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McHenry State of the City focuses on business growth, downtown revitalization

Community stakeholders gather to hear Mayor Wayne Jett's first address

McHENRY – Gas stations, restaurants, Starbucks, a do-it-yourself dog wash space and a bourbon bar are only a few new businesses McHenry residents can expect to see soon – and economic development efforts aren’t likely to let up in 2018.

The McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual State of the City luncheon Wednesday at the McHenry Country Club. City and county officials, along with business owners and other community stakeholders, gathered to hear Mayor Wayne Jett give his first State of the City presentation, which focused heavily on economic development, downtown revitalization and city infrastructure.

“The city of McHenry prides itself on being proactive and attracting, retaining and fostering the growth of business,” Jett said. “It’s close to me personally, and vitally important for the financial well-being of the community.”

The city’s economic development efforts – which include targeted outreach, advocacy and conference networking – have led to numerous developments and ongoing interest in the city, Jett said.

“We continually target all industries, including service, manufacturing, retail and hospitality,” Jett said. “I will not sit back and wait for things to happen.”

Some economic development initiatives have gained traction and contributed to the downtown revitalization process, such as the redevelopment and opening of the McHenry Downtown Theater.

The theater project began in February 2017 and opened in January. The building underwent a $1.5 million overhaul, and the business is community-owned.

“This project was the result of the collaborative effort of people coming together to make a vision reality,” Jett said. “No one person or entity could have succeeded in this effort.”

New downtown and downtown-area businesses include the martial arts studio Constrictor MMA, Jett’s Heating and Air, Art and Soul Tattoo, Hidden Pearl Cafe, Ignite Teen Center and McHenry Brewing Co. – which will reopen under new ownership – and there are more in the works, Jett said.

As part of infrastructure efforts, the city plans to complete a $2.4 million reconstruction project on Pearl Street and Lincoln Road from Route 31 to Chapel Hill Road. McHenry will contribute about $800,000 toward the project, but the rest of the funding will be covered from state and federal sources. The project will include a bike and walking path from Pearl Street Bridge to McHenry Middle School, Jett said.

“The city is committed to dedicating as much possible funding to local roads each year, and identifying and leveraging nonmunicipal funding for these projects,” he said.

In 2017, the city also completed its $30 million wastewater treatment project, which included decommissioning McHenry’s Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant had been in operation since the 1920s. A new pump station and conveyance line now will divert raw wastewater to McHenry’s South Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Future projects might include improvements or a revamp for the city’s recreation center. As a start, McHenry hired an engineering firm late last year to complete a feasibility study for an indoor pool at the center.

Any expansion would require some form of public funding, and the city could put a referendum question on the November ballot to determine whether to move forward, Jett said.

“The primary objective of the city is to place the question in front of taxpayers for a decision based on input received from community members and users of the existing facility,” he said. “[The center] is being used, and people want it, so I am willing to ask that question.”

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