Demolition began Wednesday on the Tapco Building, one of the crumbling old industrial buildings along Rockford’s downtown riverfront.
The massive concrete block is being torn down one steel-jawed chomp at a time, over the next month or two. Rockford mayor Larry Morrissey says the real drama of the 1.1 million dollar demolition and clean-up is the opportunity it creates for the downtown riverfront. He says in a way, the demolition is bittersweet because Tapco was a big part of Rockford history and a lot of people worked there. But “tearing this building down puts us in a better position to redevelop the whole area.”
The site will be used to extend the city’s popular Davis Park as green space: it could be developed in the future. There was a time when people had high hopes for redeveloping the 100 year old Tapco Building: it was a big industrial space with history and a great location. Rockford Alderman Venita Hervey remembers moving back to her hometown in 1995: she says she told her father that someday, she would have a condo on the top floor of the Tapco Building. But five years later, “I was saying ‘when are you guys going to tear that piece of junk down?’”
Hervey says she did a lot of research and learned that the Tapco Building was beyond rehabilitation. Wayne Dust with the city of Rockford says that’s true: he says a big part of the expense of removing the building is the environmental cleanup. The site was used for a number of industrial processes before Tapco was built in 1909, including a coal-fired power plant. That contamination will have to be cleared before the public can use the space and so it doesn’t eventually contaminate the nearby Rock River. Dust says the building was also structurally unsound, pointing to floor after floor of bricked-up windows.
Vincent Boris says he’s glad to see Tapco go. He and his wife Tricia drove down from Roscoe to sit in the shade and watch the demolition get underway. Vincent says chunks of concrete used to fall from the building, and after a decade of sitting empty, he hopes the land can become useful again.
There are still high hopes for the old factory next to Tapco…The Amerock or Ziock Building… it’s in much better condition and the city plans to put out a request for proposals soon.