Riverfront Revival

January 2019 View more

On the menu at the new St. Charles Wahlburgers: the Impossible burger

A vibrant new St. Charles emerges in 2019

The sight of cranes and other construction equipment is certainly nothing new to residents of the Tri-Cities of Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles, where plenty of new developments have sprung up to transform their formerly sleepy little communities along the Fox River over the past decade. But even by the busy standards of recent years, the pace of activity currently unfolding in St. Charles is something to behold.

“Given the energized development environment here, we enjoy a strong mix of industrial, commercial, and residential development that supports anyone who wants to live, open a business, or just visit St. Charles,” says Mayor Ray Rogina.

That development can be seen on several fronts throughout the city, ranging from a downtown upswing to a high-profile restaurant opening to a shopping mall reboot—all of which stand to redefine St. Charles in the years ahead:

A new Wahlburgers restaurant is but one of the residential, commercial, and public projects taking shape on the city’s west side, including the new 250-unit Prairie Winds apartment community, the 78-home Anthem Heights subdivision, a new state-of-the-art police station on the site of the former Valley Shopping Center, and the Prairie Centre project on the long-vacant St. Charles Mall site, which includes a plan for up to 670 new apartments and prime retail space.

It’s not often that the most highly anticipated development project in St. Charles is yet another new burger joint. But, then, few burger joints going up in retail parking lots carry the backing of some of the world’s most famous restaurateurs.

In this case, the bold name in question is singer, actor, and celeb-about-town Donnie Wahlberg, who lives in St. Charles with wife Jenny McCarthy and their family. Wahlberg lobbied his brothers and business partners (actor Mark and chef Paul) to make his adopted hometown the site of the first Illinois outlet of their family-run burger chain Wahlburgers. He’s told the City Council and various press outlets that he hopes the restaurant—which is set to open in early 2019 on a three-acre Meijer outlot at Route 38 and Randall Road—will bring jobs, resources, and reinvestment to the town he and his family have come to love.

Not to mention a great burger, of course.

As the city’s police force prepares for a move to that brand-new west side facility later this year, its soon-to-be-vacant station will be added to an ongoing downtown overhaul. Plans
include the redevelopment of five blocks along First Street to create an urban vibe amid a mix of new restaurants, shops, plazas, and residences, as well as the opening of three new riverfront buildings containing retail, office, and residential components.

While plans for a complete mixed-use revitalization of the Charlestowne Mall property—which include building new apartments and townhouses, reducing the size of the main mall building, adding freestanding commercial structures, and refurbishing anchors such as Von Maur and Classic Cinemas—have been floating around for nearly two years, this massive project remains very much in the conceptual stage until deals can be hammered out with developers.

Photo courtesy Wahlburgers, by Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic