New leadership at City Hall is bringing a new enthusiasm for exploring downtown. “Living it up in Downtown Rockford” is not just a marketing method it's also a goal. For anyone who has been an advocate of the downtown area the next few years could be very exciting.
Like the Rock River the plans to revitalize downtown Rockford are flowing. It's just a matter now of getting the vision on paper to take shape and become a development success story. Back in the 1950's downtown Rockford was the retail center of the community. That is a title that residents would like to have back.
George Brinson says, “More stores, more shopping like what the mall has. We just need to bring that downtown."
Todd Clay states, “A lot of little places to shop would be great. We need to make coming downtown a whole day thing to bring the family to."
Bill Diaz would like more businesses. Diaz tells 23 News, "More retail. I feel downtown is picking up with everything going on so in about 10 years this will be a happening spot."
The River District, a downtown neighborhood group has been working on identifying ways to draw in tourists and get more people living downtown. In their latest commercial the River District highlights the areas many opportunities, but it's the constraints like land use, vacant buildings, lack of housing and businesses recruitment that are missing. Since completing a framework plan the river district has received $25,000 to implement what's absent. The first step is to build a river walk.
Scott Long, who is chair of the Planning Committee for the River District, says, "To get people to walk up and down the river is vital. That pedestrian path needs to be for visitors from out of town, our own community and to help expand business and retail development. "
The next future development will be along Madison Street.
Long says, "Madison Street is good for town homes all the way down the street as the river develops you'll see that come in."
The River District is very focused on making sure any new development or re-modeling of old buildings fits the downtown image. For example, the Brown Lofts, a housing complex across from the MetroCentre, has been looking for the perfect business. Finally, Big Apple Bagel came along and that was the perfect match. The store will be opening in July.