Armory foreclosure; what to do TWO PROPOSALS

Editor’s note: The Rockford Armory, 605 N. Main St., is up for foreclosure sale to the highest bidder. A legal publication in this week’s issue states: “The time and place of sale will be Thursday, March 6, 2003 at 11:00 A.M., Public Safety Building, Main Lobby, 420 West State Street … conducted by the Winnebago County Sheriff.”

AMCORE Bank is listed for contact for sale information.

Who actually has legal ownership of the Armory is a point of controversy for many. Watch our upcoming issues for stories on this matter.

At least two banks hold mortgages on Opportunities Industrialization Center’s (OIC) failed efforts at the Armory. Other unpaid liens and taxes are included in the approximately $350,000 sought after in the sheriff’s sale.

In a recent address to the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Doug Scott called for corporate partners to heavily invest in our riverfront. Here’s the perfect opportunity to answer the mayor’s call.

The ideal solution would be for the banks and lienholders to donate their interest in the Armory to the Rockford Park District—their donation could also be completely deducted from their taxes.

Mayor Scott pointed out in his speech that development of our riverfront would be “good for business.” How true, and that truth cannot be spoken loudly enough or acted upon too soon. The time to act on the fate of the Armory is now. If not, one of our

most valuable pieces of architecture may be lost or put to inappropriate use. As the mayor praised the city’s architecture, The Rock River Times is eager to give praise aplenty to those who help preserve one of the first steel span constructions in the United States—the Armory. Its great facade, restored, will put a great face on us all. Consider what the donation of the Coronado did for Kerasotes Theaters.

Here’s a proposal on what to do. This proposal would actually turn the Armory into a positive cash-flow revenue center (like Magic Waters) for the Rockford Park District and continue their fine work in the River District.

The outline of this proposal was presented before the Rockford Park District Board Jan. 14 in the last of their series of excellent public meetings on the future of the district. Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association also presented an interactive energy power proposal at that meeting. If only all of our government bodies were so extensively pursuant of public input.

For more information on the Armory and its history, please go to Sylvia Pagel’s outstanding Web site. If only we had more citizens like Sylvia. Her concern and hard work are an inspiration and example to us all—


Create a Rock River Museum in the ROCKFORD Armory.

As a basic model for our efforts here, consider the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque.

Borrow every idea we can from that museum. We already have many of those fine resources, or they are on our drawing boards. Look at their Web site and imagine ours,

l Make the museum a gateway to the headwaters and the mouth of the Rock River and all points in between.

l The Rock River is 387 miles long and passes through nine counties and at least 14 major metropolitan areas in Wisconsin and Illinois. Invite them to place their displays in our museum touting their history and promoting their attractions.

l Our gateway to the Rock River should feature the history, industry, and historic individuals from our own area and from each county on display.

l Consider just a few of our famous folks and their stories: James Henry Breasted, Cheap Trick, Janet Lynn, John B. Anderson, and astronaut Janice Voss.

As County Board Member George Anne Duckett (D-12) asked, “What could the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum loan us that they have in storage?”

See Drs. Sonia and Robert Vogl ’s part of this proposal and imagine the possibilities.

l Get a copy of Rockford native Nels Akerlund’s marvelous book, Our Rock River, to see all the possible features of this museum.

With our gateway as a launching point, offer old-fashioned, canoe trips, using period costumes, replicated canoes and modern water craft. Go north. Go south.


Our Rock River Museum can be an income center for the Rockford Park District. Sources of income:

l Admission

l Memberships—individual, group and displaying counties.

l Local, state and federal grants, including applications to organizations like the MacArthur Foundation, a Chicago-based income source. Groups like MacArthur want to fund things in their region.

Our mayor has a great relationship with our new governor. Illinois wants more tourism and the resulting tax revenue; so does Wisconsin. Let’s help each other help each other. The dollars the states invest will come back to them many times.

l The Mississippi River Museum received $188 million in grants and private contributions.

l Offer shuttle service from all of our area hotels, partner with them and the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and promote, promote, promote—locally, regionally, nationally and internationally!

