McHenry agrees to buy more property on Green Street, setting future development

City agrees to $550,000 when owner’s ready to sell

When Jose Rodriguez is ready to sell the Green Street Cafe, McHenry will be ready to purchase the building.

After a closed session to discuss the purchase, the McHenry City Council on Monday night unanimously authorized Mayor Wayne Jett and City Clerk Trisha Ramel to sign an option agreement with Rodriguez to purchase his property and building at 1219 Green St. The agreement does not finalize the sale, Rodriguez noted in a phone interview, but is an agreement for a future sale.

The council also approved a contract to continue soil remediation for adjacent property it owns at Elm (Route 120) and Green streets and that it hopes to develop with Geneva-based Shodeen Group LLC.

The potential Green Street Cafe purchase “is an option if we need it” to expand the buildable lots McHenry has put together in the downtown - a rough pie-wedge shaped area between Green Street, Elm Street and Boone Creek - over the past several years.

“We are not buying it right away, but are just locking it up and using it as advertising.”

—  Ross Polerecky, McHenry Community Development Director

In December 2018, the city spent $611,000 to acquire three parcels of land where the McHenry Savings Bank once stood at 1209 N. Green St. Then in 2021, another $385,000 was spent for an adjacent vacant parcel from the bank. The lots have been used for parking since.

In February, the city also purchased 3609-3611 Elm St., the site of a former carpet store, for $450,000.

The property on the southwest corner of Elm and Green streets, however, is believed contaminated - likely from underground gasoline storage tanks that once sat across Elm Street but taken out decades ago, said Ross Polerecky, director of community development.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency alerted the city to possible contamination there on the week of Nov. 12.

The council approved a contract Monday, not to exceed $15,000, “to review a course of action” for remediation, Polerecky said.

“The property is contaminated,” he said, but there are things that can be done, including vapor barriers under future building foundations, that will allow construction in the future.

With an agreement to purchase the Green Street Cafe building and land for $550,000, McHenry will have spent nearly $2 million since 2018 to buy up land for future downtown development.

What that development might be is still unknown, but plans are in the works.

ln March, the city came to a “standstill agreement” with Shodeen. The developer agreed to come up with a plan for both the Green/Elm parcels and the 7.2-acre wastewater treatment plant site, at 3302 Waukegan Road, by March 31, 2025. In exchange, the city promised to not market the sites to other developers, Polerecky said.

The Green/Elm parcels total about 2 1/4 acres. The Green Street Cafe property would add another 7,089 square feet to the buildable area.

“The site is kind of small and we are trying to maximize it. We got wind that the owner of the building was planning to retire in a couple of years,” and that Rodriguez wanted to put an agreement with the city on paper, Polerecky said.

Either the city can buy when Rodriguez is ready, or the developer could pay for the land, he added.

“We are not buying it right away, but are just locking it up and using it as advertising ... for anyone interested in the site,” Polerecky said. ”It is another piece of the pie here.”