Rockford Register Star

Gorman buys Amerock building in downtown Rockford

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star, May 28, 2015

ROCKFORD — Gorman & Co. has completed its purchase of the Amerock building from the city of Rockford.

Under a contract approved by the Rockford City Council, Gorman paid $250,000 for the building.

The company said pre-demolition work will start within a week on the 13-story abandoned factory that Gorman intends to turn into a 160-suite hotel and conference center. It will also feature restaurants, retail space, a swimming pool, business center and a top floor cocktail lounge. Cost of the project is $67 million.

Gary Gorman, CEO of the development company that specializes in historic buildings and revitalizing urban neighborhoods, said ownership was a big step toward completion of the project.

Gorman hopes to raise about $25 million for the project from Chinese investors through an immigration program, EB-5, that provides foreigners a green card if they invest $500,000 in a project that creates at least 10 jobs. Gorman said this month that advisers in China told the company that it would be easier to recruit investors if Gorman owned the building.

The company hopes to have its financing package complete later this summer. The historic renovation of the 104-year-old building, built by William Ziock Jr. for his textile businesses, is expected to start in September.

Our View: Downtown Rockford pieces fitting together nicely

By The Editorial Board Rockford Register Star

Posted May 19, 2015 at 2:03 PM

Monday night’s Rockford City Council vote amending the development agreement with Gorman & Co. may seem like an incremental step toward downtown revival, but don’t underestimate its importance.

Aldermen not only showed confidence in the Gorman project, a $67 million hotel and conference center at the former Amerock/Ziock building, but their 11-1 vote sent a signal to other developers that they are willing to work in the best interests of all parties. Rockford is open for business.

Gary Gorman, CEO of the company that bears his name, had asked to have an option to sell Amerock/Ziock back to the city for the $250,000 he paid for it. That made aldermen nervous that he would back out. So, the deal changed. Now, Gorman will sell the building back to the city for $1 if the project is scrapped.

The worst-case scenario would be that the city resumes ownership of a partially cleaned-up Amerock/Ziock with $250,000 in its coffers.

That’s unlikely, and Gorman sounded confident Monday when he said: “This project is going to happen.”

Gorman is expected to close on the building Wednesday and with that move he will have spent more than $1 million on the project. That’s a huge commitment and doesn’t account for staff time that’s gone into the development.

The buzz about downtown Rockford has never been greater. Gorman is the biggest piece of the revival puzzle, but there are plenty of pieces in place with undoubtedly more to come.

Work on the downtown sports complex, another huge puzzle piece, is progressing well, and the Rockford City Market pavilion looks very good as the market prepares to open its sixth season Friday.

The market has been a catalyst for downtown development. It has shown that people will come to downtown Rockford regularly if you give them a good reason. The market set a record for attendance in 2014 with 75,500 visitors, an amazing number when you consider there were quite a few Fridays with unpleasant weather last year.

This year the pavilion will protect market visitors from the elements, so we expect a new record.

Several small-business owners started at the market and have opened stores downtown.There still are plenty of empty storefronts downtown for aspiring entrepreneurs. As projects such as Gorman’s and the sports complex take shape, those empty spaces will become more desirable.

We can’t remember a time when so many reputable developers were interested in the center of the city. Urban Equity Properties, led by Justin Fern, plans a $10 million development in the 50,000-square-foot Hanley building and is working on other downtown properties.

Morgan Management wants to turn the Rockford Trust Building into 62 downtown apartments, with space for retail and service businesses on the ground floor. The price is nearly $13 million.

Joseph James Partners, led by SupplyCore CEO Peter Provenzano, and Frantz Community Investors of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also are looking for downtown opportunities.

You can feel the momentum build from our offices here in the downtown News Tower. There has been significant private investment in an area that had seen mostly public dollars spent on it.Downtown Rockford finally appears ready to live up to its potential. Years from now, we will be able to look back at Monday night’s vote as a vital step in the process.

