Mauled by a mall part III

Here’s another one the local papers inexplicably missed.

Before the first silver spade carefully clutched in an eternally optimistic St. Charles alderman’s hands hit the sod, the Charlestowne Mall renovation has already been delayed by at least six months.

And just like a savvy third base coach flashing ten separate signs to confuse the competition, The Krausz Companies quickly cited issues such as keeping the existing anchor stores open, navigating the unusual 18 month project time frame, and noting “it’s a very complex undertaking and we just need to get it right.”  charlestown3

As any good dugout sign stealer will tell you, then they called the real play – a hit and run – by casually mentioning they were having difficulty securing tenant commitments.

Aye! That’s the real rub folks.

Trust me, anytime you hear someone give you the “we want to get it right” excuse, run as fast as you bleepin’ can! Because all developers really want to get is all that cash from getting the bleepin’ project online as soon as they possibly can.

Translated, what “we want to get it right” really means is, “Holy crap! We seriously misjudged this situation which isn’t going our way from the get go and so we need to reevaluate it and make some serious adjustments before it all goes up in flames.”

If a developer with a reasonable reputation like The Krausz Companies can’t get tenants to sign on the dotted line during the honeymoon phase…

The best evidence of my hypothesis is they’ve already acquired every last one of the required city permits. So,  if the spirit so moved them, the developer could break ground tomorrow. Tearing down the old building while you keep the anchors open ain’t exactly rocket science.

When Larry Jones and I discussed this Quad St. Charles mall conundrum on Left, Right and You, he made two excellent points. The first was that, sometimes city councils have to go with the best potential present possibility. He aptly noted that the City will be getting the current empty mall torn down for “free.”

The second was that city councils have to offer developers serious financial concessions or they’ll take their business elsewhere. So the fact that St. Charles gave Krausz a $20 million sales tax break was not only necessary, but essentially risk free because it won’t come directly out of the taxpayers’ pocket.

Even though it’s difficult to disagree with that logic, let me give it my best shot.

I will concede Larry’s concession argument because shifting that city council making the best offer mindset is never going to happen. Very few aldermen have that kind of foresight. The problem with this particular deal is the amount. Now you’ve primed the pump for everyone else to ask for $20 million.

But I will not give him the “no risk” argument because this Quad St. Charles proposition is fraught with peril, the least of which is putting a ton of time and energy into something that’s gonna fizzle and the most of which is yet another eternally deteriorating concrete slab like the one that was the former St. Charles Mall.

Has anyone else noticed that, despite all the foreclosure overhead, the housing and rental markets are coming screaming back?

So here’s my prediction. This will by no means be the only delay. In fact, they’ll probably stretch the current phase out over the next two years. Then, faced with no other option and no tenants, the developer will completely rework the plan into something far less beneficial to the City of St. Charles, while insisting upon the original deal.

In order for this project, in whatever it’s final form will be, to finally open for business, Krausz will demand even more concessions and the City Council will cave because, in for a penny… Then, given all the Randall Road and Internet competition, the Quad will become the Charlestowne Mall II five to ten short years later.

What so many folks don’t understand is, I hope I’m dead wrong about all this. The fact that I, or any other columnist, does their best to peer into the future and tries to make the correct call does not mean we’re pulling for our particular version of events to come true. It simply means we want the people in positions of power to consider this possibility and change course while they still can.

One thought on “Mauled by a mall part III

  1. In the words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again. Down here in Aurora we’ve been waiting longer than that for Shodeen to even start on the project they’ve already gotten millions of bucks from the city for. I don’t count tearing down buildings (including ones occupied by viable businesses) and digging a bunch of holes as starting on the project. On the other hand, I don’t think the project should have ever been approved in the first place. That was Weisner’s baby.

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