McHenry set to buy vacant parcel between Rt. 120, Green Street and Boone Creek

Picking firm to develop comprehensive plan for city, downtown is also on Tuesday agenda

People cross Boone Creek on McHenry's Riverwalk on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

The McHenry City Council will decide whether to purchase vacant waterfront property on Tuesday but plans on how to use it aren’t yet clear.

The purchase of 3609-3611 Elm St. would put a total of 2 1/4 acres of vacant property between Boone Creek, a Fox River tributary; Route 120; and Green Street in city hands, McHenry Planning and Zoning Director Ross Polerecky said.

The city should also have a better idea of how those open acres could be developed in the future once it updates its comprehensive and downtown area plans, Polerecky said.

Both the land’s purchase and selecting a firm to develop an updated comprehensive plan are on the next City Council agenda, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The meeting was moved back one day because of Presidents Day.

City staff and the council have discussed updating McHenry’s comprehensive plan for more than a year, Polerecky said. Used to outline how the city plans for future growth, McHenry’s last comprehensive plan was developed internally in the early 2000s and “a lot has changed since then.”

More housing, both single-family and rental units, have been proposed in McHenry since the old plan was created, Polerecky said.

McHenry has been buying vacant property on that corner for about the past five years with the goal of attracting a developer who wants to develop the land, Polerecky said. The former carpet store parcel would be the last piece needed.

“We own everything around it, all of the vacant property from Green Street to 120 except for that parcel,” Polerecky said.

It is easier to entice a developer “when it is one property owner instead of fragmented owners,” he said.

“The comp(rehensive) plan will look for the best use of the property,” Polerecky said.

Three different companies provided their qualifications to the city, outlining how they would develop a new plan, Polerecky said. Staff recommends Rosemont-based HDR Inc. to begin the process. That will include public input and more council discussions.

Once the comprehensive plan is finalized, “developers can look at what is available and know that the city is up to date” on what it would like to see, potential zoning changes on existing property and whether a requested rezoning would likely be approved, he said.

The Elm Street property, with its $450,000 sale price, would be part of any redevelopment in the area. The building on the site was torn down by the owner in 2020 and just recently went on the market.

The area is also desirable for McHenry’s Parks and Recreation Department, Director Bill Hobson said. Future plans for McHenry’s Riverwalk include extending the pedestrian walkway from the Green Street Bridge to the Route 120/31 bridge.

“That central piece is key in terms of redevelopment ... downtown,” Hobson said.