Gary Gorman says he’s committed to hotel project in downtown Rockford

By Brian Leaf Rockford Register Star

Posted May 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM Updated May 17, 2015 at 8:45 PM

ROCKFORD — Gary Gorman asked for an audit on how much his company has invested into the vacant, asbestos-filled Amerock/Ziock building that he wants to turn into a $67 million Embassy Suites hotel and conference center.

The accountant’s report: $760,418.16, said Gorman, CEO of the Wisconsin-based company that bears his name. That’s what he’ll lose if the project dies.

That investment, which doesn’t include $75,000 to apply for a hotel franchise and staff time put into the project since 2012, will surpass $1 million Wednesday if, as expected, Gorman buys the property from the city of Rockford for $250,000.

“The concern I’ve heard is that Gorman is not committed to this,” he said. “I just smile when I hear this.”

But worried frowns and questions about Gorman’s commitment rose last week when aldermen considered changes to the company’s development plan. Those changes include a city waiver of $550,000 in fees for permits and utilities, a $3 million federal loan backed by the city and an option to sell the building back to the city for $250,000.

The City Council is expected to consider the changes Monday.Aldermen have questioned whether the changes to Gorman’s development plan are a sign that the deal, which relies on $25 million from Chinese investors, is “imploding,” as Ald. Frank Beach, R-10, put it.

Hardly, said Gorman, who has 30 years of putting together development deals and says they are prone to challenges and change.

“The real key in getting a project done is persistence, pounding away at it until it comes together,” he said. “And I’m betting an awful lot that (Amerock) will.”

So are taxpayers.

The Amerock deal has many parts. It relies on $16 million in city infrastructure investments; development of the $24 million Ingersoll indoor sports center; state and federal historic tax credits; EB-5, an immigration program that gives foreigners a green card for investing $500,000 in job-creating projects; a bridge loan for construction; approval of a hotel brand; and tight construction deadlines.

“This is a lot more complex than the average redevelopment deal that we have worked on,” said Mayor Larry Morrissey, who expects the amendments to be approved Monday.

Gorman Illinois Market President André Blakley met with aldermen last week to address their concerns and questions about the hotel project.

One question centered on why Gorman needs an option for the city to buy back the Amerock building for $250,000. The answer is EB-5, which Gorman hopes will help it raise $25 million from investors in China.

Gorman said he hadn’t anticipated buying the building until later this year, when what developers call the “financial stack” is in place: all of the financial elements — such as equity, loans, tax credits and outside investments — needed to finish a project

Our View: Give Gorman the tools he needs to make downtown Rockford hotel project work

By The Editorial Board Rockford Register Star, May 17, 2015

There seems to be some angst among Rockford aldermen about the future of “The Cinderella Project.” We understand their concerns but are confident that downtown will have a hotel by the end of next year.

Aldermen will be asked Monday night to approve amendments to the development agreement with Gorman & Company, which plans a $67 million downtown hotel and conference center in the former Amerock/Ziock building. We urge aldermen to do so.

“So we’re at the dance, and the clock’s getting close to midnight. We want to make sure Cinderella keeps her dress on,” Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said last Monday at the Planning & Development Committee meeting.

Hence our reference to “The Cinderella Project,” which seems appropriate for a building that we expect will be a rags-to-riches story when completed.

The change that seems to make aldermen most nervous is Gorman’s request to have an option to sell Amerock/Ziock back to the city for the $250,000 Gorman paid for it.

Good businessmen hedge their bets, and Gary Gorman, CEO of the company that bears his name, is a good businessman. Gorman has invested more than $760,000 in the project, so the option request should not be seen as a warning that he’s getting cold feet. In a worst-case scenario, he’d like to get some of his investment back.

Even if that happened, which we think unlikely, the city would be better off than before Gorman came on the scene.

Gorman plans to close on the building May 20 and as soon as the company takes ownership, remedial work — such as asbestos removal and demolition — will begin. If things didn’t work out, the building would be in better shape for the city if it had to buy the property back Aug. 1 and would be more enticing to the next developer.

Gorman also wants the city to waive $500,000 in permit fees in exchange for his buying local furniture, art and fixtures for the building and making “the attempt to utilize local contractors, tradesman, makers and artists” during construction.

If there were no project, there would be no fees, so this also is a reasonable request.

