05 Jun

Downtown Overlay District Promotes Pedestrian Access to Shopping and Entertainment

People Sidewalk PortraitWhat exactly is St. Charles’ Downtown Overlay District and what does it mean to businesses here in St. Charles?

The Downtown Overlay District was established in a 2006 Zoning Ordinance to identify the type of businesses that should occupy street-level spaces downtown. Simply put, the ordinance reserves ground-floor spaces for businesses that are expected to generate foot traffic downtown or fit in with the walkable shopping, dining and entertainment businesses in the area. In November 2013, the City Council modified the restrictions to include certain types of professional offices as well, subject to review and approval.

In general, the Council feels it is best to foster a downtown that offers the economic and lifestyle benefits of a walkable downtown with pedestrian access to a variety of venues.

What Happens When a Business Requests Special Review of First-Floor Occupancy Downtown?

There is a specific certification process that office businesses must follow to be considered for review under the Downtown Overlay District ordinance. This happened earlier this year when ALE Solutions, Inc., which occupies the entire second and third floors of the Fox Island Square building at 1 West Illinois St., made such a request.

Recent growth of ALE Solutions, which finds temporary housing for people across the country whose homes were devastated by disasters, prompted them to move into a portion of the first floor of the Fox Island building. However, upon review of the application, City staff concluded that because the vast majority of ALE Solutions customers are not physically present in St. Charles, the business does not generate sufficient pedestrian activity to be compatible with a pedestrian-oriented district.

The Planning & Development Committee agreed. At the April 21 meeting, City Council gave ALE Solutions extra time (90 days vs. 30) to relocate the handful of employees that had moved onto the first floor. The City is actively working with ALE Solutions to find an alternative location downtown for these employees.

Why Walkability Downtown Matters

Having a downtown that is fueled by pedestrian traffic enhances not only the economic competitiveness of the businesses located there, it also creates a vibrant, inviting space for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the shopping, entertainment and cultural options available.

Rita Tungare is Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of St. Charles. For more information about the Downtown Overlay District, contact Tungare at rtungare@stcharlesil.gov or 630-377-4443.
15 May

City Partners with Developers of the Quad of St. Charles to Revitalize Mall and East Gateway Shopping District

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On May 5, 2014, the City Council approved a Sales Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement with the developer of the Quad of St. Charles. The agreement provides an extra incentive for the developer to make physical changes to the site and recruit tenants. The developer will use its own money to fund the initial improvements to the site and attract tenants back to the mall.

Right now, the City collects sales tax from current mall tenants. That won’t change. The sharing of money is triggered by any additional sales tax created by new tenants and the mall’s redevelopment. Through this agreement, the City has agreed to split 50/50 with the developer, any sales tax revenues collected from future mall tenants for 20 years after the grand opening of the redeveloped mall.

This “pay as you go” incentive means the developer will not receive any money until there is an increase in sales tax created by new tenants at the mall.  There is no financial risk for the City. The greater risk is not taking action and losing any existing tenants still at the mall.

What does a Revitalized Mall Mean to St. Charles?

Sales tax is important to the City. This revenue pays for many essential City services such as snow plowing and road maintenance. Revitalizing the mall generates new sales tax with new onsite stores and serves as a catalyst for the surrounding commercial properties. The developers are reconstructing the site and the existing building which includes new outdoor elements to showcase vibrancy and activity.  This activity attracts new life to the mall site and, since this site is a major commercial anchor for the east side, has the potential to generate spill over activity to surrounding commercial properties. This creates new sales tax and vibrancy for the whole area.  Through incentivizing the mall’s redevelopment, the City Council is making an investment in revitalizing the entire east gateway commercial district and promoting our financial prosperity.

