The city of McHenry prides itself on being proactive in attracting, retaining and fostering the growth of business, which includes filling vacant storefronts.
However, there are certain situations beyond our control which may be perceived by the general public to be a lack of effort or complacency.
One such example is the south half of the McHenry Commons Shopping Center on North Richmond Road. The McHenry Commons Shopping Center has several owners but the inline or the main stores are owned by two owners: BT McHenry, c/o BET Investments, 200 Witmer Road, Suite 200, Horsham, PA, 19044 (“hereinafter referred to as BET”) and DYN McHenry Commons LLC, 6801 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, IL 61114 (hereinafter referred to as “First Midwest Development”).
BET owns the southern portion of the shopping center, including the former Sears Grand/K-Mart, Family Video (only tenant which is active), and First Midwest Development owns the north portion of the shopping center, which includes the Hobby Lobby store, Goodwill of Northern Illinois and the strip along the northern side of the shopping center.
Both the north and south half are roughly the same size, 9.51 acres on the south and 9.19 acres on the north.
The difference lies in the cooperation the city of McHenry has received from each of the two property owners. First Midwest Development has owned its half of the center since 2016 and, since that time, has continued to work proactively to improve its side of the center with plans of doing more.
The group currently is installing a new entrance sign, has attracted a number of new tenants, erected new lighting, and are planning a reconfiguration of the northernmost driveway and construction of an outlot.
However, for certain items they require the cooperation and approval of BET because of the existence of an internal agreement within the shopping center.
Conversely, BET has owned its half of the shopping center for more than a decade and, since the closure of Sears Grand in 2012, has done nothing to improve its vacant building, proactively locate tenants to their site or work in a cooperative manner with First Midwest Development in permitting improvements to their half of the site under the internal agreement.
Further, the city has met with BET leadership in person and spoken with them on a number of occasions regarding the importance of having this high-profile shopping center become vibrant and add to the local economy. The city also is aware of interested tenants who have been unable to work with BET in locating on the site.
In short, residents and consumers do not care what comprised the ownership of retail property, or what reasons lie behind vacant storefronts.
What they see are vacancies and, in the case of McHenry Commons Shopping Center, 88,000 square feet of vacant building space and site infrastructure that continues to fall into disrepair.
This reflects poorly on our community and is unacceptable.
This lack of movement by BET is frustrating and, as mayor of the city of McHenry, I feel compelled to let the residents of the community know the facts regarding the shopping center and assure them that we are working hard to fill vacant spaces not only at this site but throughout McHenry.