Gorman wants a 300-vehicle parking lot on the site of the former Tapco building, south of Amerock, instead of on Green Street where it would have been attached to an Amtrak train station.

Downtown could use more parking no matter what the fate of the hotel project.

Aldermen, especially those who have served for many years, have been disappointed more often than not when it comes to downtown development proposals. So have we, and mostly we’ve taken a we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it attitude toward downtown development.

However, Gorman is a reputable company that not only has had success in its home state, Wisconsin, but has done good work in the city of Rockford. Gorman’s record should ease aldermen’s concerns.

Also, aldermen should consider that Gorman has increased the size of the project since it was proposed in February 2014. What was a $50 million project is projected to be $67 million. Gorman wants more hotel rooms, going from 150 to 160, and wants to double the convention space.

Those are indications that Gorman is committed to Rockford.

Financing such a huge endeavor is helped by the use of state River Edge Historic Tax Credits and through an EB-5 program, which allows foreigners who invest $500,000 in a project that creates 10 jobs to get green cards. There is huge interest among Chinese investors in the EB-5 program, so odds are good that Gorman will get the money he needs.

Gorman has experience with EB-5. The company raised $15 million for the $19 million historic renovation in Milwaukee of the former Pabst brewery into the Brewhouse Inn & Suites. Gorman wants to raise $25 million for the Rockford project.

We appreciate aldermen doing due diligence on this project and hope they agree with us that the rewards far outweigh the risks in approving the amendments for this vital project.

Aldermen to consider Warren Buffett’s entry into downtown Rockford hotel plans

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star,  Jan. 31, 2015

ROCKFORD — If it were a boxing match, the hype would be huge at next week’s City Council meeting.

“In this corner of North Main and Mulberry streets,” a ring announcer might say, “weighing in at $14.5 million, with aspirations of turning a crumbling, two-story building back to life as a five-floor, 76-room boutique hotel, from Rockford, Illinois — Joseph James Partners.”

“And in this corner of Wyman and Cedar streets, weighing in at $64 million, a developer pining to turn an eyesore skyscraper into a shimmering waterfront Embassy Suites hotel, the cornerstone of a downtown revival. He’s backed by the world’s best-known capitalist, Warren Buffett. From Oregon, Wisconsin, ladies and gentlemen — Gorman & Company.”

Those ringside at City Hall on Monday will hear aldermen consider only a proposal by Joseph James to redevelop 134 N. Main St., where the advertising agency Trekk used to lease space. But a memo from the heavyweights, who plan to turn the Amerock building into a 150-room hotel, will also be on their minds.

CEO Gary Gorman shocked the city last spring by proposing a $53 million hotel and convention center downtown, the type of central city revitalization that generations of Rockford mayors have tried and failed to orchestrate. Gorman announced Thursday that a subsidiary of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is investing $18 million in the project, which has swelled to $64 million. Plans for the hotel will be finished Friday and bidding for construction contracts will commence the next week, he said.

Gorman’s interest was catalyzed by the $21 million indoor sports center being built in another vacant factory across the Rock River from Amerock and the availability of state and federal tax credits worth up to 45 percent of construction costs. When the sports complex ramps up, proponents say, it will draw thousands of families, players and fans downtown for basketball, volleyball and other sports tournaments.

They’ll need a place to stay.

Joseph James, which is led by SupplyCore CEO Peter Provenzano, submitted its first hotel proposal in November 2013. It initially sought to develop hotel rooms in two buildings, then settled on one hotel with a restaurant in the former Trekk building.

Both hotel camps sent memos to aldermen and city officials this week.

Gorman said he’s concerned about too many new rooms in an unproven market.

“We have done our due diligence analyzing the market trends and data and consulted with our partners on this project and have concluded that another hotel in the downtown opening at the same time or sooner is a serious threat to the viability of our project,” he wrote.

Provenzano quoted a Jan. 24 memo from a hotel consultant hired by the city and Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Hunden Strategic Partners of Chicago, that said there’s plenty of room downtown for both projects.

