Old Kmart site in McHenry could turn into self-storage facility under proposal

Plan could see applicant buy other spots in strip center, build five new outlot buildings near site

After serving as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site last year, the vacant Kmart building, 1900 N. Richmond Road in McHenry, still has yet to to be repurposed.

After sitting vacant without a permanent tenant for more than a decade, the former Kmart in McHenry may have a taker.

The city received an application in May from a developer looking to buy from another investment company the space at 1900 N. Richmond Road, along with the other vacant spaces next door. The plan is to install a self-storage business there, according to the application.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is set to review the application at its June 15 meeting, and Mayor Wayne Jett, who was pitching the site last week at a retail convention in Las Vegas, said the city wants to do its due diligence and make sure it finds the best fit.

“We’ve had people looking at it,” Jett said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunities, and we don’t want to go with the first item that comes across our table.”

The applicant, Rockford-based First Midwest Group, proposed a Boxed Up Self-Storage, along with potentially building five new buildings on the lot.

Those new buildings include three along Richmond Road, one along McCullom Lake Road and one just north of that for a car wash, according to the application.

The tenants for the new buildings or the four other vacant spaces in the strip mall connected to the former Kmart site are not yet identified.

The proposed site plan, according to the May 2022 application, will see the former Kmart turned into a self-storage site, along with five outlot buildings constructed.

Since becoming vacant more than a decade ago, the 86,000-square-foot space was temporarily host to a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, but beyond that, has sat empty. This is the first application the city has received for the site since it became vacant, city of McHenry Director of Community Development Ross Polerecky said.

“People come in and show us plans and ideas for the site, then scoop up the plans and we never see or hear from them again,” Polerecky said.

Over the years, some ideas that have been pitched included a store, an indoor recreation spot and a hotel, city officials said.

“We’ve worked hard to get these spaces filled,” Jett said. “We’re not sitting on our hands.”

First Midwest Group currently owns the northern half of the strip mall, which includes Hobby Lobby, Goodwill, a Chinese restaurant, Pearle Vision and a CosmoProf. If the company buys the lot, they will own the entire strip, Polerecky said.

The southern end of the site that includes the former Kmart is currently owned by BET Investments out of Philadelphia.

After serving as a mass vaccination site last year, the vacant Kmart building,1900 Richmond Road in McHenry, has yet to to be repurposed.

While Jett is optimistic the site will be filled with either the proposal from First Midwest or another taker, the spot has been a difficult one to fill, said Wayne Kurchina, the agent for the site and managing broker at ILrealty Kurchina and Associates.

One option would be finding a big box chain store to take over the space, but the success of those over the years has proven to be inconsistent, Kurchina said, since many are opting to shop online now rather than go into stores.

Another would be finding a group willing to split the space, which can create hurdles, particularly on items like bathroom facilities, property taxes or needed changes to the front facade to create individual entries.

“You basically have two acres under the roof,” Kurchina said. “You need someone who’s willing to commit to a 10-, 15- or 20-year lease to make the necessary changes.”

If the First Midwest Group proposal is accepted, it will be the second storage facility in the immediate area. Currently, a U-Haul Moving and Storage facility sits across North Richmond Road from the strip center.

“There are very few use options for a property such as this one for single-user retail,” the would-be developer said in the application’s narrative. “Accordingly, the self-storage component will occupy this space that is otherwise very limited in use.”