Questions on Historic Preservation Halt Downtown Sport Complex Plans

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Millions of dollars are on the line for the planned indoor sports complex in downtown Rockford. A good chunk of the project's state funding is on hold after neighbors near the site raised objections to the demolition of some historical buildings.

The historical significance of the former District 205 headquarters on South Madison Street isn't lost on neighbors like Maurice West. The old Rockford High School is now destined to become rubble to make room for parking at the planned downtown sports complex. Some neighbors in Haight Village say that fact wasn't made clear when they meet with city leaders at the end of February.

"The meeting started and we come to the conclusion that it was just a proposal, and so it was still able to stay up, and a couple days later we find out they made the decision to go ahead and demolish it. We're bummed about that," says Maurice West, President of the Haight Village Historic District.

Some neighbors were upset enough to ask the state historic preservation agency to halt the demolition. The city got a letter two weeks ago from that group saying $6 million of state grants is now on hold. The grant funding is designated for the renovation of the former Ingersoll factory and was not intended to pay for the demolition of the District 205 building.

"There are different moving pieces on this project but we are working with the Illinois historic preservation agency and HUD to get the environmental clearances that we need," says Rockford City Administrator Jim Ryan.

City leaders say they need this project to help spur other major downtown developments, including the transformation of the Amerock building into a hotel. West says keeping the District 205 building could complement those projects.

"It’s like a positive domino effect, instead of falling down, these are coming up," says West.

The overall budget for the indoor sports complex is about $21 million with about $10 million coming from state grants. Rockford city administrator Jim Ryan hopes to have a solution for this demolition dilemma in the next month.

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