made economic development a key focus of his campaign, added that “my top priority as mayor will be to use my more than 20 years of experience giving business and legal advice to companies of all sizes to recruit a mix of businesses to all of St. Charles — to downtown, to the East Side and to the West Side.
“Instead of seeing businesses leave St. Charles or close altogether, as mayor, I will actively recruit new business investment to St. Charles, nurture start-up businesses, and help businesses that are here but struggling,” Stein said. “I am proud that the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce recently awarded me the 2012 Charlemagne Award for Community Development for investing in downtown by moving my office to a historic building and renovating it. As mayor, when I recruit businesses to our city, the companies will see my commitment to our city and that I have done exactly what I am asking them to do — invest in St. Charles.”
Rabchuk Details Plan
Rabchuk said he is the only candidate with a specific comprehensive plan for achieving this goal.
He said that his work on several civic board in recent years has demonstrated to him the difficulties in pitching the city’s commercial and industrial opportunities in a positive light.
“It’s a tough sell against the visual backdrop of too many empty storefronts, two mall sites in need of redevelopment, and a sluggish manufacturing base,” he said. “The first part of my plan is to address this issue by making St. Charles into a more attractive location for business. A healthy, vibrant community is a vital cornerstone for economic growth.”
Noting his own work on the 2013 draft Comprehensive Plan, Rabchuk said it offers specific approaches for redeveloping the old St. Charles Mall site and the Charlestown Mall area, as well as lays out goals and steps for pumping new life into the city’s industrial and manufacturing areas, and better using the city’s gateways.
He pointed to the plan’s discussion of reconfiguring the Charlestowne Mall site. “By realigning the east-west traffic through the mall site, it’s possible to create a significant number of desirable out-lots … (that) would be ideal sites for high-end retail and chain restaurants that prefer to locate on the edge of high-traffic areas,” Rabchuk said.
- Feb. 17, 2013: Rogina Outlines Vision for St. Charles Central Business District Renewal
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