Matthew O’Rourke, AICP, is Economic Development Division Manager for the City of St. Charles. For more information about the Sales Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement, contact O’Rourke at morourke@stcharlesil.gov or 630-443-4093.
15 May

Inside St. Charles Blog Redux

Welcome back to Inside St. Charles, the blog of the St. Charles, Illinois City Administration. In the past, this space has been used to offer insights from the City Administrator on issues and topics of interest to the community. We will continue to bring you the City Administrator’s perspective, and also have opened up this space to other voices from around the City organization. As always, we welcome your comments. Contact us at cao@stcharlesil.gov or 630.377.4422. For more information and the latest news from the City, please visit our website, www.stcharlesil.gov. You also can follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our Den enews.

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29 Aug

Farewell St. Charles

An aerial view of the plaza area.

St. Charles City Hall.

As I leave the position of City Administrator, I express my gratitude to the members of the St. Charles community for the opportunity to work with, and for, them. I have been fortunate to meet many great people during my time here – residents, businesspeople, community volunteers, elected officials, City employees, and employees of intergovernmental partners.

Since 2005, a great deal has been accomplished to enhance the reputation of St. Charles as a community that is admired and an organization that is respected. I am proud that together we could enhance core services, advance the City’s economic standing, modernize infrastructure, enrich relationships, and improve resident satisfaction.

The number of respondents to a community survey who rate St. Charles as “excellent” increased to 57%, the highest percentage ever achieved.

The City weathered the Great Recession without significant impact on quality of service delivery and with no employee layoffs.

City infrastructure was improved including a new parking structure, new fire station, remodeled public works facility, new water treatment facility, new waste water treatment facility, electric system upgrades that enhanced reliability, and the new Red Gate Bridge over the Fox River.

And, St. Charles was named the #1 City for Families by Family Circle magazine.

St. Charles is a wonderful community and I leave with many fond memories. St. Charles is also a community with significant untapped potential. I hope that current and future City leaders will work tirelessly to capitalize on the community’s strengths – a beautiful Fox River location, an attractive downtown, diverse housing choices, spectacular local government services provided by the city, school district, park district, and library, and dedicated volunteers.

I also hope that all community members will do whatever they can to ensure St. Charles remains forever the Pride of the Fox.

23 Aug

Looking back: Community access, mobility and connectivity

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies 6 main “vision areas.” They are:

  • Quality of Relationships – Our City fulfills its commitment to building quality relationships throughout the community.
  • Sense of Place – Our Community generates an appealing sense of place and fosters a welcoming, sustainable environment.
  • Service Delivery, Resources and Needs – Our City organization maintains an optimal service delivery framework that balances resources with needs.
  • Economic Vitality – Our Community prospers in a diverse, self-renewing climate of business, industry and housing.
  • Vibrant Downtown – Captivating downtown St. Charles, rich with social, cultural and economic vibrancy, is a distinctive element of our community.
  • Mobility and Connectivity – A quality transportation system assures community access, mobility and connectivity.

This week, I am sharing the achievements that I am most proud of in the area of Mobility and Connectivity. They are as follows:

  • In 2008, the City partnered with PACE Suburban Bus and other Kane County government entities to provide Ride In Kane, a transportation program for senior, disabled, and low-income individuals in Kane County provided through taxis, PACE lift-equipped buses, or mini-vans.
  • In 2008, the City adopted a Traffic Calming Policy to provide guidance to citizens and regarding the process to be followed for submitting and reviewing a request for the installation of traffic calming measures on a public street. Traffic calming is the application of traffic engineering and other physical measures designed to control traffic speeds and encourage driving behavior appropriate to the environment.
  • In 2009, the City secured new public right-of-way that will provide a future roadway and sidewalk connection between Foxfield Drive and Smith Road.
  • In 2011, the Transit Circulator Study, funded by grants from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and Kane County, was completed and provides recommendations regarding future expansion of public transit in St. Charles.
  • In 2011, the PACE Suburban Bus Geneva-St. Charles Call-n-Ride system was initiated to provide curb-to-curb transportation for St. Charles residents based on customer reservations.
  • The reconstruction and widening of East Main Street began in April, 2012 and is scheduled for a Fall, 2013 completion. The project will reconstruct, widen, and resurface Illinois Route 64 (Main Street/North Avenue) from 7th Avenue near the St. Charles Library to Route 59 in West Chicago. In addition to the roadwork, street lighting, retaining walls, and sidewalks will be installed.
  • In 2012, the City and District 303 agreed to work cooperatively to fund the installation of a traffic signal on Red Gate Road at St. Charles North High School. This will enhance the safety of the existing intersection that serves as the main entrance to the high school for teachers, school busses, and student drivers.
  • In 2012, the City worked cooperatively with the Illinois Department of Transportation to install Countdown pedestrian signals (CPSs) at downtown intersections. CPSs supplement traditional pedestrian signals with flashing numbers that count down the number of seconds remaining until the end of the pedestrian change interval.
  • In 2012, construction of the expanded intersection at West Main Street and Oak Street was completed, including widening the intersection to 5 lanes (2 through lanes in each direction, right turn lanes, and a center turn lane) and a traffic signal.
  • In 2012, the City opened the long-awaited Red Gate Bridge. A pedestrian and bike bridge to connect the area forest preserves and bike trails opened in May, 2013. The bridge is getting positive reviews as residents cite the benefits to their daily lives including decreased travel times, greater convenience, and recreation opportunities.

This concludes my 6-part series on the City’s achievements during the past 8 years that I am most proud of.

St. Charles is a wonderful community and I leave with many fond memories and a feeling of accomplishment. St. Charles is also a community with significant untapped potential. I hope that current and future City leaders will strive to realize that potential.

20 Aug

Looking back: Downtown St. Charles a distinctive element of the community

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies 6 main “vision areas.” They are:

  • Quality of Relationships – Our City fulfills its commitment to building quality relationships throughout the community.
  • Sense of Place – Our Community generates an appealing sense of place and fosters a welcoming, sustainable environment.
  • Service Delivery, Resources and Needs – Our City organization maintains an optimal service delivery framework that balances resources with needs.
  • Economic Vitality – Our Community prospers in a diverse, self-renewing climate of business, industry and housing.
  • Vibrant Downtown – Captivating downtown St. Charles, rich with social, cultural and economic vibrancy, is a distinctive element of our community.
  • Mobility and Connectivity – A quality transportation system assures community access, mobility and connectivity.

This week, I am sharing the achievements that I am most proud of in the area of Vibrant Downtown. They are as follows:

  • The First Street project was approved in 2006 and has become a new community gathering place thriving with new retail establishments and restaurants, reflecting the original vision for this area. The Chaddick Institute at DePaul University recognized the First Street project with its Municipal Development Control Award. This recognizes a suburban unit of government that has been innovative in managing the development process to promote favorable outcomes over a period of four years or more.
  • In 2010, the City provided grant funding to enhance the Arcada Theatre, including the rehabilitation of the marquee and improvements to the technical capabilities of the theatre to allow for expanded entertainment performances. The project will enhance the economic vitality of the City of St. Charles by generating additional economic activity and, subsequently, tax revenue for the City’s coffers.
  • In 2010, the City sold 3,000 square feet of land on East Main Street next to the Heritage Center to allow The Office restaurant to create an attractive outdoor seating area that has become one of the best places to gather with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • In 2011, the Municipal Center Riverwall/Plaza project was recognized by the American Public Works Association Public Works Project of the Year. The project won in the category for projects less than $5 million – Historic Restoration/Preservation. The project was also recognized with the 2011 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award by Landmarks Illinois.
  • In 2012, the City completed the Bob Leonard River Walk which includes stabilization of the west shoreline of the Fox River and development of a bicycle/pedestrian path that stretches from Illinois Street to the Prairie Street bridge.
  • In 2012, the City Council approved the acquisition of the former George’s Sporting Goods store, with a goal to use the facility to enhance the adjacent Arcada Theatre by providing modern amenities including meeting and pre-function space, modern restrooms, concessions facilities and other complimentary uses.
  • In 2012, the City collaborated with the Downtown St. Charles Partnership and local downtown businesses to develop a public-private, cooperative holiday advertising campaign utilizing both print and radio media to showcase downtown St. Charles generally and specifically participating downtown merchants.
  • Over the past 5 years, over $250,000 has been expended on downtown storefronts through the City’s façade improvement program to enhance the appearance of the downtown and maintain a historic charm.
  • In 2013, the City purchased the former VFW property on North 3rd Street to expand parking in this area of the downtown. Future redevelopment in the area could include a public parking structure on the property.

