It's been a rough few weeks for downtown Rockford's ego. News that the river district could lose Lightning basketball and the Rockford Icehogs came as a blow, then the realization that the city's Convention Center dreams center off the far east side.
"It's great that we have the center of entertainment and cultural activities in downtown, but we have to keep it there. I think Rockford has a long way to go," says Sarah Skorija, a river district board member.
Residents and city leaders concerned about Rockford's future are looking a four-term Milwaukee mayor for some guidance. The Neighborhood Network invited Norquist to speak at West Middle School on Sunday afternoon.
"Rockford has enough elements that it could really be a beautiful city and much more important city than it is," says Norquist.
Norquist is credited with the rebirth of downtown Milwaukee. He told a group of more than 200 community members sprawl is not the answer for Rockford. He says getting more housing downtown and linking up with Chicago is key.
"You're not on the Metra system or Amtrak. That's something that should happen. It's the second largest city in Illinois and you could bring people into all those empty buildings," says Norquist.
Rockford Mayor Doug Scott says Norquist has a lot of good ideas. Scott says he's talking with developers about three different projects, housing and commercial, for the near downtown area and says revitalization will come soon.