Bates: McHenry is a lovely, quaint and vibrant community on the cusp of even greater things

Kay Rial Bates
Kay Rial Bates

I recently received an interesting email from a member of our community. It was a complaint about the McHenry Area Chamber’s 2018 Community Guide.

The complaint was as follows: “You have portrayed McHenry as a lovely, quaint community. That’s just not what we are.”

Then a long list of grievances. Oh, how I disagree! I look at our community through a clear lens with excitement for our future. I don’t have time for naysayers, discouragers and those who will not clean their smudged, faulty lenses. These critics just can’t see what I see.  

I see a community of residents and local contractors coming together in our town to build a state-of-the-art three-screen theater along with a high-caliber venue, D.C. Cobbs. I had the privilege of having a tour personally by contractor Don Tonyan of William Tonyan and Sons.

I wish you had been with me. The woodwork inside of D.C. Cobbs is going to be beautiful and unique. The upstairs and patio dining areas overlooking the McHenry Riverwalk will be resident drawing. There have been delays, but these have been caused because the old theater is changing significantly, bringing it up to current codes. Those of you who have remodeled an old house are well aware of the number of surprises that can be encountered, resulting in a delayed finish date. My lens is clear on this. The theater and its accompanying restaurant, D.C. Cobbs, are being done well and will be good for our community.

What else do I see? I see our major asset, the Fox River, and the river-enhancing riverwalk being completed. The Riverwalk Foundation, the propeller of the riverwalk, has moved forward with new designs for Miller Point, an extension to Weber Park and another extension featuring the old Pearl Street bridge toward the west.

The riverwalk will not be built overnight. Nothing worthwhile comes without certain setbacks. The riverwalk’s completion is no different. One such setback was the Great Recession, which hindered anticipated financing through the downtown tax increment financing district.

Yet, did you know that San Antonio’s riverwalk was initiated in 1929 and didn’t really move on its construction until 1938? It still is having spurs added to the tourist attraction. Our riverwalk will have advantages of modern technology and construction advances to help move it forward. The riverwalk has a great start. It will be completed.

I see a downtown with the great leadership of Kim Lowe of Kiera’s Confections and others on the Downtown Super Group Committee. The plans for our downtown are significant. I see a downtown looking more and more like our Pearl Street buildings. Take a look at Smith’s Central Garage, The Bike Haven and The Studio Art School. These people have invested in the facade of their buildings, including the sidewalks. I see this being duplicated in other sections of our downtown areas. Plans are in place to create murals depicting our McHenry culture, families and history in creative ways. This will draw entrepreneurs into our local downtown, catching the excitement of change. We are on the fringe of an impressive downtown community.

I see a City Council willing to build a recreation center as its people became more health-oriented. In the future, I see an aqua park attracting young families to our community. I see exciting changes in our retail districts that are necessary as consumers’ buying habits change across the country. We will adapt along with nationwide communities realizing out-of-the-box solutions.

You know what I also see? I see our property values rising.  

The bottom line of this is to encourage all to listen to the visionaries in their lives, not the naysayers. Communities, businesses and families never were built well in a day, and definitely not by pessimists.

What happened to my associate who produced the complaint-drawing 2018 Community Guide? Well, I said, “Job well done.” She did her job with an accurate lens of what our community is today and will be in the future. Should you want a community guide, please stop by the chamber office and pick one up.

• • •

We’ll be closing out 2017 with the following:

• The Prelude to the Holidays mixer Tuesday at Grandma’s Wine Bar and Deli.  

• Brown Bag Lunch n’ Learn at
11:45 a.m. Wednesday

• Never Eat Alone luncheon at
11:45 a.m. Jan. 5

For information, visit

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit

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