McHENRY – The long-awaited downtown McHenry theater is planned to open in November with not only a new look, but also a new business model.
McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett, who up until this point has been the primary investor in the redevelopment project, has decided to open up the theater to the community and operate under a community-owned model.
So far, 26 community members and business owners have invested $500,000 toward the redevelopment, and they will be shareholders with the company, he said.
Jett will retain a 3 percent share of the business, and he said he doesn’t want the community to see his involvement as a conflict of interest with his political duties.
“This gives our residents and local business owners the opportunity to be part of the revitalization of our downtown,” he said. “I will not be seeking profit from my investment. My promise was to revitalize my community’s downtown, and that is what I am going to do and continue to do.”
The theater at 1208 N. Green St. has been closed since 2014, and McHenry City Council members voted to approve its redevelopment in February. As part of the project, the building has undergone major remodeling, including roof replacement, interior wall and floor work and facade improvements.
The construction project’s cost is estimated to total about $1.5 million – about $1.2 million for the building, and another few hundred thousand in build-out and equipment.
Woodstock City Council member Dan Hart plans to open a second D.C. Cobb’s location at the theater, as well, and he said he eventually wants to offer outdoor and rooftop dining.
The theater is on track for a November opening. It will have two screening rooms, but the plan is to start work on a third screen after the business is up and running, Jett said.
McHenry’s Gary Lang Auto Group will own rights to one of the theater rooms, Jett said. He is in negotiations with another larger company for rights to the second theater room, he said.
“This ties into more community involvement,” he said. “We’re getting businesses behind it, as well.”
Kim Ribar, who owns Kim and Patty’s Cafe in McHenry, is one of the community investors, and she said she got involved because the theater will be a bonus for McHenry’s economic development.
“I think the Riverwalk needs something, and this will be helpful to bring people down,” she said. “I think it [creates] a great opportunity for a small business to open on that street. It’s really going to help the area.”
Ribar, who has run her business for seven years and has lived in the community for decades, said she has not sat down with her accountant and lawyer to run any hard numbers yet, but she isn’t concerned about the financial aspects of the deal.
“I personally know I will get my money back,” she said. “It seemed like a good opportunity. It’s a good investment, and it’s good for the community. It’s critical for the downtown.”
Jett said he is pleased with the community response.
“I think it’s amazing to see how many people called within even one week,” he said. “And a lot are young. ... Some have never owned a business, so it gives them that opportunity.”