A new future for the Barber-Colman Campus

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:09 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s an area of Rockford that’s sat vacant for decades, and city officials have tried to rid Rockford of blighted buildings like this one. Now, they may have found a path forward.

“It’s a historic site, it’s crucial to the founding and the manufacturing history that Rockford has, and so by redeveloping it we’re able to maintain that,” said Rockford’s Director of Community and Economic Development Karl Franzen.

On Tuesday the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously passed plans for Colman Yards- a part-living, part-commercial space that will be built in that area over the next 8 to 10 years.

“So it will go to our coding and regulations committee on Monday, and then city council in early November, we have a contract to purchase the property that gives a due diligence period until December 1,” Franzen said.

Milwaukee based real estate development company J. Jeffers presented their initial designs at the meeting. The property was sold to J. Jeffers last year, and they have a history of making historic buildings reusable.

“It’s diversification of what we’re doing on the site. It’s the housing, it is also the commercial retail sector of this. There’s a lot of talk that always goes into development about work, live, play, it’s hard to do if it’s just a single building. It does take a larger campus setting to be able to do that,” said Brian Loftin, Senior Vice President of Development with J. Jeffers.

The company will work with local companies Studio GWA, and Space Architects of Chicago, to put together a final draft of the plans.

Rockford based Fehr Graham will also be involved, helping prepare the land, getting rid of any harmful contaminants.

“Environmental issues are just common things when you’re dealing with old industrial properties. You can have asbestos lead-based paint in the buildings that has to be addressed, you may have some contamination in the ground that has to be addressed,” said Joel Zirkle, with Fehr Graham.

Plans for the campus include almost 1000 apartments, with more than 100,000 square feet available for commercial space. Jennifer Spencer with Studio GWA, says the project has endless possibilities.

“Part of the plan too is to connect that campus with our riverwalk system. I mean how great would that be if you can have people come in on their bikes and spend the day and go from one side of that city to the other?” She told 23 News.

If everything goes swimmingly, phase one should hopefully be complete within the next 18 to 24 months. This means residents could move into that area in south Rockford within the next two years.