Proposed Development on N. Main St. Causing Controversy

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The northwest side of Rockford has been a focus spot for many years. Many want to see new life brought into the vacant lots and abandoned buildings along N. Main and Auburn streets. Now, a developer is hoping to do just that, but it isn't going to be easy.

Rockford has twelve "dollar" stores within the city limits and developer Oliver Emerson would like to add one more.

"North Main is an area that needs to be redeveloped. We looked at the area and felt that it would be a good spot for Family Dollar," Emerson says.

Emerson wants to put a Family Dollar store on a vacant lot in the 2400 block of N. Main St.

"They're predicting $2.5 million dollars in sales," he says.

While putting a multi-million dollar business on the vacant lot would appear to be a logical choice, critics of the plan say this particular business is not what the city needs.

"We need more development but the thing is, how many dollar stores can fit into a one mile radius?" asks Joe Owen, vice president of the Orchid Neighborhood Association.

Even Rockford aldermen in and around the area are coming together in opposition of this concept.

"We need to look at some other development to make North Main and the Main and Auburn area a really viable retail, commercial area," says 3rd Ward Ald. Doug Mark.

"I'm scratching my head and hoping we can bring some economic growth to Northwest Rockford," Oliver Emerson says.

"I've received a lot of e-mails and other communication that they would rather not have that type of development," Mark states.

"I know just as many people as well that can't wait to see a Family Dollar store in that particular area," Emerson says.

But before Emerson can put a store on that lot, it must pass a re-zoning vote by the city. And even if the land isn't re-zoned...

"I can go 600-feet to the north. No zoning requirements. Its already zoned C-2, and I can put up a less expensive building, but I don't want to do that," Emerson says.

If the proposal passes all the necessary requirements, construction will likely begin in November. Emerson says the store could open as early as next Spring.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will vote on the proposal on Tuesday night. Residents have said they would rather see more coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants come to that area.