ST. CHARLES – At most, Lesty Valdez visits Charlestowne Mall about once a month, usually to visit anchor stores Carson Pirie Scott or Von Maur.
Sitting on a bench in the sparsely populated shopping center Thursday, the Hanover Park resident recalled more prosperous times.
"We came here a lot before," she said, noting it seems like another store is closed with each visit.
New owners hope to change that perception.
Thursday, Sperry Van Ness/Landmark Commercial Real Estate completed the sale of Charlestowne Mall – a 1.1 million-square-foot enclosed shopping center on about 80 acres of land – to The Krausz Companies Inc.
Managing director and broker Neil Johnson and adviser Joel Miller represented the seller and buyer in the transaction. They said in a press release that the spaces occupied by anchors Von Maur and Kohl's were not included in the sale because they are owned separately.
"The city of St. Charles is very pleased that we have passed this first phase for mall redevelopment," City Administrator Mark Koenen said.
The Krausz Companies will seek to bring a lineup of new retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues to the mall, which will be renamed The Quad St. Charles.
David Pyle, executive vice president of The Krausz Companies, said in a written statement that the project was selected after extensive market research. He said population growth, the economic strength of the region and strong support from the city of St. Charles contributed to the company's decision.
"Our commitment is to make this reimagined, redesigned shopping center the place to be in Chicago's affluent western suburbs," Pyle said.
CHARLESTOWNE'S NEW LOOK
Charlestowne Mall, 3800 E. Main St., St. Charles, is expected to get a new look in addition to a new name.
Jay E. Krigsman, executive vice president of The Krausz Companies Inc., said in a written statement that the changes planned for Charlestowne Mall were influenced by input from customers.
"During the past year, we listened closely to what our highly educated, affluent customers wanted in a shopping center close to home,” Krigsman said.
"The Quad St. Charles is the result of applying that knowledge, combined with our professional team's extensive retail expertise and the strong support of the city of St. Charles, to create a truly special and dynamic year-round shopping experience."
Exterior changes include patio dining, merchandised retailers and a neighborhood feeling. Inside, planned amenities include a center court with a fireplace and comfortable seating and family-friendly areas.
"All of the common area interiors will be extensively renovated by capitalizing on the 'good bones' and abundant natural light of the existing structure to create a completely re-imagined environment that is elegant and timeless," Richard Wilden, the director of design for ka architects, said in a written statement.
Groundbreaking is is set for April. Completion is targeted for fall 2015.
The existing anchors – Von Maur, Kohl's, Carson Pirie Scott and Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18 – will remain open during construction.
The Krausz Companies hasn't announced which tenants it hopes to sign, but described in a news release the type of stores and restaurants it seeks to attract: a blend of traditional, high-end and value oriented retailers, edgy fashion-forward shops, convenient services, marketplace-type kiosks and innovative contemporary dining.
"We are excited about The Quad St. Charles and believe it is a fresh start for the mall," Koenen said.
Ruben Alonso, owner of Poblano Pepper Grill, welcomed the news of Charlestowne Mall's sale Thursday.
Since opening his restaurant across from the mall in February 2012, Alonso has struggled to generate business in an area affected by road construction and empty storefronts.
He said he hopes new life at Charlestowne Mall will bring traffic to the east side.
"This whole side of St. Charles is lacking energy," Alonso said. "We definitely need all the help we can get."
Willis Johnson, president of Tivoli Enterprises Inc., the operator of Classic Cinemas, couldn't help but repeat one phrase when asked Thursday about the mall's new ownership.
"It's going to be great," he said.
Representatives of The Krausz Companies have said they plan to demolish the space once occupied by Sears and create better visibility for the 18-screen theater.
Johnson said The Krausz Companies have included Classic Cinemas in the redevelopment discussions. He expressed confidence in the new owner, noting the company has experience in revitalizing shopping centers and seems to have the means to carry out its plans.
"It just seems very positive to us," Johnson said.
Stacey Ekstrom, president and CEO of the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about the new ownership.
"With the completion of construction from IDOT on the east side of town, it's a perfect time for new retailers to open their businesses and help the economic development of St. Charles," she said in an email.
Amy Egolf, executive director of the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the redeveloped mall likely will do more than attract day visitors to St. Charles.
"It's another way for the hotels to be able to sell their own product," she said, noting most hotels in St. Charles are on the east side.
And they don't have to wait until 2015 to begin reaping the benefits, Egolf said, noting many large pieces of business – such as those that land at Pheasant Run Resort or the Q Center – book their reservations early.
The Krausz Companies cleared the first hurdle on the path toward redevelopment even before it took official ownership of Charlestowne Mall. Earlier this month, the City Council approved an amendment to the existing Charlestowne Mall PUD that is needed to facilitate redevelopment.
Koenen said additional steps will need to be done for the project, such as granting building permits and, once construction starts, conducting building inspections.
Any financial support the city provides toward the project, such as a sales tax subsidy, will go through a public vetting process, Koenen said.
"Everyone is very serious about this project proceeding," he said.
The Quad St. Charles team These are the people and companies participating in the redevelopment of Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles: • The Krausz Companies Inc. of San Francisco, Calif. – F. Ron Krausz, president and CEO; David Pyle and Jay E. Krigsman, executive vice presidents; and Daniel Krausz, chief legal officer. • The local team – Charles H. May of Krausz Companies, project director; Andrew Shedlin Companies, leasing; Location Strategies LLC, real estate research and consulting; Mark Goodman & Associates, financing consultant; and 4Insights LLC, marketing and media relations. • Design and construction – ka architects inc. of Cleveland, Ohio; Stoutenborough Inc. of Laguna Beach, Calif.; and Graycor Construction of Oakbrook Terrace.