Provenzano said the sports complex is slated to open in June 2016 and he hopes to have his hotel open then. The Gorman project won’t be ready until early 2017, he said. Hunden said both hotels will have time to ramp up and succeed because there is a six-month gap between the scheduled openings. Branded hotels and boutique hotels also serve different types of travelers, the consultant noted.

Provenzeno said one could argue that his project will pave the way for Gorman by helping create a hotel market downtown. With no hotel rooms downtown, there’s a risk that demand will be satisfied by east-side Rockford hotels.

“I hope his project happens,” he said Friday. “We think these projects are very beneficial to one another.”

In 2011, Gorman and Mayor Larry Morrissey were part of an Illinois trade delegation to China, a country that is likely to produce most, if not all, of the 96 wealthy foreigners who will invest $46 million into Gorman’s hotel in a federal cash for a visa program called EB-5.

Morrissey, a three-term mayor first elected in 2005, campaigned on downtown revival. Provenzano, a longtime Morrissey supporter, rehabbed the former Pioneer Life building, 303 N. Main St., for his company’s headquarters and other offices.

Morrissey wants both projects to move forward.

“I’ve had a number of conversations directly with Gary Gorman,” he said. “I think he understands my position and I understand his. He’s got a project. He’s doing everything he has to do to manage it. I’ve committed to do everything I can to do to support his efforts.

“What I’ve explained to him and others is that we’re not just selling one project. We’re selling our downtown renaissance.”

Warren Buffett to invest $18M in Gorman & Co.’s downtown Rockford hotel

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star,  Jan. 29, 2015

ROCKFORD — Warren Buffett’s money has joined Gary Gorman’s plan to turn the former Amerock building into a $64 million hotel and conference center on the west bank of the Rock River.

But the water is not placid.

Gorman is concerned about a separate downtown hotel plan pitched by Joseph James Partners. The Rockford developer wants to put a $14.5 million, 76-room boutique hotel at 134 N. Main St., about six blocks north of the 150-room project that Gorman hopes will carry the Embassy Suites banner. Gorman has applied for the brand with Hilton Worldwide.

A Jan. 24 report from Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners, which was hired by the city and Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to assess the local hotel market, suggests that there is enough room for both projects, saying the proposals represent distinctive products and would provide a critical mass of lodging options downtown instead of just one.

Gorman was drawn to Rockford by a group of historic preservation, Friends of Ziock, that didn’t want to see the city’s original skyscraper demolished. Gorman originally estimated that it would cost $53 million to turn the old factory, first known as the Ziock Building, into a hotel and meeting space.

The price is now $64 million and includes an $18 million investment from a subsidiary of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the Amerock project in a story Thursday about EB-5, an immigration program that allows foreign nationals to obtain a U.S. visa if they invest $500,000 in a U.S. project that creates at least 10 jobs.

Gorman’s EB-5 investors, mainly from China, will put $46 million into the Amerock project, which city leaders see as a cornerstone to revitalizing an aged central city.

“A lot of aldermen see this as a showcase development and don’t want to do anything to hinder that,” said Ald. Tim Durkee, R-1, who chairs the city’s Planning and Development Committee.

Late last year, Joseph James, a development company run by SupplyCore CEO Peter Provenzano, proposed developing two hotels: one in the city’s oldest building, the Chick Hotel, and another in the building known for its last tenant, Trekk, an advertising agency that dropped its lease in the decaying building and moved to the east side.

Joseph James later dropped the Chick Hotel from its plans and decided to focus on the two-story Trekk building, 134 N. Main St. The company would add three floors, turning it into a five-story hotel and restaurant. Joseph James has been working with IDM Hospitality Management of Madison, Wisconsin, on its proposal, which has been introduced to the Rockford City Council but not approved.

Joseph James cited a memo from Hunden to support its proposal to Durkee’s committee. The memo suggests that there is room enough in the market for Joseph James and Gorman to succeed. The proposal was introduced but laid over for a month so the City Council could hear from Gorman.

The Register Star could not reach Provenzano or Bryan Davis, director of government affairs for Joseph James, on Thursday for comment.

