Meijer’s, the mid-west discount chain store wants to build a 215,000 s.f. superstore on 33 acres of land in St.Charles, IL. The Mayor thinks the project is key to revitalizing the Randall Road area, as does the community development director. But some citizens in St. Charles think the Meijer’s plan is a major mistake. “Let’s not jump on the first offer from a developer,” warns Planning Commission member David Richards. “We must find a developer who has a sense of our community, and where we’d like to take it.” The idea of a 1,100 car parking lot the size of 7 football fields is not where some residents “want to take it”. Another Planning Commission member doesn’t want St.Charles to end up resembling their neighbors to the south. “I would like for us to look different from Geneva and Batavia,” explains Jeri Powles. “Everything just looks the same, and it just gets uglier.” The Meijer’s megastore not only contains a pharmacy, hardware store, sporting goods store, small appliances, garden center, apparel, etc. but a liquor store and a gas station. There’s a great combo: gas & liquor! Meijer’s apparently wants St.Charles to give them a sales tax rebate as well. Developers have said that the project will generate $400,000 a year in sales tax for the community, but so far no figures have been released to show the negative impact the superstore would have on existing sales at local businesses, or what the net impact would actually be on public revenues. Without even seeing such data, local officials see new buildings going into the ground as “revitalization”. “I think this means that St.Charles is back in the ballgame as far as retail development on Randall Road”, says Bob Hupp, the community development director. If big box retail puts communities “back in the ballgame”, then who’s really watching the scoreboard? Resident Amy Bell points out that there is a dead mall across from the site already, and that officials would do better to play ball with “sustainable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development”. Bell says its up to St.Charles to decide how to start the new century: “Either too much reliance on cars and miles of asphalt, or positive, community enhancing, sustainable development.” The Planning Commission will review the project–which is larger than most Wal-Mart supercenters–on May 19th.
To find out how you can help prevent St. Charles from making a “Meijer mistake”, email Amy Bell at [email protected]