Encouraging development on Rockford's west side

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Redeveloping Rockford's west side - it's something many people have discussed, but one local group hopes to make it a reality.

"If you show them the hope, and the sense of, 'Look what you can do in your community,' Why would I leave?" says Earl Dotson, President of Progressive West Rockford Community Development Corporation. Dotson believes the west side of Rockford needs more reasons for people to come to the area.

"Our main goal is to create jobs and address some of the disfunction that seems to characterize much of the west side of Rockford." For the past 5 weeks, he's worked with Judson University Architect Students to create an ideal plan to make Rockford's West State Street Corridor, west downtown, and the Barber-Colman building, a destination for families.

"We're looking at how we can start to help Rockford develop its urban context," says William Morris, a Judson University Architecture Graduate Student.

Students took 11 buildings and proposed new concepts for the way they can be used. "It's a lot cheaper to renovate. So we want to give like realistic ideas to Rockford. Let's say, 'These are buildings you have already to work with,'" says Morris.

Planners have chosen four different intersections along the West State Street corridor like this one that they believe could use extra businesses to help them prosper.

"One thing we've noticed is where there's gaps, and gaps are bad. In a city, you do not want a lot of gaps. You want strategic open spaces, but not gaps. About every 9 streets, it's good to have something," says Morris.

"We should all, as stewards of this generation, be thinking about, 'How do we impact the next generation?'" says State Representative, Litesa Wallace.

"Will we solve all the problems all the problems of the west side of the Rockford? No. But we certainly feel that... It will make a change," says Dotson.