McHenry City Council approves downtown theater proposal

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McHENRY – McHenry's indoor theater has been closed since 2014. However, the theater is coming back after the McHenry City Council unanimously approved plans to redevelop the former McHenry theater building during Monday's meeting.

At the meeting, the City Council discussed an ordinance that would grant a conditional use permit for an expanded site plan review to allow a theater, restaurant serving alcohol, outdoor seating, outdoor entertainment and any other variances needed to develop the property at Walsh Park, 1202 N. Green St., and 1204-1208 N. Green St. The project was proposed by Boone Creek Crossing LLC.

As part of the project, the applicant plans to enhance the west facade of the existing building, use the existing marquee and install other signage that will enhance the property’s appearance. The intended use of Walsh Park is to serve as an outdoor venue for the restaurant that will have occasional outdoor entertainment.

For parking, while it will be a challenge, there is public off-street parking on Court Street, within walking distance of the site.

“With all projects I think I have a couple concerns, but when I finally reviewed it all, and we’re able to have these discussions, I just felt my concerns were minimal related to the major output this could have in the area,” said Alderman Victor Santi, who made the motion to approve the theater.

After some discussion, the ordinance was approved 7-0.

“This is one of the most exciting projects that’s coming along in a very long time,” Mayor Susan Low said.

Alderman Geri Condon, who seconded the motion, said she has to go out of town to see movies.

“I’d rather keep my tax dollars here,” Condon said.

The theater will have two screening rooms and its entrance will be at the north end of the building. The theaters will likely be able to seat 320 people, while the restaurant will seat about 100 people.

“It’s a win-win project for our city as a whole and specifically for our downtown revitalization,” said Doug Martin, director of economic development in McHenry. “And it’s going to make downtown more usable for a longer period and benefit other businesses.”

At the meeting was LLC member Don Tonyan, who said they also are looking at adding a rooftop at some point that would facilitate 45 people.

“It would be a 750-square-foot area with a railing,” Tonyan said.

Before heading to the City Council, the redevelopment proposal also was approved unanimously by the McHenry Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 18.

Tonyan said construction for the theater will begin this year, and it is expected to open in the fall.