City Council to Consider New TIF Program to help pay for East State Street Signage Upgrades

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) –A city only attracts new business by making sure the ones that already exist are thriving. That’s what some experts say, but along a portion of East State Street here in Rockford stand dilapidated storefronts, buildings that look neglected and signs that need some sprucing up. The city of Rockford will be looking at one way to change that image.

You see them every day driving down East State Street. Signs that are old, outdated, and some are just ugly. Rashed Islam says the signs are hurting business.

“It’s detrimental,” he said. “It doesn’t draw people into this area.”

Islam works at Royal Liquor Mart; a business that could potentially benefit from a proposed program that would help store owners tear down and replace signs that aren’t up to city code. The program would use TIF money to help fund those efforts.

“You want to feel proud about the neighborhood you work in or live in,” said Islam. “It motivates everyone else to tell their friends ‘you know what …this area is thriving and prospering. Politicians seem to care, city council cares…’ and then they’ll be more motivated to come.”

“If an area is threatened or begins to degenerate they can use a TIF in order to recoup that,” says Rockford 1st Ward Alderman Tim Durkee.

Alderman Durkee supports the proposed signage program. The program would pull up to 65-thousand dollars over the next year out of the TIF district these business are in to help business owners pay for sign removal or replacing the signs. Up to 10-thousand dollars for a replacement project, 5-thousand dollars for removal.

Durkee says the area needs the signage upgrades in order to help attract new business. If the signs along that stretch of State Street stay as they are, the economic climate will only get worse.

“You get a spiral such that nobody wants to invest there,” he said, “people will leave there, businesses won’t relocate there, and people won’t shop there.”

“If the entire strip of State Street looks good, it elevates everybody,” says Islam. “From there things can actually grow.”

There’s no guarantee an updated look will encourage investment, but Islam says chances of that happening will be better than if the signs stay the untouched.

The TIF Signage Program goes in front of the city council tomorrow for the first of two votes. If it passes tomorrow, then a final vote will be cast next week.

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