Survey shows St. Charles residents receptive to public plaza plans

St. Charles residents are receptive to a plan to redevelop the former Manor Restaurant site in downtown St. Charles as a public plaza.

St. Charles city officials recently surveyed residents to find out how they feel about that plan. Last year, aldermen unanimously voted to purchase the former Manor Restaurant site at the southeast corner of Main and First streets for $1 million in order to expand the 1st Street East Plaza.

The project site is defined by Main Street on the north, Fox River on the east, the Alter Brewing building on the south and the entire First Street ROW from Main Street to Walnut Street. The St. Charles Initiative, an independent advisory committee under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, is raising funds for the project.

The project is expected to cost $4 million.

“Overwhelmingly, the response was very positive,” City Administrator Mark Koenen told aldermen at the St. Charles City Council’s government services committee meeting Feb. 22.

The survey was posted on social media and the city’s website. About 95% of those responding to the survey were from St. Charles, Koenen said.

Those taking the survey were asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 their preference for a proposed solar pergola structure. As proposed, solar panels on top of the pergola would help power the plaza and the structure, and along with accompanying trees, will offer shade.

“Zero meaning I don’t like it at all and 10 meaning I love it,” Koenen said. “The average of looking at all the survey responses was 7.5 for this question. So I think it’s probably fair to say that people liked the concept of the pergola structure.”

Those answering the survey made comments such as they thought the pergola structure would help offer shade. At the same time, they wanted to make sure the structure would not block any view of the Fox River.

Survey takers were asked their preference for public art to be installed as part of the project. The average rating for that question was 7.1, Koenen said.

“Again, that’s a pretty strong score,” he said. “I think the sense of the feedback we received is that people like public art and that we should include it in our project.”

Those taking the survey were asked their preference for closing the proposed section of First Street to create a pedestrian walkway. The closure would be between Main Street (Route 64) and the entrance to the five-story parking deck.

“The average rating was 9,” Koenen said.

At this time, $750,000 in private donations have been received for the project and the city has committed $1.4 million. Plaza enhancements will proceed as funding/donations are available, city officials said.

St. Charles Public Works Director Peter Suhr told aldermen the designs for the project haven’t changed much.

“The design concept really hasn’t altered too much since we discussed it last December,” Suhr said. “A large egg-shaped gathering plaza surrounded by the solar-paneled covered trellis and walking path remains the focus of the public gathering space. A walkway and a ramp system continue to allow for pedestrian friendly access through the project site.”

Work on the project is expected to begin after Labor Day and be completed by July 2022. At the meeting, aldermen unanimously recommended approval of a $165,435 professional services agreement with Serena Sturm Architects for the design development phase of the 1st Street Plaza.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.