Next week I will conclude the 6-part series with my “Top 10″ achievements in the area of Mobility and Connectivity.

16 Aug

Looking back: Economic Development climate enhanced

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies 6 main “vision areas.” They are:

  • Quality of Relationships – Our City fulfills its commitment to building quality relationships throughout the community.
  • Sense of Place – Our Community generates an appealing sense of place and fosters a welcoming, sustainable environment.
  • Service Delivery, Resources and Needs – Our City organization maintains an optimal service delivery framework that balances resources with needs.
  • Economic Vitality – Our Community prospers in a diverse, self-renewing climate of business, industry and housing.
  • Vibrant Downtown – Captivating downtown St. Charles, rich with social, cultural and economic vibrancy, is a distinctive element of our community.
  • Mobility and Connectivity – A quality transportation system assures community access, mobility and connectivity.

This week, I am sharing the achievements that I am most proud of in the area of Economic Vitality. They are as follows:

  • In 2006, the First Street project was approved. Phases 1 and 2 were completed before the Great Recession took hold. First Street has become a new community gathering place thriving with new retail establishments and restaurants, reflecting the original vision for this area.
  • In 2008, the new Costco Wholesale Store on Randall Road opened, bringing new economic activity, and sales tax revenue, to St. Charles.
  • In 2010, Wal-Mart completed its expansion project in the East Gateway area, including the construction of a new traffic signal at the Smith Road intersection – one of the City’s most accident-prone – that will improve safety and traffic flow.
  • In 2011, the City worked collaboratively to bring R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company to St. Charles resulting in 180 new jobs. The former Pier 1 Imports, Inc. facility was purchased by R.R. Donnelley & Sons in 2010 for $11.8 million and additional renovations were completed, including substantial electrical upgrades that required the City’s assistance.
  • In 2011, Resnick Automotive Group completed the construction of the new Resnick Mercedes-Benz dealership, resulting in a new landmark on the City’s Randall Road corridor.
  • In 2010, the City developed the St. Charles Restaurant Week promotion to encourage patrons to visit St. Charles restaurants during a typically slow time of year (February). The annual event features over 30 St. Charles restaurants participating in the promotion.
  • In 2012, the City facilitated the site selection and business expansion of Elmhurst-based Bema, Incorporated.  Bema purchased and improved a 63,000 square foot building at 3620 Ohio Avenue, where it will operate a state-of-the-art extrusion production and warehousing of plastic film.
  • In 2012, the City initiated analysis to create the East Main Street Business District to provide a new economic development tool to enhance and revitalize the East Main Street corridor.
  • The City provided incentives that resulted in the opening of two automobile dealerships – St. Charles Buick/GMC (2011) and St. Charles Toyota – Certified Used (2012) and the retention/expansion of another (Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram).
  • In 2013, the City developed a new Knowledge-based Incentive Pilot Program to attract the headquarters of Clarke Group that will bring 80 or more full-time jobs to St. Charles, plus provide opportunities for St. Charles-based students or recent graduates undergoing supervised practical training in mosquito control and management of aquatic habitats.

Next week I will share my “Top 10″ achievements in the area of Vibrant Downtown.

