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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: