Charlestowne Mall, located in St. Charles, Illinois, was a popular shopping destination when it opened in April 1991. It was constructed by Wilmorite Properties and was the second mall to serve the city after St. Charles Mall.
The Charlestowne Mall’s primary anchor stores were JCPenney, Sears, Kohl’s, and Carson’s (formerly Carson Pirie Scott). These stores served as the main attractions for shoppers and provided stability for the mall’s success.
Regal Cinemas also opened a movie theater in 1999, which was later sold to Classic Cinemas two years later. After that, however, the mall’s fortunes began to decline in the 21st century.
The Story of Charlestowne Mall: Development and Early Years
Charlestowne Mall was the brainchild of Wilmorite Properties, a shopping mall developer from suburban Rochester, New York. In 1989, Wilmorite announced plans to build the mall east of St. Charles, Illinois, on Illinois Route 64.
Charlestowne Mall was designed to be a shopping center with a two-story structure covering more than one million square feet of space. The mall was planned to include three anchor stores, JCPenney, Sears, and Carson Pirie Scott and Company later rebranded as Carson’s.
The mall’s layout was carefully planned to provide a spacious and convenient shopping environment that would accommodate the needs of many shoppers.
Wilmorite chose the location based on projected residential growth in DuPage and Kane counties, where St. Charles is located. Sears was the first store to open on April 2, 1991.
Carson’s followed with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 15, 1991, marking the 24th store in the Chicago area for the company’s parent, Bergner’s. JCPenney did not open until early 1992 due to Wilmorite’s concerns about the nation’s economy after the Gulf War.
The rest of the mall opened in phases between 1991 and 1992, with Kohl’s added as a fourth anchor store. The mall also featured a two-level carousel and a food court upon opening.
Despite concerns about the nation’s economy and delays in opening, Charlestowne Mall became a popular shopping destination for residents of St. Charles and surrounding areas.
Renovation Plans and Broken Promises
The mall’s size, location, and the opening of Geneva Commons in Geneva, Illinois, in 2002 contributed to its decline. In 2000, JCPenney closed its doors, and in 2001, it was replaced by Von Maur. Despite the mall’s decline, many owners announced plans to renovate it.
However, these plans were never executed, and over time, many stores closed, including Sears in 2011 and Kohl’s in 2016. Finally, in 2017, the mall closed entirely, except for the movie theater, Von Maur, and Carson’s, which closed a year later.
The mall’s ownership changed hands several times, with Wilmorite selling most of its shopping malls to Macerich in 2005, but Charlestowne Mall was not included in the sale.
Today, the mall stands vacant, symbolizing the changing retail landscape and traditional shopping centers’ challenges in the digital age.
The Uncertain Future of Charlestowne Mall
The history of Charlestowne Mall is marked by changing ownership and multiple redevelopment plans. In 2021, the property was purchased by Lormax Stern and S. R. Jacobson, who announced plans for a significant redevelopment project.
The proposal involved demolishing most of the property, except for Von Maur and the movie theater, and constructing townhouses and a hotel. However, the proposal faced opposition from local developers who expressed concerns about the amount of housing built in the area.
The deserted Charlestowne Mall was the backdrop for a promotional commercial for the Toyota GR86 Sports Car in 2022. Despite its disuse, the mall’s unique architecture provided an intriguing and attractive setting for the commercial.
This prompted some officials to suggest that the development should instead focus on “entertainment options.” In response, St. Charles rejected Lormax Stern and S. R. Jacobson’s redevelopment plans mid-year.
In November 2022, Urban Street Group acquired the mall from Lormax Stern and S. R. Jacobson with plans to resume the redevelopment project. In addition, the new concept plan is also being worked on, signaling hope for the revival of Charlestowne Mall.
Through the years, Charlestowne Mall has undergone multiple changes, from its original development plans in 1989 to its current state of vacancy.
The mall holds a special place in the hearts of St. Charles residents who remember shopping there. However, as the retail landscape continues to evolve, what the future holds for Charlestowne Mall remains to be seen.