Rockford Register Star Editorial, February 22, 2014
Why should we be excited about this proposal to restore the Amerock/Ziock building after the other six or so prospects proved to be more hype than reality?
It’s the quality of the developer – Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. – that makes a $50 million renovation of the 101-year-old building in downtown Rockford viable.
The Rockford City Council is expected to vote next month on a proposed development agreement to renovate the 13-story Amerock building at 416 S. Main St. in downtown Rockford.
Gorman would turn the building into a 150-room hotel complex with bars, restaurants and as much as 20,000 square feet for conventions, banquets, receptions and trade shows.
If the hotel is built, imagine downtown Rockford with a flourishing hotel, a state-of-the art sports complex, a thriving outdoor City Market in the summer and an indoor market the rest of the year. Imagine the number of visitors that would draw to the city. Imagine how that would improve the quality of life for local residents. Imagine Rockfordians being proud of their downtown again.
Downtown has improved much over the last few years thanks to City Market, Friday Night Flix, a revamped BMO Harris Bank Center, world-class museums, entrepreneurs willing to take a chance and more. But it’s not the source of pride it was decades ago. The hotel complex and the businesses it would be sure to encourage truly would be a game-changer.
You don’t have to go far to see a successful Gorman project. Gorman redeveloped the Jane Addams public housing complex for the Rockford Housing Authority.
Want more? Take the hour-and-a-half drive up to Milwaukee to see The Brewhouse Inn & Suites. Gorman & Co. turned the brew house and mill house at the shuttered Pabst brewery into a 90-room extended-stay hotel. Gorman, based in Oregon, Wis., has done projects in four states and 25 communities.
Tax credits make the financing manageable. State and federal tax credits, which Gorman has used in past projects, will cover 45 percent of construction costs.
An additional factor that makes this a viable project is Reclaiming First, the initiative to put Rockford back on top in the sports tourism industry, A key part of the plan is to refurbish the former Ingersoll building in downtown Rockford and turn it into an indoor sports complex that could host basketball, volleyball and other tournaments and events. You’d be able to see that complex from the Gorman hotel, an attractive prospect for out-of-towners who want to be close to the venue.
Reclaiming First still has to get a few more OKs from local taxing bodies before it’s ready to go. If all goes well, the Ingersoll building will be open for games in the fall of 2015.
If this plan does not work out, the alternative would be to tear down the Amerock/Ziock building. The Editorial Board has called for razing the Amerock building since 2010 because we never thought a respected developer would touch the building. We’ve written that it was “a structure not worth saving.”
Tearing down the building has been discussed for a decade. In 2004, a downtown task force appointed by then-Mayor Doug Scott recommended demolishing the Amerock and Tapco buildings.
It appears we all were wrong.
Perhaps we were overly pessimistic then and we’re overly optimistic this time. We’ll find out soon enough.