Observers have commented that they thought they’d never see the day that developers would compete for projects in downtown Rockford, so it is a “positive trend that should be encouraged by both the public and private sector,” Gorman wrote in an email Thursday to Mayor Larry Morrissey, aldermen and city staff.

“It is very clear from our experience that a vibrant city center is the key to creating a thriving community. Having said that, I am very concerned about too many hotel rooms coming into the unproven downtown Rockford market at one time.”

Gorman said his company, which operates in 25 cities in five states, had relied on an earlier Hunden report when it made its decision to invest in a downtown hotel. “The fact that the Hunden letter stated that the market could absorb both our project and the Joseph James proposed project seems to contradict their concerns expressed in the market study they completed just over a year ago.”

Gorman wants first crack at opening the downtown hotel market. Final plans for Amerock will be complete by next Friday, and construction bids will go out the following week, he said.

“We remain confident that we will get the Amerock project done successfully, but bringing on competition before our project is stabilized is not helpful,” he wrote. “I hope that once we are up and stabilized, the market is such that it will support additional hotel rooms. If that is the case, we will welcome the Joseph James project or others like it.”

Hunden reiterated in a Jan. 24 memo to the city and the tourism bureau that two hotels would be better than one and would attract the guests needed for success. Hunden said the market could handle the extra rooms, although simultaneous openings could be problematic.

“However, if the projects open at least six months apart, this will allow each a ramp up-period,” the latest Hunden memo said. “Such a period is the toughest for any hotel, so the spotlight and market demand should be focused on each for their first few months.”

Ziock developer: Work to start in 2015 on downtown Rockford hotel

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star, Aug. 14, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

ROCKFORD — The company planning to renovate the Ziock Building, an abandoned 13-story downtown factory, into a $53 million hotel and conference center won’t begin work until February 2015.

“We forecast being able to open in early spring of 2017,” said Laura Narduzzi, regional manager for developer Gorman & Co. of Oregon, Wisconsin.

City crews, meanwhile, will be active this fall in the neighborhood as part of a development agreement with Gorman. Eminent domain proceedings on three properties owned by S&L Warshasky Inc. at 501 and 431 S. Main St. and 319 Cedar St. are working their way through the Rockford City Council. The city purchased a warehouse at 514 S. Church St., City Engineer Matthew Vitner said, and has another storage building at 330 Cedar St. under contract.

Buildings on all five parcels are to be razed for parking for the hotel and a train station at a yet-to-be-determined site along Union Pacific tracks running parallel to Cedar Street.

The hotel complex is expected to feed off visitor traffic from a $21 million indoor sports center being developed across the Rock River in the former Ingersoll building.

Narduzzi said Gorman has internal architectural and design, construction and operations teams working on the project.
“The history of the building will play the driving role in the overall design,” Narduzzi said.

Construction costs will be partially offset by state and federal historic tax credits because the building is designated a landmark. Gorman can sell tax credits to investors to help the investors lower their tax liabilities while helping the company raise money to pay for construction.

Gorman also plans to pursue project funding through EB-5, an immigration program that grants foreign nationals a visa if they invest $500,000 in a project in high-unemployment areas that create or preserve 10 full-time jobs.

“We have been working on the marketing materials so our partner can begin marketing to potential investors,” Narduzzi said.

Rockford Housing Authority eyes tax credits to restore mansions

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star , May 06. 2014

ROCKFORD — Two historic homes near the Jane Addams Park Apartments may get a $1 million face-lift that would return them to their 19th century residential glory.

One idea being floated is to use the buildings for Rockford Housing Authority offices.

Bridge Rockford Alliance Inc., a partnership between the RHA and Wisconsin developer Gorman & Co., owns both properties and would use historic tax credits to help finance restoration of the properties at 510 and 520 S. Third St.

If the property is deemed eligible for historic tax credits, the partners could raise 40 percent or more of renovation costs by selling the credits to investors that want to lower their income tax exposure.

Gorman is planning to use state and federal historic tax credits to help finance redevelopment of the Amerock/Ziock building in downtown Rockford into a $52 million, 150-room hotel and convention center.

