What 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 email@example.com or 630-377-4443.