McHenry’s country music fans are excited, and Mayor Wayne Jett hopes their enthusiasm leads to the construction of new seasonal retail spaces at city-owned Miller Point along the Fox River in the coming years.
The RISE Up Foundation, a nonprofit headed by Jett and his wife, Amber, announced that country star and Grammy winner Brad Paisley is coming to McHenry to play a concert Sept. 17 in Petersen Park.
“I want McHenry to be on the map. I’m willing to take on the risk to really bring out artists of that caliber to really show what McHenry could be. Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean we can’t land huge acts,” Jett said in an interview.
McHenry County residents and country fans reacted supportively on social media after the inaugural RISE Up Foundation’s concert last year was deemed a success for featuring the acts Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, among others.
It raised more than $200,000, most of which is going toward the addition of a splash pad in the Fort McHenry park.
Jett toyed with the idea of moving the splash pad to the Miller Point location to accompany the retail spaces he hopes to build on that publicly owned property. But now, Jett said public opinion favors keeping the plans to install a splash pad at Fort McHenry.
His nonprofit also may construct a second water feature beside the downtown mini-market of 10 retail spaces, which measure between 144 and 192 square feet each. The city already had planned to install bathrooms at Miller Point, Jett said.
The retail spaces would be awarded to tenants through a competitive process and provide a space for aspiring entrepreneurs to hone their skills running a brick-and-mortar business without financially risking larger sums on real estate before testing the market.
“We feel not only is this a great way to add temporary retail at an affordable price, but vendors will have the opportunity to open their own business and determine if it is the right fit for them – without investing a significant amount of capital,” according to a RISE Up Foundation statement posted to social media.
Jett said he thinks the new seasonal shops, which will have power, heating and air conditioning, and are being modeled after the Boardwalk Shops in Batavia, will add what has been a missing retail element in downtown McHenry.
“The Riverwalk Shoppes will add vibrancy to our downtown experience,” according to the nonprofit’s statement. “Currently, we have a healthy dining district. Most of the other storefronts are service businesses, such as insurance agents, salons and financial planners. Unfortunately, we have a limited number of retail stores on Green Street, Main Street and Riverside Drive, our three downtown areas. By providing a larger selection of retail, our downtown will become a magnet for customers who are willing to make the trip to a shopping destination location.”
The nonprofit said the retail spaces would be granted to applicants from April to October, and Jett said they also could transition into wintertime and holiday markets. Jett pictures the city drafting an agreement allowing the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce to oversee the application process as well as manage and market the spaces.
“It gives an opportunity to walk around and really enjoy that whole area,” Jett said. “You need that downtown. Here and in the developments we have coming forward here soon, I think [residents] will see this is what you need to keep your city moving.”
Also in his nonprofit’s plans for the Miller Point area are an expansion of a nearby parking lot and the addition of an activity lawn made of artificial turf that could be converted into an ice skating rink in the winter.
He plans to present the concept to the McHenry City Council next month to make sure elected officials would be on board with the plan to add retail in a park.
Jett also hopes the nonprofit can partner with McHenry High School’s design and construction classes for the build-out of the retail space.
“We wanted to make it more of a team effort rather than just hire a contractor to do it all,” Jett said.
The RISE Up Foundation plans to announce more acts that will fill out its lineup for the September music festival.