MCHS announces community renovation project at Miller Point

MCHS students and staff are working on blueprints, logos, and business plans for new community project


Hitchcock Design Group / Kennedy Tetour

A team of architects and students have already worked together to begin designs for the 12-by-12 and 12-by-16 retail shop units planned for the Miller Point project in downtown McHenry.

Vanessa Moreno, News Editor

In the spring of 2023, MCHS construction students are set to build ten tiny commerce shops at Miller Point in downtown McHenry. Engineering, graphics, and business students are involved in “The McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes” project as well.

The idea for this project was born after Assistant Superintendent of Learning & Innovation Carl Vallianatos drove through the Batavia Boardwalk Shops, located an hour away from McHenry. After researching, he learned that Batavia had partnered with their high school to create the village-like cluster of tiny shops. 

He proposed the idea of creating similar shops in McHenry to MCHS staff and to the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, who loved the idea. Construction instructor Dan Rohman and engineering instructor Russ Micklinghoff then recruited students into the community project.

“The goal from the beginning, from my perspective,” states Vallianatos, “has always been to see how many students can get behind [the project] and be a part of actually creating [the shops].”

The McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes will be financed with proceeds from the R.I.S.E. Up Foundation’s “Splash Into Country” music festival that will take place on a week before homecoming. Country musicians Dustin Lynch and Brad Paisley will be the headliners for the Sept. 16 and 17 respectively. 

Currently, and for the next few months, construction students are working on blueprints for the shops alongside WOLD Architects & Engineers, who assisted in building the new Upper Campus wing.

“[Getting to work with WOLD] is a really cool experience,” states construction student Kyle Lindquist. “I don’t really like doing blueprints and all that stuff, but it’s nice to be able to see how [architects] do it from a different perspective.”

Rohman adds, “I love the fact that [the construction students] get to work with engineers and architects, so that they get to see not just the construction or skilled trade side of it, but also the planning process. Maybe that will open some thoughts…that they hadn’t thought about and could be a pathway for them as well.”

Aside from construction students, Micklinghoff’s engineering students were also recruited for this project. At this time, they are also working alongside WOLD Architects & Engineers on blueprints.

“We are doing the designing for the project,” states engineering student Mikey Clingingsmith, “creating blueprints using AutoCAD and SketchUp to get the foundation for what the [shops] are going to look like.”

According to Micklinghoff, there is a learning curve in doing blueprints, as MCHS no longer offers classes on architectural drafting. Because of this, his students are set to meet with architects to learn first-hand from them. 

“I think [working with architects] is really cool to use as a resume builder, to help with getting into college and scholarships,” states engineering and graphics student Kaylie Kopsell. “It’s really cool to be working on such a big project at a young age, to be able to say you helped with it.”

In the spring and/or summer, the construction students will build a prototype of the tiny shops at the Upper Campus, according to Vallianatos.

Graphics and business students from Matthew Connor and Vanessa Kirk’s classes are also playing a role in the community project. Graphics students are currently designing logos for the shops. The business students are working on marketing strategies and ways to incorporate the project into their curriculum.

When the shops are built, small business owners who do not have their own stores yet will be able to rent a tiny shop for a season. 

“One of the requirements of the business owners will be to participate in multiple workshops that will help them grow their business,” states the R.I.S.E Up Foundation on a Facebook comment. “Supported by the McHenry Area Chamber, the City of McHenry, and other shop owners, these businesses are in a strong position to succeed.”

According to Vallianatos, there will be opportunities for MCHS students to run a tiny shop and work with the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. 

“This is real,” states Micklinghoff. “It’s partnering with people that actually do this for work and getting that practical experience. I just don’t know how education could be any more valuable.”

The McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes are part of a larger renovation project to transform Miller Point in downtown McHenry. The goal is to increase opportunities for family interaction and to create a space for the community to enjoy, according to a R.I.S.E. Up Foundation Facebook post.

“Any city could raise money and hire contractors to build these things,” states Vallianatos, “but it’s being able to provide these real world experiences where students are actually working with the adults to create something really awesome for their town that is fun to watch.”