St. Charles officials are looking ahead at the final phase of a project to transform First Street into a pedestrian-friendly corridor with residences, offices and retail.
With three phases of the redevelopment plan either finished or under way, the city is expected to solicit proposals this spring from developers interested in completing that vision for the heart of the downtown.
The planning and development committee this week directed staff to issue a request for proposals for three parcels in the project area: A temporary parking lot at the southwest corner of Illinois and First streets, a grassy area next to the Blue Goose Market, and another vacant property at Illinois Street and Route 31.
Plans for those sites, which were initially approved in 2006, call for constructing multistory buildings with commercial space on the first floor and office or residential units on the upper levels. However, city officials recognize the economy has changed and downtown development has evolved in the last decade, said Rita Tungare, community and economic development director.
"We are open to some flexibility in terms of allowing the market to respond to what the uses in the buildings should be," she said. "We're interested in seeing what kind of creative approaches prospective developers would take and what they would bring to the table."
Hoping to better balance commercial and residential uses along First street, the city will likely give preference to developers whose plans include apartments in each building, Tungare said. The city is also looking for proposals to have ample parking options, environmental and streetscape elements, and high-quality architecture that fits in with the rest of the downtown.
"There is definitely a vision for this project," Tungare said. "We want to make sure whatever is proposed is complementary to what already exists."
The first two phases of the First Street project included demolishing existing structures, creating new infrastructure and building several new developments.
The third phase includes the construction of three new buildings with more parking, a plaza and a bi-level riverwalk. One building has been completed, a second will likely break ground this spring, and a third is under construction and expected to be occupied this summer, Tungare said.
The request for proposals for the final phase will be issued within the next 30 days, Tungare said, noting the city council also needs to ratify the motion. The goal, she said, is to choose a developer and formalize an agreement by the end of the year so construction can begin in 2019.
"Our interest is in continuing to keep the momentum going on First Street and completing the remaining phases of development," Tungare said. "These things take time, so we need to start the process of soliciting interest."