News - McHenry County

Fox River Grove wants to acquire 10 downtown properties to spur development

Downtown Fox River Grove looking northwest from Rt 14.

The village of Fox River Grove is continuing its pursuit of a downtown redevelopment project – and is meeting resistance from at least one business owner.

Village officials are looking to acquire 10 properties in a block of land bordered by Northwest Highway, Illinois Street, Lincoln Avenue and Opatrny Drive, across the street from the Metra station. After buying the properties, village officials then will pitch the land to developers, according to a news release from the village.

Among those properties is restaurant New China, owned by William Gee. Gee is wary of selling his restaurant because he believes the offer made for his restaurant from the village is a “slap to the face.”

"We do about half a million dollars in sales per year. Who's going to give up that kind of business for $332,000?" Gee said. "If we were going to sell the restaurant, we would package it at $1.7 million."

Fox River Grove Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said that because the village is in the negotiation process with the property owners, he would not comment on how much the village is offering to buy the properties. He also would not comment on where the funds for buying these properties are coming from.

“We all think it’s not a fair shake to come and develop something with no guarantee that it will bring in more revenue,” Gee said. “We will fight [the village] for it.”

The village is negotiating market value with property owners, Soderholm said. He’s hopeful that the village’s new strategy of buying up properties first will be successful.

“Our experience with the development community is that they want to see land right in place before working with [us],” Soderholm said. “The village feels it’s time to make something happen, and we think it has a strong chance.”

In 2015, the village approved a special use permit for a four-phase, $2.5 million redevelopment project that would have brought 500 new apartments to the downtown in its first phase. The following phases would have included at least 70,000 square feet of commercial space, retail spaces and a hotel or marina. However, plans fell through when the developer was unable to secure funds for the project.

Local resident Matt Spooner, whose house was among the properties to be bought in Phase 3 of the old plan, is hoping that the new plan will have less uncertainty surrounding it.

“We would’ve been open to negotiating with the developer, but after a while we grew tired of having this cloud of ambiguity hanging over my family,” Spooner said. “My hope is that this new plan will get more feedback from the community.”