AMCORE dumps Armory

The sale of the Armory to an out-of-town owner by AMCORE Bank angered many who thought AMCORE was going donate the building to the city or the Rockford Park District. The Mirador Group, Limited Liability Company (LLC) of Chicago and its manager, Jocelyn Congua Stoller, a Chicago housing developer, is the new owner of Rockford’s historic Armory building at 605 N. Main St. Stoller refused to comment about her plans for the building or how she became aware the building was for sale.

Gary Carlson, chairman of the Rockford Historic Preservation Commission, said, “It’s amazing to me that AMCORE didn’t let others know there was a deal in the works. I would have liked to outbid AMCORE. It would not have been that difficult to come up with $500,000 to pay for the Armory.”

Apparently unaware of the building’s historical status, Stoller expressed interest in learning more about the landmark designation.

In January 2000, the building gained status as a local historic landmark after a Rockford City Council vote. According to preservation activist Sylvia Pagel, the building’s historic status requires the owner to meet the following three criteria before any demolition may proceed: 1. Approval from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency must be obtained by the owner before demolition of the building. 2. Public funds may not be used by the owner for demolition of the building. 3. The owner must file a claim that they can not afford to maintain the building.

AMCORE Bank officials bought the building at 11 a.m. March 6 at a Winnebago County Sheriff’s auction for $200,000. By 2 p.m., AMCORE sold the building to Mirador for an undisclosed amount.

Many were surprised and disappointed that AMCORE sold the building rather than donating it to the Rockford Park District for part of its planned museum park expansion. If the April 1 tax increase referendum is passed by voters, the museum park is likely to be built.

AMCORE officials said the bank “had a fiduciary responsibility to maximize the value of the property for all investors.”

Critics said AMCORE’s press release was code for “AMCORE’s money comes before the community’s well-being.”

After the sale of the Armory, Ron Carlson, vice president of AMCORE, referred the Times’ questions to Katherine Taylor, an employee in the bank’s Communications and Investor Relations Department. However, Taylor’s voice mail system said she would be out of the office the rest of the week.

The Rockford Register Star said that AMCORE worked with Stoller for nearly one year to finalize the Armory’s sale. Secretary of state’s information on Mirador was filed with the state on March 25, 2002. The latest date the company is to dissolve is 2030.

John Strandin, communications director for the city of Rockford, said Mayor Doug Scott (D) “knew that it was a possibility” that AMCORE might not donate the Armory to the park district.

Webbs Norman, executive director of the Rockford Park District, said if the park district knew for certain that AMCORE did not intend to donate the property, the park district might have bid on the property.

Taylor said, “AMCORE has a proven record of being a generous provider of funds from our foundation and volunteers from our staff who support the many worthwhile projects that make our city special.”

Stoller develops affordable housing and is the owner of Chicago’s second-largest single room occupancy complex. Stoller owns the Wacker Apartments Hotel at 111 W. Huron. In 2001 and 2002, Stoller served on the Auxiliary Board of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which was established in 1987. Stoller also contributes to a variety of charitable groups.

The major question besides usage for this building is parking. The parking lot to the north of the Armory is the property of the Rockford Museum Park and is central in plans for an expanded campus.

Presently, the only parking on the Armory property is about 10 spaces behind the building and limited parking under the building. In the past, the parking behind the building has been an irritant to neighbors on Indian Terrace because it was used by prostitutes, drug users and teenagers as a party area.

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