12 Aug

Looking back: Creating an optimal service delivery framework

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies 6 main “vision areas.” They are:

  • Quality of Relationships – Our City fulfills its commitment to building quality relationships throughout the community.
  • Sense of Place – Our Community generates an appealing sense of place and fosters a welcoming, sustainable environment.
  • Service Delivery, Resources and Needs – Our City organization maintains an optimal service delivery framework that balances resources with needs.
  • Economic Vitality – Our Community prospers in a diverse, self-renewing climate of business, industry and housing.
  • Vibrant Downtown – Captivating downtown St. Charles, rich with social, cultural and economic vibrancy, is a distinctive element of our community.
  • Mobility and Connectivity – A quality transportation system assures community access, mobility and connectivity.

This week, I am sharing the achievements that I am most proud of in the area of Service Delivery, Resources and Needs. They are as follows:

  • In 2008, the City was one of the first communities in the Chicago area to establish competition in the video services business by authorizing AT&T to provide its U-Verse product in direct competition with Comcast for residents’ cable/video dollars.
  • The City conducted comprehensive reviews of all City utilities to identify the 10-year infrastructure needs. These reviews have served as the basis for continued investment in utility infrastructure including the implementation of the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system for the electric utility. This system notifies City personnel almost instantaneously when there is a service outage, enhances the City’s knowledge regarding the potential cause, and expedites an appropriate response to repair it.
  • In 2009, the City completed the new Fire Station #1 facility that provides our firefighters with an upgraded station that meets today standards and will accommodate their current and future operational needs. Fire Station #1 received recognition as part of the 2010 Station Style Design Award program offered by Fire Chief Magazine.
  • In 2010, the City received the Platinum Award (highest honors) for exceptional worksite wellness from the Wellness in the Workplace (WOWie) program, established by the Illinois State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management (ISC-SHRM) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) to recognize organizations that strive to create a work culture that promotes physical activity and overall wellness.
  • In 2011, the City utilized a committee of City employees to design, test, and implement a merit-based compensation program for non-union employees.
  • The number of calls for service for the St. Charles Police Department in 2012 was the lowest it’s been since 2001. Police responded to 15,727 calls for service in 2012, a 3% decline from 2011. In 2011, the St. Charles Police Department was recognized by the Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation (CALEA) with the “Accreditation with Excellence” award, which is presented to law enforcement agencies that display excellence in public safety professionalism.
  • The St. Charles Fire Department has been accredited through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). CFAI provides for a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that enables fire and emergency service organizations to examine past, current, and future service levels and performance and compare them to industry best practices.
  • In 2012, construction was completed on the new radium removal facility to improve water quality from Wells 3 & 4. The facility will ensure compliance with federal mandates regarding drinking water quality and enhance system capacity.
  • The St. Charles Sustainability Initiative, developed in 2010 to identify ideas and suggestions to deal with the economic downturn, was a success. In total, the ideas have resulted in over $3 million in cost savings or revenue generation for the City.
  • Since 2007, the City has made the pursuit of grant funding a priority and has secured over $14 million in state and federal funding for City projects and programs related to road and utility infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing, riverfront enhancement, land use planning, transit studies, and urban forestry.

The next blog post will share my “Top 10″ achievements in the area of Economic Vitality.

09 Aug

Don’t forget to shop St. Charles for back-to-school needs

As you begin purchasing all of the items needed as students head back to school, please remember to shop at stores in St. Charles. It makes economic sense for consumers to shop at St. Charles establishments. The tax revenue that is applied to these purchases will come back to your community to help fund City programs and services. In addition, The 3/50 Project, an organization that supports independent businesses, says of every $100 you spend locally, $68 stays within the local community. If you spend that same $100 at a national chain, $43 stays in the community.

