FREEPORT (WIFR) -- A building that's been sitting empty for decades in downtown Freeport is now the proposed site for the city's Amtrak station, and the plans call for more than just a ticket booth.
For the first time in nearly two decade a multi-million dollar project could breathe new life into Freeport’s Rawleigh Building. The once thriving business complex at the end of Main Street may soon be the main attraction for tourists from all over the state.
“My grandpa used to say, and I say it too, talk is cheap, so if they show us the money, I can't think of a better place to spend it," says Brendan Walsh, a Freeport resident.
Freeport leaders have applied for an eight million dollar federal grant that will help fund a future Amtrak station at the corner of Main St. and Liberty Avenue. The train would eventually travel from Chicago to Dubuque with a stop in Rockford.
“A platform and a ticket booth is like’ I’m here and I’m gone’,” explains Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp (D). “A multi-modal center will is like, ‘I’m here’. Come stay for a little bit while you're waiting for your train and make other arrangements and see what Freeport is like."
The proposal includes a business center, restaurant, residential lofts, and antiques mall near the train station. Gaulrapp says the Pretzel City already has the amenities that compliment project.
"We have the river walk over here, boat launch and the bicycle trails, we have the downtown area. It really ties everything together,” says Gaulrapp.
Despite the positive outlook, some residents say they're skeptical that the project will move forward and say they’ll believe it when they see it. Others say the area desperately needs the renovations.
“We're kind of stranded here in Freeport since the railroads left and the Van Galder doesn't come here anymore, so I think it's a good
idea,” says Ridott resident Gary Shockey.
Freeport leaders believe the plan will not only boost local tourism but could also get the city's economy on track.
The proposed Amtrak route will also stop in South Elgin, Genoa, and Galena.