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.
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.”
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: http://www.rrstar.com/article/20140408/News/140409314#ixzz2yOfMcIDG