McHENRY – Kelly Liebmann frequently shops in downtown McHenry, but says it often is a struggle to find nearby parking.
“It’s already hard to find parking there, and it’ll be more difficult with the new theater coming,” the Wonder Lake resident said.
The McHenry City Council in February unanimously approved plans to allow a theater, a restaurant serving alcohol, outdoor seating and entertainment at Walsh Park, 1202 N. Green St., and 1204-1208 N. Green St. The renovated indoor theater will have two screening rooms and is expected to seat 320 people.
While many are excited about the new theater plans to revitalize the downtown area, Liebmann said she’s concerned where all those people coming to the theater are going to park.
“On a Friday night, that’s when restaurants in the area are busy as well,” Liebmann said. “It’ll be great for bringing people, but it’s going to be a detriment to some of the businesses there, I believe, if they don’t fix the parking.”
According to city documents, the Green Street area – which includes Green Street, Waukegan Road and the Riverwalk Center – has 208 available public parking spaces and 507 private and public spaces for parking.
Ward 1 Alderman Vic Santi said he also is concerned with the parking downtown and had some suggestions of how to solve the parking problem in the future, including possibly using existing land and properties to create more spaces at some point.
“We have an abundance of land right now across the creek where the old Savings Bank building [located on Green Street] sits,” Santi said.
While people can park a few blocks down from their destination, Santi said it’s about getting convenient parking for visitors.
“You can park two or three blocks away, but sometimes that may discourage people from going to that business,” Santi said.
“The key is to get all parties together,” he said. “I think the city, the council, the staff and businesspeople in those areas need to get together as a group and discuss different options.”
Naté Grindeland, who owns Mixin Mingle in downtown McHenry, said she’s excited for the indoor theater, but parking can already be a challenge for her business. Customers often ask her where they can park.
“It would be nice if some sort of option was in the works to improve parking,” Grindeland said.
Right next door, Kim Loewe, owner of Kiera’s Confections in downtown McHenry, said she isn’t too concerned about parking, even with the theater coming back.
“We just got new parking signs that really matches nicely with all the directional signage in the downtown, so I think that will be a big help,” Loewe said.
“The more that come down here, the better it is, but that’s not to say that we won’t keep working on solutions for better parking,” Loewe said.
2nd Ward Alderman Andy Glab said the city needs to have a strategic plan in place to address parking concerns.
Glab suggested one way to help ease parking concerns is to better advertise parking spaces behind Neumann Park.
“A lot of people don’t realize there’s available parking back there and I also feel that people won’t want to park back there if they don’t feel comfortable,” Glab said. “Especially if they’re coming out of a movie, it’s dark out and they have to walk down through narrow pathways.”
Glab suggested that if they tear down some of the storage spaces back there and create a more open walkway, that would help fix the problem.
“People would be much more comfortable going back there, then because it is so wide open,” Glab said. “I think that would give a lot more accessibility to the parking that we have in the back.”
Although these are only ideas at this point, Glab said the city will continue to look at potential solutions.