Amerock project moving again

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11588567386374.jpg’, ‘File photo by Dave Picken’, ‘View of downtown Rockford and the Rock River from the top of the Amerock Building, 416 S. Main St. Development of the property is still under way, according to investors in the project.’);

Efforts to revitalize the old Amerock Building, 416 S. Main St., are proceeding, according to principals in the project.

Dick Hynes, an architect and partner in the project, confirmed reports that new funding was committed to the project. The name would probably change from Verona Towers to “something that includes the river, like, ‘Edgewater,’” said Hynes.

Hynes said the project is still viable because the existing demand for urban, market-rate housing in the area, pointing out the Thatcher Blake Riverwalk Condominiums project, 2400 S. Main St., had sold about half of the 60 planned units.

Hynes said a new management team from Wisconsin would lead the project with a local Realtor acting as spokesman. He said the Wisconsin firm was interviewing local Realtors, and an announcement of the management team and Realtor would be made soon.

The funding of a bridge loan and a construction loan for the Amerock project has been characterized as “Wall Street meets Main Street.”

The alderman on the street, Doug Mark (R-3), whose ward includes the old Amerock Building, said: “In our previous discussions of the project, we would de-TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Amerock and re-TIF it for that specific project. I don’t have a problem with that.

“We’ve must have market-rate housing,” Mark continued. “Dixon wanted to have 80 percent market-rate housing and 20 percent affordable housing in the project. Whatever your percentage mix of those two, the first thing government tends to do is fill in the affordable housing, and the market-rate residents never come. If you’re going to do market-rate, do market-rate.”

Milwaukee developer Tim Dixon abandoned his plans in 2003 after River District stakeholders fought him on the affordable housing aspect of his project.

Bill Mathis of Mathis Development, LLC, bought the old Amerock building in July of 2005 from Chicago developer Tom Wold, who paid Newell Corp. $300,000 for the building in 1998. Mathis paid $700,000 and gave the project the name Verona Towers, intending a Venetian theme.

Despite some initial commitments for commercial space to major local companies and some condo interest, Verona Towers fell victim to problems and intrigue with Mathis’ other project, River East Lofts, 202 N. Madison St.

Although construction was almost 75 percent complete, funding controversies and unpaid bills led contractors to file liens against the River East Lofts project. These liens have not been resolved, and Mathis and lender Commercial Mortgage and Finance Company, which foreclosed on the property, have sued one another in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Winnebago County. Reportedly, an equitable resolution of all those issues is also rapidly approaching.

“We’ve been toying with these buildings for years,” Mark concluded. “We’re finally close to making a constructive determination for the Federal Building, the white-water run with the Ingersoll Building, and Davis Park. If you’re talking rail coming to Rockford, the Amerock Building is a natural; the track is right there. We need to find the funding to get these integral projects happening.”

Many river district stakeholders have noted completion of the Amerock project is primary to the success of the district. Approximately $50 million will be generated by construction and sales by the project.

From the Sept. 20-26, 2006, issue

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