ST. CHARLES – After 23 years, Charlestowne Mall is headed for a new beginning.
The Krausz Companies Inc. became the latest owners of the mall in November at a price of more than $9.5 million. Its staff have big plans to redevelop the site into The Quad St. Charles. The mall has lost many tenants and customers over the years since its heydays in the 1990s.
The owners have applied for a demolition permit and could start some teardown and construction as early as July, city officials said. No firm date on a groundbreaking has been set following the passing of an initial April target date. Chuck May, project director of The Quad, said there will be no updates about the site until after this month.
While there hasn’t been too much visible progress to the public, May has given frequent reports to the St. Charles City Council on the behind-the-scenes work to transform the mall.
The first phase of the mall redevelopment will focus on completing exterior work to the mall building. The developer is also actively recruiting tenants and finalizing the architectural designs of the new mall, said Russell Colby, the city’s planning division manager.
Retailers look at infrastructure in a different way than they had before, said Jay Krigsman, Krausz Companies executive vice president. This means Krausz has to revamp the mall facility, which originally opened in 1991, to meet the needs of modern businesses.
“I think our plan rendering does a good job of solving those problems,” Krigsman said.
That plan includes demolishing the former Sears anchor store in the westernmost part of mall. The store has sat empty since 2011, when Sears left the building.
Another part of the mall headed for demolition is the food court, located in the central north area on the upper level.
Initial renderings for other open areas of the mall show cozy seating areas and fireplaces.
Parts of the mall property will be regraded from its current mix of slopes and inclines. This will involve construction work out in the mall’s parking lots, according to the city of St. Charles website.
The regrading will allow for the option of standalone businesses in outlots on the perimeter of the mall property, Colby said.
Charlestowne 18 upgrades
Near the former Sears property on the mall’s west side is the Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18 movie theater, which also is due for a physical upgrade.
Classic Cinemas still is in discussion with Krausz Companies about the final revised mall layout, said Chris Johnson, vice president of Downers Grove-based Tivoli Enterprises, which operates Classic Cinemas.
Johnson declined to go into specifics, but said the theater will be updated in terms of look and comfort.
The theater already has added Datasat 7.1 sound and upgraded its movie projectors to 4K resolution, which is the latest technology, Johnson said.
“We are 100 percent dedicated to that site and doing everything in our power to making it the best venue in the area,” Johnson said.
The mall redevelopment will result in better visibility of the theater from Route 64 south of the mall property, Johnson said. Site plans include the addition of escalators running directly down to the movie theater’s box office. The current escalators near the theater are down a hall and outside the former Sears building.
Once the Sears building comes down, an entry for the theater will be created on the mall’s northwest side for patrons. Another entrance will be set up once the food court is torn down, Johnson said. The food court is directly above the mall’s north entrance.
It shouldn’t take any longer to get into the theater, he said.
Some staying, Some moving
The theater and the other existing anchors, Carson Pirie Scott, Kohl’s and Von Maur, will remain open during construction.
The Lenscrafters store inside the mall will remain open during construction and will remain a tenant after the mall’s 2015 relaunch, May said.
Lenscrafters is located on the mall’s east side near Carson Pirie Scott. Also on the east side is a branch location of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA.
The society would certainly like to stay in the mall, wrote Jean Latz Griffin, the society’s Midwest branch president, in an email.
The society has a growing, active group of Fox Valley-area residents who enjoy practicing Tai Chi and benefiting from its positive effects on their health, she wrote.
“We have not reached a decision because we don’t yet have enough information regarding how the construction will affect us,” Griffin wrote in the email.
Another undecided tenant is 4 Seasons Nails. The nail salon has been located near the mall's southwest entrance for about five years, said Kiet Le, husband of 4 Seasons owner Katie Le.
Remaining in the mall would involve moving to another suite for a few months, only to have to move again when interior construction begins, Kiet Le said.
Le said he is close to signing a lease in a nearby shopping center in St. Charles, but he won't make a decision until he talks to mall representatives again about his options.
"No matter where we go, [the customers] are going to follow us anyway," Le said. "But they don't want [us] to move out of St. Charles."
Regardless of what the family decides, Le said the business has to move out of its current space by August 1.
Another mall tenant, Marquee Youth Stage, will stay at least until the end of the year. Marquee Youth – or MyStage – is a nonprofit children’s theater and performing arts group.
MyStage moved into the mall in fall 2011 after agreeing to pay a percentage of the show’s sales to the previous mall operators, said Connie Flores, a MyStage founder and its artistic director.
MyStage took a suite near the west side of the mall closer to the former Sears site. In advance of the Sears building demolition, the group this month relocated to another suite closer to Kohl’s and Von Maur.
MyStage’s latest leasing agreement with the mall lasts until the end of December, Flores said. She said it was a blessing for MyStage to be able to have a home in the mall for the past few years.
“I think ultimately when we moved into the mall that we were on borrowed time … I wasn’t expecting to be there forever,” Flores said.
MyStage would like to partner with a local property owner willing to work with the group to subsidize the rent until it breaks even, Flores said. About 85 percent of the MyStage families are from St. Charles, and about 10 percent are from Geneva.
“I think we’re all here for the kids,” Flores said. “This is their theater and their stage.”
Closer Look at The Quad St. Charles
This is part one of a two-part series exploring the Charlestowne Mall’s redevelopment into The Quad St. Charles and what it means for the city of St. Charles. Today’s story addresses preparing for mall construction and what will happen to its current tenants. Friday’s story is about the potential for the mall’s success and finding prospective tenants.
On the Web
Visit this story at KCChronicle.com to view video of MyStage Founder Connie Flores talking about the group’s time at the Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles.