McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett is frustrated that a large building on North Richmond Road remains vacant.
“We have spaces that are vacant, and the reason that they’re vacant is because the owners of these properties don’t even care about filling them,” Jett said. “We send retailers their way, and they never call them back.”
Jett wants to see reputable businesses fill the southern half of the McHenry Commons shopping center as soon as possible.
The estimated 80,000-square-foot site, which previously housed a Sears and Kmart, has been vacant for years.
BET Investments Inc. of Horsham, Pennsylvania, owns the southern half of the shopping center under BT McHenry LLC.
The company could not be reached for comment.
The only tenant in that section is a Family Video. First Midwest Development owns the northern half, which houses a Hobby Lobby.
“I’ve been very public about BET Investments,” Jett said. “I’m pressuring them on it. ... There are retailers that want to go there. It’s not the lack of city effort; it really is the ownership of the property.”
Jett said he believes the company no longer cares about filling the space because “they have tax incentives for them having them vacant.”
“Their assessment value went down. We are talking to state legislators so I can try to stop that and get them to fill the spaces,” said Jett, who added, “It’s frustrating.”
When asked whether his public comments will negatively affect the site, Jett said: “It’s been vacant for 10 years. What’s the worst they can do? If they don’t like me and don’t want to build anything, well, they haven’t done that in a decade.”
As the site sits vacant, “it’s going into disrepair,” Jett said.
Doug Martin, the city’s director of economic development, expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s been very frustrating trying to get the building filled,” Martin said. “It leaves a big hole on Richmond Road.”
Martin said the city has suggested tenants and has reached out to the building’s leasing agent, Mid-America Asset Management.
Mid-America could not be reached for comment.
“Nothing has come to fruition, and the property continues to degrade,” Martin said. “I understand there are various challenges with the property. I understand that the building has varying grades, and it’s not an ideal retail building. However, I do think that there are uses suitable for the building.”
Martin said the community is suffering because of the vacancies.
Martin said First Midwest is struggling to upgrade the area because of a reciprocal easement agreement.
“They need permission from multiple property owners on the property to do certain improvements, including an outlot,” Martin said.
When asked why he believes the company is reluctant to fill the space, Martin said, “I guess the best answer I can give you is what they originally, a year or two years ago, told us, which is that it’s not a priority for them. ... This is not on their A-list.”
Martin said the city has been working with Daniel Greeley, BET Investments capital transaction manager. Greeley could not be reached for comment.
“I would be naive to believe that there’s been 100 percent energy into filling this building,” Martin said. “We don’t like the look of vacant buildings.”