Downtown business group pushes for longer McHenry parking limits

McHENRY – With the Riverwalk to enjoy, a new microbrewery to relax at and more boutiques and shops to explore, two hours was just not enough time for parking.

That's the argument 37 members of the Downtown Business Association presented to the McHenry City Council this week in their petition to change the time limit for downtown parking to four hours.

The change was approved in a 6-0 vote Monday evening. Alderwoman Geri Condon was absent.

Downtown parking is restricted between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday on sections of Elm Street, Green Street, Main Street, Pearl Street, Riverside Drive and Waukegan Road.

"There's more things to do downtown with the Riverwalk down there, and some businesses have relocated there," Deputy City Administrator Bill Hobson said. "The movie theater has reopened, and there are more restaurants. We're trying to encourage people to come and stay."

The parking change is the result of increased partnerships between the Downtown Business Association, the city of McHenry, the McHenry Riverwalk Foundation and the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, said the association's president, Joyce Miller-Konstantinow, who owns Blooms and Rooms Design Studio.

Business owners were getting complaints from customers who wanted to spend more time exploring the downtown, walking the Riverwalk and eating at a restaurant, said Carol Chrisman, the association's co-vice president and the owner of Black Orchid Boutique.

The goal of the downtown association is to facilitate communication among businesses and with the city and other organizations, Miller-Konstantinow said. It's also upped its efforts aimed at encouraging visitors and raising awareness of what the downtown has to offer.

"We have a lot of the unique, distinctive shops that you can find in small towns," she said.

To meet that end, the association has established a Facebook page, which will post information about new businesses, specials, events, business anniversaries and highlight the history of existing businesses, Chrisman said.

The goal is to have events highlighting downtown businesses every six weeks, Miller-Konstantinow said, pointing to the Taste of Downtown and the summer concert it is sponsoring. It also plans on promoting events hosted by individual businesses.

The increased push has come with higher membership in the Downtown Business Association, Miller-Konstantinow said. Since she became the association's president last year, membership has climbed to 62 businesses from 32.

"We have a really good, strong group that is determined to make the downtown work, and we're hoping to get people to realize that they should patronize us because we help this town flourish," Chrisman said.

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