Development Ideas Have Business Owners Excited, City Leaders Cautious

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As owner of South Main's J-Bears Place, John Schroeder says fresh development around downtown Rockford is desperately needed, and it’s needed now.

"It's dead. I mean after six o'clock at night, after people finish work, they just go home from here. It's nothing; it’s just plain dead," Schroeder said.

City leaders are fighting for Rockford's resurrection. This week the city council saw plans to transform the decaying Barbara Colman Village into a booming educational and commercial center.

"There must be a fit when we look at economic development. We can't just develop to be developing," Fifth Ward Alderman Victory Bell said.

In the midst of this new vision, veteran fifth ward alderman Victory Bell is also responding to the area's other controversial development topic: a hog slaughterhouse off Springfield Avenue. Bell is concerned that its possible placement on the West Side would stall not spark that area's revitalization.

"I met with them. They seem to be quite professional individuals, and I support that. My main concern is can we as a city working with the county come up with a better location for that? Not to say that I don't want them in the city," Bell said.

The alderman is confident that with the ward's vicinity to Bypass 20, Southwest Rockford can be commercially competitive without settling for the first development proposal.

"Just to say that there's going to be some jobs provided, you know, 100 jobs or 800 jobs, we certainly need to look at what's going to go along with those jobs and how it’s going to impact the west side," Bell said.

Until then, business owners like Schroeder’s are hopeful the right city development can again take Rockford to the right place.

"We need to get downtown back and alive again. Years ago there used to be all kinds of people walking the streets, business were open until nine, ten o'clock at night," Schroeder said.

And now, the development clock is slowly ticking with the future shape of the city hanging in the balance.