Gorman and RHA partnered on the Jane Addams Park Apartments, a 38-unit development for people with disabilities that opened in 2013. The apartments replaced an old and blighted 84-unit complex along College Avenue and Seminary Street south of downtown.

“Ultimately, the end goal on this is to make sure those houses get renovated in a historic manner that benefits the neighborhood,” said Ron Clewer, CEO of the housing authority.

Clewer said the partners bought both properties for about $60,000 from Home State Bank foreclosure proceedings.

Partners are still discussing how the restored properties might be used. One idea is to restore the homes as residences, but use them for RHA offices for 10 to 15 years. Then, after satisfying requirements of historic state and federal tax credit programs, the homes could be sold to private owners.

The renovations could be a pioneering project that Clewer said could stimulate other residential restorations and increase property values in what was once one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Clewer said RHA would have to get a special-use permit to put offices there. It could take nine months to get paperwork approved with city, state and federal governments.

The home at 510 S. Third St. was built in the 1850s by Gilbert Woodruff, a banker, developer, furniture company owner and mayor of Rockford from 1873-75. Jon Paul Agustsson, who owned the house, said the mansion was cut into four apartments when he bought it. He restored it to a single-family home and ran the Eden Foundation from it. His plan was to restore the house and property to its original grandeur, while providing a safe haven for neighborhood residents who work in gardens on the property.

“I bought that house across the street from Jane Addams because I wanted to help the single moms and their kids,” Agustsson said. “Five years ago I gave up the house. They tore down the projects. The buildings and at-risk moms went, too. My work was done.”

The house at 520 S. Third St. is 4,600 square feet. Records from the Rockford Township Assessors Office say it was built in 1900, but Assessor Ken Crowley said the year 1900 is a default number for properties that were built at or before the turn of the 20th century.

Sometime during its history the home was cut into four apartments. A historic renovation would return the property to the single-family home it once was and, eventually from an office to a home.

“Our end game is to make sure those homes are contributing to the historic nature of that neighborhood,” Clewer said.

Rockford aldermen aim to reduce Ziock’s development costs

By Kevin  Haas, Rockford Register Star, Apr. 8, 2014

ROCKFORD — Aldermen are looking for ways to reduce the city’s cost  to uphold its end of a deal to bring a hotel and conference center to  downtown.

City Council members voted  13-1 Monday to approve an arrangement with Gorman & Co. to rehab a 13-story former industrial facility.

Ziock, more recently known as the Amerock building, 416 S. Main St.,  is slated to become a 150-bed hotel and 20,000-square-foot conference  center.

Despite the overwhelming support for the project, aldermen have  concerns about the city’s ability to pay for the new parking decks and  infrastructure improvements required by the redevelopment deal.

Ald. Jamie Getchius, R-2, presented a proposal Monday designed to  alleviate those concerns by reducing the debt the city would take on to build  parking decks, thus lowering the overall costs.

Getchius and other council members want to rearrange the city’s  five-year capital plan to cover the cost to build parking, channel more money  toward neighborhood road improvements and incorporate plans to convert Chestnut  Street from a one-way to a two-way road. The proposal was developed with input  from multiple aldermen looking for ways to reduce the city’s financial exposure  on the project.

The plan to fund the redevelopment deal calls for the city to take  on $16.6 million in debt over 20 years to pay for new parking decks and surface  parking lots downtown. The majority of that debt — about $9.3 million — is  designed to be covered by people who will pay to park at the new lots during the  next 20 years.

An additional $2.8 million would come from federal tax credits. The  rest of the money comes from sales tax dollars, which also pay for road and  bridge improvements.

Aldermen worry that neighborhood and arterial road improvements  could be sacrificed if revenue from parking fees or tax credits don’t hit their  projected marks. So they want to change the capital plan now to control which  projects may be lost.

Getchius’ proposal calls for minimizing the scope of the $15.5  million revamp of the Whitman Street interchange, which is included in the  capital plan. He wants the city to spend less by simply repairing the ramps and  roads rather than rebuilding.

Doing so would free up capital improvement dollars that could be  used to reduce the size of the debt incurred for Ziock’s parking improvements,  he says. Any other money saved would be applied to neighborhood road  improvements, something several aldermen see as a priority.

