Sprawl-Busters reported on February 6, 2007, that Wal-Mart had proposed a 226,000 s.f. superstore in St. Charles, Illinois that had area residents upset. The project, they said, would generate too many cars, hurt residential property values, and ruin their quality of life. They noted that the new supercenter would result in an empty Wal-Mart discount store located nearby at Route 64. But in February, the St. Charles alderman paved over Wal-Mart’s plans by voting to negotiate to buy roughly 3 acres of land that would block the supercenter from being built. The city said they needed the land to connect two roads — and the road they want to build falls right where Wal-Mart proposed to locate its store. The city said the move was not an effort to stop Wal-Mart, but part of the city’s comprehensive plan to connect Smith Road with Foxfield Drive. On August 22, 2007, we updated the St. Charles story when the city’s Plan Commissioners ended more than a year of debate over the development, by voting 7-0 to kill the Wal-Mart project. The city’s attorneys told officials to abandon the project because Wal-Mart no longer had an option to buy the land. So city officials and Wal-Mart opponents were alarmed this week when a business website, www.chicagorealestatedaily.com, listed the site Wal-Mart wanted as ready for construction. The listing, which is sponsored by Crain’s Chicago Business, indicated that construction of a 200,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter was slated to begin in March of 2008. This was a total surprise to city officials, since they knew the retailer’s contract with the landowner terminated roughly five months ago. “That kind of threw us for a loop,” the city’s Development Director told the Kane County Chronicle. The city has been planning to build a road through the middle of the property Wal-Mart wanted, as detailed in its Comprehensive Plan for land use. When Wal-Mart dropped out of the project in August, a spokesman admitted, “Why purchase a piece of property they (the city) are going to take from us?” When The Chronicle contacted the same spokesman this week, he had this to say: “The deal is dead as a doornail.”
The city of St. Charles (pop. 31,834) is “just one hour west of Chicago.” The city has a Downtown St. Charles Partnership, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of Downtown St. Charles. The city’s planning goal is to “preserve our unique character as a dynamic, prosperous city, maintaining the small town charm, the natural beauty of the Fox Valley… that make St. Charles distinct. Our historic downtown is the heart of the community, and keeping it healthy and vibrant is essential.” The city said its move to buy the land out from under Wal-Mart was not an effort to stop the giant retailer, but part of the city’s comprehensive plan to connect Smith Road with Foxfield Drive. Improving traffic circulation had been identified as a high-priority goal by the city. The loss of this store is no great loss to Wal-Mart or local residents. There are already 12 Wal-Mart stores within 15 miles of St.Charles, including a superstore in Oswego, Illinois, and a Wal-Mart discount store on Smith Road right in St.Charles. The erroneous real estate listing on Crain’s website has been removed, and the unpopular Wal-Mart supercenter remains dead — — this time, dead as a door nail. Which is just how St. Charles residents prefer them.