The recent economic downturn has severely affected many retailers, especially shopping malls. One local mall, Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles, has been hit particularly hard and is looking for ways to bring in more shoppers. One idea: build an ice skating rink.
Barring an eleventh-hour change of heart, 94 employees at the Sears store at Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles will lose their jobs in two months. But the mall management and city officials hope to coax the retail giant to stay.
And the city and mall owners see hope in new business coming to Charlestowne, including an ice arena…
There might be reasons to be optimistic about the mall. Anchor stores Kohl’s and Von Maur both own the property they operate, making them less likely to leave. Aiston said the mall also disclosed it’s in negotiations to bring two or three new businesses to the mall, including a restaurant.
In addition, the mall may soon have a new headline attraction. Aiston and Kekatos said the city is reviewing plans the mall owners submitted to build an 18,000-square-foot ice arena at the mall to revive foot traffic.
“What I really want the public to know is our new ownership is fabulous,” Kekatos said. “You have to remember it’s only been going on seven months since they’ve purchased the mall. We’re updating the interior and the exterior of the mall. The community, the people in it, they just don’t understand that it takes time to do all this.”
This seems to be a common strategy for shopping malls: attract new kinds of businesses that will bring in a steady flow of potential shoppers. The restaurant strategy has been a common one – it moves malls beyond the world of the shopping mall food court with its quick food and may bring in a crowd with more time and money. But bringing in a shopping rink hints at another area of potential uses: recreational uses. Could the shopping malls of the future include things like ice skating rinks, gyms, climbing walls, and more? If so, this could help further transform malls from shopping spaces to community centers.
It is also interesting that the quest for developers and mall owners to add uses to shopping malls mirrors the efforts of many downtowns who have also been interested in increasing foot traffic. Of course, the shopping mall is often blamed for helping to kill off many downtowns but perhaps they are both now in the same boat. Are there enough retail and recreational and restaurant businesses to fill all of the space in shopping malls and downtowns?