“We, as aldermen, understand clearly that our neighborhood streets  have to be redone,” Ald. Tom McNamara, D-3, said. “As go our neighborhoods, so goes the city.”

The city may also partner with other government agencies that need  more downtown parking — namely the Rockford  Park District and Winnebago County — to  spread the burden of the new decks and lots.

Turning Chestnut into a two-way street is seen as beneficial to the  proposed hotel and to the sports complex planned for the former Ingersoll  building. The projects are on opposite banks of the Rock River across the  Chestnut Street bridge.

The redevelopment deal with Gorman requires city leaders to study  the two-way conversion but doesn’t bind them to it. Still, some aldermen say  tourists at either site are better served by two-way streets.

“It can be very confusing down there,” said Ald. Joe Chiarelli,  R-14. “We need to make it easier for the tourists to find those locations and  for the residents that live here. It’s always been a problem.”

Ald. John Beck, R-12, would like to see two-way streets throughout  downtown and is not as keen on delaying the overhaul of the Whitman interchange.  The collection of neighborhood and state roads, bridges and one-ways known as  the Whitman interchange is a “community interrupter” that cuts off neighborhoods  on Rural Street with those on the other side of Illinois 251, he  said.

The area also requires more asphalt to be maintained and plowed than  a traditional intersection, “but I also know that we only have so many dollars,” he said. “And we can probably afford to put that project off a little bit longer  in order to be able to channel some money into the Amerock  project.”ead more:

Rockford aldermen OK Ziock deal

By Kevin Haas, Rockford Register Star, Apr. 7, 2014

Aldermen approved a deal to redevelop the city’s first skyscraper Monday that Mayor Larry Morrissey said could become one of the council’s “signature moments.”

City Council members voted 13-1 to approve an agreement with Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. to turn the more-than-century-old Ziock building, 416 S. Main St., into a 150-bed hotel and conference center. Ald. Linda McNeely, who represents the 13th Ward where the hotel would be built, was the lone “no” vote.

Applause in the council chambers erupted after the final votes were tallied. Supporters of the project — which included building and trades workers and a downtown advocacy group — left no seat of the City Council audience unfilled.

“We are quite literally at the doorstop of transforming our entire downtown into an exciting, attractive and desirable place to live, work and play,” said Gary Anderson, president of the River District Association, a downtown advocacy group.

The city’s end of the redevelopment deal requires it to build new parking decks and surface parking to support downtown visitors. It also must convert South Main Street from a one-way to a two-way between Cedar and State streets, and build a new pedestrian crossing over the Chestnut Street bridge.

Those improvements would cost about $18.6 million. Gorman would also be rebated a portion of the hotel taxes and property taxes the company would pay after improvements are complete.

“We have a choice to either invest in ourselves or continue the downward slide of declining property values and disinvestment,” Anderson told the council before the vote.

The agreement paves the way for Gorman to purchase the city-owned building for $250,000 and pump more than $52 million into its redevelopment. The company still has a lot of ground to cover before construction can begin.

It will now apply for federal and state historic tax credits, complete a financial package that includes foreign investors, create detailed architectural designs and market the conference center to potential users. The aim is to complete the project before the end of 2016 in order to take advantage of historic tax credits.

Morrissey said the vote is the culmination of years of work that includes buying the Ziock building four years ago, lobbying the state to include part of Rockford in the River Edge Redevelopment Zone and getting approval for a new hotel tax to help fund the construction of a downtown sports complex.

He said it was about two years ago that he traveled with Gorman to China to learn more about the EB-5 immigrant investor program, a key piece of the developer’s plans to fund construction. EB-5 is a federal program meant to stimulate job creation and development through foreign investment.

The city still has work to do to pave the way for the project, including finalizing its plans to redevelop the Ingersoll building into a sports complex. The complex is one of the main incentives for Gorman to build its hotel downtown.

“Both of these projects are destined for success,” said Ald. Tim Durkee, R-1. “I’ll bet you that in five or six years, we won’t recognize what’s going on downtown.