Brewery might use McHenry facade program

McHENRY – The long-closed McHenry Brewing Company on Pearl Street used to have a metal loading dock similar to the one at the post office that used to be next door.

Bringing back the 1890s loading dock at the business, which now houses the Chain O’Lakes Brewing Company, would cost an estimated $17,000, much more expensive than the cloth awning Curt Ames, the brewery’s owner, also looked at.

If Ames goes with the more historically accurate loading dock, he could be in line for a $3,000 grant to help cover his costs.

The Landmark Commission recommended the grant to the McHenry City Council at its meeting Tuesday evening with the stipulation that Ames gets two more bids if possible, as required by the city ordinance, commission Chairman Pat Wirtz said.

The city’s facade grant program offers the owners of commercial buildings that are at least 50 years old help to cover the costs of exterior work, including painting, remodeling and the installation of some awnings and signs, Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said.

“Naturally, improvements to older buildings are going to cost more, so [the program] is an incentive to repair the building and make it look like it used to,” Martin said. “A lot of these improvements are cosmetic in a sense. They’re not structural improvements, but they have an aesthetic appeal, and they bring out the life of the building.”

The city sets aside $5,000 each fiscal year for the program, but not many businesses have taken advantage of it, Martin said.

The Bike Haven on Pearl Street received $2,500 in January 2012 to install new windows where the old windows had been bricked up when the building, which dates to the 1920s, was a NAPA Auto Parts, owner Josh Arnow said.

“Obviously being a bike shop, it’s important that we have big front windows to show the bikes,” Arnow said. “We would have done it anyway, but it was really nice that they chipped in. It would have taken me longer to get it done.”

In November 2011, Some Other Nuts, a gift shop at 1252 N. Green St., received $2,800, Martin said.

The shop closed in December 2012 after a fire demolished the neighboring business, which housed Windy City Wings and several apartments, Wirtz said.

The last grant before that was $2,000 to McHenry Power Equipment Inc., located on the corner of West Elm Street and Freund Avenue, Martin said.

“I wish more people would take advantage of it,” Wirtz said. “It’s something to enhance the community and the older districts, which I think have fallen on hard times.”

The expense of these projects, though, makes it “not surprising” there aren’t more applicants, said Martin, who said information about the program is on the city’s website, included in its newsletter and also is brought up by city staff in talks with business owners.

That’s how Ames found out about it.

“I think it’s good they have it,” he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have even been thinking about it [the more expensive loading dock]. It’s very generous of the city to help get the buildings functional and help us improve business.”

Ames isn’t sure, though, that he’ll be able to go with the more expensive metal loading docks even with the grant.

The bank loan he applied for the new beer garden and facade improvements was less than he anticipated, he said. He’s hoping the four events he’s holding this summer will help bring in enough revenue to cover the costs.

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