Downtown Development

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

We often hear that the riverfront is the key to Rockford’s future economic success.

"People are naturally attracted to water. Whether it's a river or a lake or the ocean, they want to go. You have the boats that can go up the river. Our river is wonderful," say Kim Wheeler of Rockford’s river district.

But many say the talk has been followed by little action. Under Mayor Doug Scott’s administration, the city has bought three properties near the downtown river front in hopes of attracting development - this parking garage near Davis Park, the Ingersoll building, and the Barber Coleman building.

"I think the city's intentions were to land bank a few of the properties so that we could secure them for redevelopment. And maybe guide that in the right direction," says Chad Bryden.

Chad Bryden is the mayor's new downtown development manager. He says the city owned parking garage will be leveled to make way for a surface lot. There are some proposals for redeveloping the two former factories, but months after the city-funded purchase they still sit empty. Bryden warns it will take time to redevelop the area.

"People have to realize that things could take two to five years, to 10 years. However there are smaller projects and other different types of focuses that are going on within the city," says Bryden.

City involvement is critical to downtown development but some say private developers need to be involved quickly.

"It is better in the hands of private developers that pay property taxes for example. And they will make the types of investments that the city simply can't" says downtown developer Larry Morrissey.

While it could take years or decades, developers and city leaders say downtown has a bright future.


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