Offer a shuttle to and from our Midway Museum Complex and other park district facilities. Cross promote!

We have an opportunity to preserve, promote and capture the past, region and future in a very unique way. No other museum complex of this kind—an extensive river museum, Discovery Center, art museum, and natural history museum (COMPLETE WITH OUR DINOSAUR, JANE)—exists.

If this entire complex were powered with the energy of the future and contained the history of that energy, Rockford would have a world-renowned complex, sure to attract international press and visitors.

Power our gateway to the Rock River Museum with renewable energy!

I’ll let the experts, Drs. Sonia and Robert Vogl, address this very near and real future.


Renewable Energy

for the Rockford Riverfront Museum Complex

By Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The Rockford Park District can lead the way into the future by embracing renewable energy today. The entire Riverfront Museum Complex can be powered by renewables through money from the April referendum. Tax money invested in renewable energy now will eventually return every cent invested with interest. By taking advantage of current incentives, the project can cost Rockford a fraction of the total cost. Funding is available through state grants, federal funds, and net metering.

Rockford can be an international showcase for renewable energy by being the first city to use all forms of renewables to run an entire campus. This bold program will provide major visibility and can draw visitors from around the world.

Begin with efficiency. The Discovery Center will save $42,000 in electric bills in a single year by switching to energy-saving devices and practices.

Solar electricity can provide much of the electricity needed by the complex. Grants from the state, ComEd, and the federal government will pay for more than 80 percent of the cost.

A wind generator can take advantage of the river corridor wind tunnel. Wind systems are also routinely funded for 50 percent of the cost by the state.

Passive solar, also eligible for state funding, can cut the costs of heating the buildings and providing hot water.

Biomass from agriculture, ethanol, switchgrass, and wood waste can demonstrate ways we can reduce our dependence on imported oil. Fuel cells, which are also eligible for state grants, can be powered by hydrogen either from natural gas or biomass sources. Small floating hydro systems can generate energy from the Rock River. Buses and utility vehicles can be electric, hybrid, or powered by fuel cells.

The District can receive 50 to 75 percent of all costs, and possibly have the entire project paid for by outside funds. Net metering will continue to provide returns on the initial investment.

Education is part of the park district’s mission. A full-scale renewable energy installation can do more than provide all of the campus’s energy needs. It can serve as the basis for a world-class educational and interpretive program.

Tours through the actual systems themselves as well as smaller, hands-on demonstration models can provide vibrant, exciting experiences similar to those now presented by the Discovery Center. The entire complex can become a functioning educational program.

Catwalks through systems and circuits with color coded wiring exposed to view, usage models, meters, and records allow visitors to conceptualize the systems.

Rooftop viewing of the technologies will provide the added attraction of viewing the cityscape and the city’s major draw, the beautiful Rock River. Rooftops also offer the opportunity for rooftop gardens, which furnish insulation, demonstrate natural recycling, help cleanse the air, and provide space for relaxation.

A museum interpreting the history of renewable energy, renewables now, and the energy future, which is still a dream stimulates the imagination of children and adults alike.

The auto industry would love this opportunity to display their past, present and upcoming models that utilize gas/diesel/ethanol/electric hybrid technologies, as well as the upcoming hydrogen fuel cell models. The car of the future, not yet in production, can be displayed. Accordingly, because of the promotional qualities of these exhibits, a fee for display can be charged. Yes, that’s more income.

The Riverfront Museum Complex Energy Center can become not only an educational center, it can be a research center for the future. By inviting industries to use the site for performance testing—of new turbines, solar panels, or other energy developments at a cost—both parties will benefit. Industries will have a place to showcase their newest developments; the Center will have a constant cash flow.

Upgrading state-of-the-art installations and exhibits will be tied into the ongoing maintenance schedule. The Center will remain cutting edge.

Workshops can also be offered for business, industry, technology, and citizens.

By being bold, thinking big, and embracing all renewables, the District can garner international acclaim for Rockford. The city has the opportunity to build the energy system of the future for the Riverfront Museum Complex.

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