Downtown St. Charles is a distinctive element of our community that is rich with social, cultural, and economic vibrancy. The downtown and riverfront areas serve as the heart of our community, providing a wide variety of products and services to residents and visitors alike.
In the 2011 Priorities Survey, the city emphasized the importance of the downtown by asking residents to provide responses to several survey questions. The results demonstrated that St. Charles residents truly enjoy the downtown, feel positive about the current environment, and are bullish about the future.
The survey results show that 70% of respondents believe the downtown has improved during the time that they have lived in St. Charles. This represents an increase of 14% from the 2007 survey.
Another very prominent example of the importance of the downtown area is that over 91% believe it is important for the city to maintain a welcoming downtown. This represents a 7% increase from 2007.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how often residents visit downtown and what activities they engage in when they visit. 45% of respondents visit the downtown daily or weekly. Another 36% visit at least several times per month.
Dining and entertainment were cited as the most frequent activities that residents engage in. With the high-quality eating & drinking establishments, there is little doubt that downtown St. Charles is the dining and entertainment hub in the Tri-Cities, if not all of Kane County. Friends and colleagues from across the region consistently tell me about how they enjoy visiting St. Charles for this reason. Additionally, the entertainment options are abundant, with the Arcada Theatre and Steel Beam Theatre serving as key attractions.
Other frequently cited reasons for visiting downtown include the library, parks & recreation, special events (fairs, festivals, and parades), and shopping.
When asked what would encourage them to spend more time in Downtown St. Charles, responses varied. More dining options were cited most by residents. This was followed closely by more cultural and entertainment venues, more open space/parks/trails, and more specialty shops.
While a lack of parking is sometimes mentioned during conversations that I have with people in our community, it was interesting to see that parking does not seem to prevent residents from coming downtown. Of the choices offered, more parking was least likely to encourage residents to spend more time downtown.
Finally, the survey asked, “What specific type of retail store would cause you to visit downtown St. Charles to shop?” There were a variety of responses to this question, with the most frequently mentioned being bakery, clothing, furniture, pharmacy, and shoes. This information will be used by the city, Downtown St. Charles Partnership, and local real estate professionals to better target business attraction efforts.
Downtown St. Charles has always been a source of pride for our community. It is an area that receives substantial investments of time and resources by a variety of community stakeholders. Those investments are paying dividends as the downtown is as a hub of economic activity and serves as a community gathering place.
St. Charles is indeed fortunate to have a downtown that residents appreciate and enjoy.