Fate of former Rockford Elks Lodge building still unclear

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:19 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Redevelopment possibilities were once nearly endless for the former Elks Lodge building, a downtown Rockford landmark that has been vacant for the good part of 30 years.

Nothing has materialized though, including a plan by current owner Mark McGinnis to turn it into an event space. As the building fell further into disrepair, a judge, in 2022, ordered McGinnis to rehab the property or tear it down.

McGinnis chose the latter but work has yet to start, leading city officials to fear the building may be too far gone to save.

“We didn’t want it to be torn down,” said City of Rockford Legal Director Nick Meyer. “We wanted it to be repaired. We still want it to be repaired. We’ve been wanting him the entire time to develop the property–repair it, stabilize it, and redevelop into something that’s historic and benefits downtown.”

McGinnis said because he is still in a legal battle with the city over the fate of the building, he isn’t ready to announce a construction timeline. But he says he still plans to move forward with the project.

“We are doing our job to get this place up and running” McGinnis said. “It’s a big process to make this a nice destination for the city. We are doing our due diligence.”

When finished, the nearly 20,000 square-foot building will also be home to a restaurant and bowling alley, McGinnis said.

Neighbors say they want to see the building saved, but share the city’s concern.

“I don’t think there is anyone who wants the building torn down,” said Veterans Memorial Hall Director Scott Lewandowski. “But they also want it to be used. We have all these vacant properties.”

The estimated cost of the project isn’t known; however, leaders say it could likely be “well into the tens of millions” because of the building’s condition. McGinnis has not announced how he plans to fund the development.

The building is at 210 W. Jefferson St.