In addition, don’t forget about the “Shop St. Charles Challenge” – a new program to encourage residents to shop at local, independent businesses. The “Shop St. Charles Challenge” provides an incentive for residents to spend their shopping dollars within the community and be eligible for a $100 rebate on purchases.  The promotion began in May and will continue through April 2014.

To be eligible, St. Charles residents must submit an entry form that can be downloaded from the “Shop St. Charles Challenge” webpage. St. Charles residency is required and certain restrictions apply.

Each month, one person will be selected. That person will have 30 days to patronize three different St. Charles businesses. Each business must be from each of the City’s main commercial areas (downtown, east side, and west side). In order to qualify, the person must complete a written review, or submit to an interview regarding his/her experiences at each business.

For more information, including entry form and rules, please visit the “Shop St. Charles Challenge” webpage, or contact the Economic Development Department at econdev@stcharlesil.gov or 630-443-4093.

Remember, it pays to shop local!

06 Aug

Looking back: Fostering a welcoming, sustainable environment

This is Part 2 of a 6-part series of blog posts that I am writing to share achievements of the City of St. Charles during my tenure as City Administrator.

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies 6 main “vision areas.” They are:

  • Quality of Relationships – Our City fulfills its commitment to building quality relationships throughout the community.
  • Sense of Place – Our Community generates an appealing sense of place and fosters a welcoming, sustainable environment.
  • Service Delivery, Resources and Needs – Our City organization maintains an optimal service delivery framework that balances resources with needs.
  • Economic Vitality – Our Community prospers in a diverse, self-renewing climate of business, industry and housing.
  • Vibrant Downtown – Captivating downtown St. Charles, rich with social, cultural and economic vibrancy, is a distinctive element of our community.
  • Mobility and Connectivity – A quality transportation system assures community access, mobility and connectivity.

This week, I am sharing the achievements that I am most proud of in the area of Sense of Place. They are as follows:

  • Over the past 5 years, over $250,000 has been expended on downtown storefronts through the City’s façade improvement program to enhance the appearance of the downtown and maintain a historic charm.
  • In 2009, the City developed and implemented a policy regarding the application and funding of special events to be held in the community. The policy recognizes that special events often bring certain benefits to the community. At the same time, the City must evaluate the potential impact such an event might have on resources of City departments, City owned properties and facilities, and ultimately on the public.
  • In 2009, expanded the use of the community restitution program to assist with maintenance and up-keep of abandoned and foreclosed homes to protect property values and sustain neighborhoods.
  • In 2010, City initiated discussions with Park District, Kane County, and Kane County Forest Preserve District to work cooperatively to acquire and repurpose the Union Pacific railroad corridor for recreational and utility uses.
  • In 2010, the City affirmed its commitment to neighborhood parks on city lands. The Park District installs and maintains park spaces on land owned by the City such as Langum Park and Moody Park.
  • In 2010, the City deployed a “green” webpage to inform and promote its environmentally conscious programs and initiatives both internally and within the City.
  • From 2009-2012, the City ensured that incomplete residential subdivisions were maintained and that sufficient infrastructure was installed to adequately serve residents and protect the integrity of neighborhoods during the economic downturn.
  • The City is poised to approve a new Comprehensive land-use plan, the City’s official Land Use and Development Policy Guide. The plan is intended to be referenced when annexing property, changing zoning, reviewing development and redevelopment projects, and identifying public infrastructure improvements. Over 100 stakeholders have participated in the process to date.
  • In 2012, City issued $3 million in bonds to remove and replace trees in the urban forest that were inflicted with the Emerald Ash Borer. This initiative will allow all inflicted trees to be removed and replaced in a 3-year period, maintaining the appearance parkways and the vitality of neighborhoods.
  • In 2012, the City completed the Bob Leonard River Walk which includes stabilization of the west shoreline of the Fox River and development of a bicycle/pedestrian path that stretches from Illinois Street to the Prairie Street bridge.

Next week I will share my “Top 10″ achievements in the area of Service Delivery, Resources and Needs.