The city of Rockford is welcoming a large-scale development project. The plan won approval from the city council Monday night. The move is viewed by some as a major step in reshaping the city's downtown.
For years, Rockford has tried to pump some life into its vacated industrial complexes on the south side of the downtown area. But local officials say this new agreement could be the one that provides the ultimate facelift in this part of town. A Wisconsin-based firm wants to turn the city's first skyscraper, the old Amerock building, into a $50-million dollar hotel and convention center.
By a vote of 13 to 1, the city council approved the plan, which calls on the city to pay for nearly $20-million dollars in infrastructure upgrades around the historic landmark, which is now known as the Ziock building. Alderman Ann Thomson-Kelly says the council's action was certainly being watched by many in the development sector.
"I think just about every developer within a 500-mile radius is paying attention to what we do with this," Thompson-Kelly said.
Kelly had voted against the project in the committee stage. But she says she was encouraged by last minute talks to ensure the city's finances would be able to withstand the investment.
"I think the obstacle for every city is to stretch those dollars to pay for services that taxpayers pay for, but also create jobs," Thompson-Kelly said.
The lone "no" vote on the council floor came from Linda McNeely, who had questions about the total cost.
Other downtown projects
The effort coincides with another project that involves transforming a downtown industrial site, the old Ingersoll facility, into an indoor sports complex.
Back in 2012, the city began demolishing the Tapco building, another industrial complex from the city's manufacturing heyday.