Construction starts on Verona Towers

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11212739092648.jpg’, ‘Photo by Dave Picken, provided by Mathis Development Inc.’, ‘Panoramic view of downtown Rockford and the Rock River from the top of Verona Towers (formerly the Amerock Building), which is being developed into condominiums and retail establishments by Mathis Properties, LLC of Janesville, Wis. Construction will begin the week of July 25.’);

Mathis Properties, LLC, has finalized the purchase of the old Amerock Building at 416 S. Main St. The property will offer many exclusive amenities, reflecting its new name, Verona Towers. Construction will begin the week of July 25.

“We closed on the Amerock property June 15,” Bill Mathis said. “It was a very exciting closing, where there were people waiting outside the title company eager to find out what was happening. People like the River District’s Executive Director Kim Wheeler were grinning ear to ear, knowing what had happened.”

Mathis said 85 residential units and 15 to 20 commercial units are available for purchase. Several contracts on both types of suites are already being negotiated.

The square footage on the residential will range from 900 to 4,500, with 500 to 15,000 square feet for the commercial space. Prices for the residential units will range from $130,000 to $750,000, with commercial units starting at $85 a square foot.

The commercial space will be designed and solicited to complement and support the residential units. Mathis envisions a 24-7 health club, an enclosed swimming pool on the building’s roof, an upscale restaurant on one of the upper floors, day spa, dry cleaners, coffee shop and Internet cafe and a natural foods grocery store. He said he will definitely also have an upscale restaurant on the ground level facing Davis Park.

Speaking of Mathis, Gerlinde Sampson, owner of Gerlinde’s Water Street Café at 115 N. Water St., said: “I think it’s good that we have someone who wants to develop such a large building. Now that he’s here, maybe the east siders will come down and spend their money.

“We need the Crate and Barrel-type stores—high to medium-priced stores, not cheap ones. J.R. Kortman’s is the only one offering real quality.

“I am definitely thinking about relocating over to Verona Towers,” Sampson said.

“It’s easier to sell when you’re providing people with what they want,” Mathis said. “We are providing services, quality services. For instance, we’ll have a local banking facility on premises, as well.

“Three award-winning architects are working on the design of Verona Towers,” Mathis said. “Dick Hynes will be the construction manager and lead architect on this project. Bob Bell brings more than 40 years of experience of luxury condominium development, completing multiple 800-plus unit high-rises in the San Diego area. Tom McHugh, of Madison, Wis., will focus on the interior design of the building. McHugh designed the board room Eli Lily, and has had offices in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and London.”

Verona Towers will feature a Venetian design theme, complete with an outdoor fountain on the north side of the property. Conference rooms will be named after Romeo and Juliet, and with a lobby area of Italian marble. Waterfalls will be included in many of the design features of the building.

Renewable energy options, such as solar technologies, are being explored for the development of Verona Towers. Energy efficiency will also be a focus in the design.

“We wish this project to offer the cutting edge of modern technology, including high-speed wireless Internet access for all units,” Mathis said.

Outdoor and two floors of indoor parking will also be part of the facility, with ample boat storage.

Another design feature will be recessed or cantilevered balconies for most units. Mathis said he was very aware of the festivals in Davis Park and was fortunate enough to view the fireworks this Fourth of July from the top of Verona Towers. The festivals and the fireworks made him very aware how spectacular the tenants’ views will be from their condominiums and office spaces. He will also include high-quality soundproofing for the windows, ensuring sound control of the activities in Davis Park, with 4 by 8 foot windows for the widest view possible.

“One of the goals of this effort is to make Verona Towers the tallest building in Rockford,” Mathis said. “So we will be constructing a very unique spire on the third level roof. Back in the 1940s, this building had the designation of being the tallest building in Rockford. We want to reclaim that designation.”

Mayor Larry Morrissey said: “I’m excited about the project’s progress, and I’m looking forward to Mr. Mathis bringing forward a more detailed proposal to the city. We’re certainly excited to be working with private developers like Mr. Mathis to provide more market-rate residential and retail development in our city’s downtown River District.”

Wheeler said: “We are very excited to hear that Bill Mathis is the new owner of the old Amerock Building and the opportunities that will be available in the next few years with that project for locating both residential and business tenants from the area. I think that it will spur additional development. I also think Verona Towers will also attract new businesses and tenants from outside the area.”

Doc Slafkosky, co-owner of J.R. Kortman’s Center for Design at 107 N. Main St., said: “This is an important building in our skyline, and it’s good to have it put to good use. The past proposals were not good ideas for downtown. This is much more fitting for the vision that we’ve had for downtown. This is not a high-density, low-income location, nor should it be torn down.

“We are concerned that the building lives up to its potential aesthetically and that it becomes a new cutting edge in design for the River District,” Slafkosky said. “We really hope that it continues to spawn more development. We need to create a critical mass and not empty, open fields in downtown. We have to stop tearing things down.”

Hynes, the lead architect and construction manager, is no stranger to preserving older structures. He knows that just holding properties, rather than tearing them down, saves their potential for the future. He sold his interest in the Elks Club, now undergoing renovation, and he sold the Crankshaft building, now River East Lofts, to Mathis for Mathis’ first Rockford development project. Hynes is the architect for that project as well.

Hynes said: “This is an adaptive reuse of one of the best and largest structures downtown. It meets the first goal of sustainable design, that is to reuse a structure without destroying it. Sustainable design includes green architecture, being careful how you use and reuse your resources of land, water, air and building materials, respecting the environment. This reuse is very responsible, as the Europeans have been practicing it for years. My enthusiasm is mostly on the prospect that this will be marketed in Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. If it is anything like the River East Lofts, my expectation is that 50 percent of the occupancy will be from outside of Rockford, bringing great new talent and resources to Rockford.”

Mathis said he was very proud of the timeline for the River East Lofts at 202 N. Madison St.

“This copper-penny roofed building is now a new landmark for Rockford,” Mathis said. We started the project in January, and we’ll complete it Sept. 10. Four of the six condominiums have been sold, with two remaining for purchase.”

Contact Clyde McClintock at 703-8476 for the River East Lofts.

Diane Meltmar of Signature Homes and Gambino Realty is the sales contact for Verona Towers at 670-3303. Buy your piece and view of the Rock today.

From the July 13-19, 2005, issue

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