As the mercury rises, Rockford’s downtown walking mall springs to life, with musicians, vendors and outdoor cafes. But an effort is underway to reopen this stretch of Main Street to cars, which isn't popular some residents.
"I think it's just a great place to hang out. If you look at small and average size towns across the country, everyone has a common square," says Ryan, a musician.
But many business owners say opening the walking mall to cars could give them more exposure and bring more customers through their doors.
"People drive everywhere. If you can go downtown and drive through the center of town, it's good street exposure for the businesses," said Jerry Kortman, the owner of the J.R. Kortman center for design.
Kortman believes it could also improve traffic flow and send a message of downtown revival. "So they can actually see what we have in this two block area," said Kortman.
The river district group has held hearings on the proposal but hasn't taken a stance on the issue.
Wheeler says one roadblock could be the high cost of making the change. And says more research is needed to assess the benefits.
But Jerry Kortman is ready for change now, change he says that could mean big dollars for downtown Rockford.
Rockford city leaders say the plan is on the back burner for now. It would be very costly and would affect traffic flow throughout downtown.