West Side Story: St. Charles officials hope to fill vacancies

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 6:43 a.m. CDT
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Much of the shopping area near the intersection of Randall Road and Route 38 is currently for lease.

ST. CHARLES – To Mayor Ray Rogina, a proposal to turn a former Kwik Lube into a drive-thru grocery store is about more than the products that retailer would bring to the Route 38-Randall Road corridor.

“I see this as an opportunity to start bringing people into that particular area,” he said.

The store – which is seeking St. Charles City Council approval to have drive-thru beer and wine sales – is planned for 2071 Lincoln Highway, a location near a strip mall with a shuttered Dominick’s and the former St. Charles mall property now characterized by a crumbling parking lot and two vacant restaurants.

The area is part of the West Gateway, an area that also includes commercial properties along Randall Road between Bricher Road and Dean Street and the Valley Shopping Center off West Main Street.

Rogina said he sincerely hopes the grocery store’s request passes.

“I hear it all the time as mayor … ‘What about filling these storefronts?’ ” he said.

Rita Tungare, the city’s director of community and economic development, said St. Charles maintains an inventory of available sites and works to match prospective businesses with those sites. The city also is aiming to increase its presence at regional trade shows so officials can interact and communicate with businesses wanting to expand or relocate, she said.

“It’s about promoting the city, marketing the city, marketing what we have to offer in St. Charles,” Tungare said.

But the city is limited in what it can do to fill empty storefronts, she said, noting property owners need to make sure the price is right.

Rogina said the new economic development manager – whose appointment should be announced next week – will be an additional resource.

“This person will go a long way toward getting in the middle of more specifically addressing particular spots in the community that need attention,” Rogina said.

Although vacancies exist in the West Gateway, businesses are investing in the area. Three restaurants have recently opened in West Towne Market along West Main Street, and Salsa Verde Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria has opened at 1850 Lincoln Highway.

Additionally, a former post office near the Valley Shopping Center was demolished last year to make way for an O’Reilly Auto Parts store. Kenneth Marino of developer Grobmar Investments said construction should begin in upcoming months, and the shop is expected to open by summer.

But any hopes for redevelopment at the former St. Charles Mall site at Randall Road and Route 38 appear to be just that – hopes.

“We currently do not have any plans to develop the site,” ShoDeen President David Patzelt said in an email.

Nearly four years ago, the City Council rejected his company’s plan to build a town center featuring retailers, restaurants, office space, entertainment facilities and residential units on the 30-acre site.

In the comprehensive plan adopted last year, the city outlined three redevelopment alternatives for the mall site.

“Throughout the outreach process, residents voiced different ideas for the site, underscoring the fact that the community remains split on the best use of the site,” the comprehensive plan states.

Rogina said the city is willing to talk with ShoDeen about its property and how it fits into the comprehensive plan.

“To me – and we’ll call it the old mall property – to me that’s always in play,” Rogina said.

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