ST. CHARLES – Banners in Charlestowne Mall have, in recent years, told St. Charles to get ready – that “great things are coming.”
Promises of an indoor ice skating rink and a seafood and sushi buffet never materialized under the ownership of a California-based group of investors, but the future of Charlestowne Mall soon might be looking up.
Officials said the mall is set to get new owners.
Neil Johnson, managing director for the Geneva office of commercial real estate firm Sperry Van Ness, which oversees tenant recruitment at Charlestowne, said in an email that the mall is under contract to be sold.
“There is no specific closing date or redevelopment timetable yet,” he wrote. “However, I do know that the new owners intend to keep it as a mall and to make extensive upgrades.”
Johnson couldn’t share any more details Tuesday but said more information should be available in the next 45 days.
Mayor Ray Rogina, who addressed Charlestowne Mall throughout this year’s mayoral race, said news of the impending sale leads to optimism.
“It’s a huge economic driver for us on the east side,” Rogina said. “The residents have waited a long time to see something developed.”
He said the city is ready and willing to talk with the new owner.
“When they’re ready to go, we’re ready to go,” he said.
Opened in 1991 along Route 64 just east of Kirk Road, Charlestowne Mall at one time boasted more than 120 tenants.
It has been owned by Charlestowne Mall Investments – which was led by California investors who also had purchased a failing mall property in Cupertino, Calif. – since 2010.
Last year, such tenants as Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Claire’s left the mall. Now, Charlestowne has few tenants other than anchors Kohl’s, Carson Pirie Scott, Von Maur and Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18.
The community’s vision for the mall is laid out in the city’s 2013 comprehensive plan, which could be adopted as early as Monday. It includes details about what the mall could be like as a “Main Street” shopping center; an entertainment and events center; and a concept called Town Center East, which fragments the mall to create a more traditional town center pattern of streets, storefronts and open space.
“The Charlestowne Mall site represents the single greatest opportunity to redefine the character and function of the East Gateway,” the draft comprehensive plan states. “This framework plan highlights recommendations that could be implemented regardless of the timing or end vision for the repositioning of the mall structure itself.”
Whatever plans the new owner may have for Charlestowne, Rogina said the city’s goal is to make sure changes are done in the confines of the comprehensive plan.
Personally, he said, he thinks nothing is wrong with an enclosed mall if it’s done right, but he wouldn’t want Charlestowne to be a run-of-the-mill shopping center. He referenced resident and former mayoral candidate John Rabchuk’s comments at the Planning and Development Committee meeting Monday night about wanting a special development for First Street in downtown St. Charles.
“The same is true about the mall,” Rogina said. “We want something truly unique to St. Charles.”
Both he and incoming City Administrator Mark Koenen said the mall should benefit from recent roadway improvements.
“Don’t discount the value of that Red Gate Bridge,” Rogina said, explaining residents in the northwest corridor now have ready-made access to the mall instead of having to go through downtown.
Koenen spoke about the construction on Route 64, which is set to end this fall.
“The city needs to facilitate an environment where retail and commercial development can be successful,” Koenen said.
“With the conclusion of the Route 64 project, that improved infrastructure provides an environment for a business to be successful.”
Mall manager Kathy Marano declined to comment.
• Note to readers – the online version of this story has been edited to correct an error.