If you look only at year-to-year occupancy rate, The Meadows at Lake St. Louis seems to have fared well enough during the COVID-19 business closure this spring.
In July 2019, the shopping center’s occupancy rate was 87.68%. In July 2020, Meir Cohen, of New York-based Cohen Equities that owns The Meadows, said occupancy will be 83.34%.”
“Nike and Charming Charlie were big losses,” Cohen said, “but nine other stores have opened or are set to open their doors at The Meadows by July.”
One of those stores is Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery which opens on July 1. Locally founded by Tamara Keefe in 2014, Clementine’s is known for its unique small-batch ice cream flavors, including alcoholic and vegan options. The Meadows’ location marks the brand’s fourth ice cream shop.
“While we love both Nike and Charming Charlie and were sad to see them go, their departure has allowed us to focus more on the #OnlyAtTheMeadows brand – bringing unique, locally owned stores that do not have a presence in Lake Saint Louis to The Meadows,” Cohen said.
In recent years, Cohen Equities has sought to shore up that branding through its RetailNext competition. Launched in 2019, the annual, “shark tank-style” competition offers local entrepreneurs the chance to become a tenant at The Meadows and win free rent for up to a year plus a build-out allowance and advice along the way from a panel of judges and mentors.
The call for entries was announced on May 1 and the deadline for applications has been extended to Sept. 1, a result of COVID-19.
“We are running behind with applications, but this is to be expected with the closing of retail during the pandemic,” Cohen explained. “We are optimistic that the opportunity to open a store at The Meadows with free rent, a generous build-out allowance, marketing and mentoring will generate dozens of entries this summer.”
He added that the 2019 winner and one runner-up have had their stores open since the 2019 holiday season and are doing well.
In July 2019, Cohen told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine that the goal of The Meadows was to “build an exceptional outdoor lifestyle center that is part of the Lake Saint Louis city center.”
“We pride ourselves on #OnlyAtTheMeadows,” he said at that time. “We have local shops and national retailers that are one of a kind in St. Charles County. The Meadows is an overall experience where you can live, work, play, workout, eat and repeat.”
Asked if that had changed, Cohen recently said, “We think our draw now is stronger than ever. The Meadows is unique in that it has everything you need in an outdoor setting. No one wants to spend time inside a stuffy mall, especially if it’s just to stop at one store. You can come spend all day here with plenty of fresh air or you can make a quick stop, get what you need, and head on your way – without the inconvenience of maneuvering an overcrowded indoor mall.
While Cohen acknowledged that March and April were very different with stores remaining completely closed in those months, he noted that May saw tenants opening their doors in some capacity, starting with curbside pickup or by appointment only and gradually moving toward a full opening in mid-June.
“We’ve encouraged our stores and shops to open as they feel comfortable and on their terms,” he said. “All but a couple of our stores are currently open to the public, we hope the full re-opening will just bring more shoppers and diners to The Meadows.
“St. Charles County has fared well during the pandemic and we expect things to normalize here faster than the rest of the metropolitan area.”
Cohen pointed to several upcoming community events that are always a draw for the retail center, including its Farmers Market and Summerfest concert series.
“The Farmers Market is currently operating every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon, and will operate the rest of the summer as planned,” Cohen said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to cancel the Summerfest concerts scheduled for July, but we still are planning on concerts in August and September.
“Unlike the Farmers Market, where people are moving through the market or stopping at one booth and moving on, Summerfest is a lot more prone to crowds standing in one area for an extended amount of time. The health and safety of the people of Lake Saint Louis is our No. 1 priority, and we did not want to hold an event that could put the community’s health at risk.”
Cohen said the current schedule of events, includes:
- Run for the Dress at 11 a.m. on July 26 and 7 a.m. on July 27
- Steve Ewing Band concert at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6
- Breakdown Shakedown concert at 6 p.m. on Aug. 20
- Platinum Rock Legends concert at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3
- Well Hungarians concert at 6 p.m. on Sept. 17
Run for the Dress is considered to be the largest event of its kind in the Midwest – a “gigantic sale of hundreds of new designer-named bridal gowns … from bridal shops in and around the Midwest.”
But it’s not just sales and concerts that were planned as draws for the property. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the city of Lake Saint Louis had planned to develop a community park on-site and United Services for Children had planned a 54,000-square-foot, all-abilities children’s museum with space for exhibits and classrooms.
However, Cohen noted that both projects are on hold.
“The city of Lake Saint Louis has chosen to put the park on hold as a result of the pandemic,” Cohen explained. “But we still hope to have the park built in the next four years.”
The outlook for the museum is less hopeful.
“Unfortunately, the city of Lake Saint Louis was unable to raise enough money to move forward with the Children’s Museum project at this time,” Cohen said.
One project that did materialize as planned is the new Synergy Apartments, which were an important part of the 2019 plan to rejuvenate The Meadows. According to Cohen, “The 218-unit apartment complex first phase opened in late 2019, and the final building is opening this summer.”
According to its manager, “Synergy is 22.27% occupied now, with 26.82% leased. Amenities are all open and leasing is on schedule.”
As for The Meadows’ next big change, Cohen said the center’s contract with property manager Balke Brown Transwestern was not renewed in April 2020.
“We have met with two local firms and expect to hire a new property manager [either an employee or a third-party management company] as the economy stabilizes,” Cohen said. “In the meantime, the phones, emails and social media for The Meadows are being handled by Cohen Equities in New York. It’s not ideal, but it makes the most sense right now.”