Guest Column: Editorial board: without a clue

Again, the Rockford Register Star editorial board gets it completely wrong. They didn’t have a notion about who the people wanted to be the mayor of Rockford in the past election. Now, they are showing their collective ignorance of this community by asserting that the downtown will not continue to prosper without the redevelopment of the MetroCentre.

Don’t get me wrong, the plan for the MetroCentre is outstanding, but it is just one more in the long list of things that are supposed to “save” downtown—the last one was the Coronado. All this kind of thinking does is cause people on the east side to hold off on any downtown excursions waiting for the area to be “redeveloped.” We need to put an end to this kind of negative thinking.

A good example of this kind of faulty thinking is Chuck Sweeny’s call to tear down the Barber-Colman Village complex. This clearly demonstrates the fact that Chuck simply does not understand the things that have caused the downtown to become successful. It’s about the old buildings, Chuck. I know you don’t understand that, but try asking any of the myriad business owners who have or are opening new businesses down here. Maybe that’s what the whole staff of the Register Star should do—get out of the building and ask a few questions.

The renovation of the MetroCentre is a good thing, but it is a good thing for all of Rockford. It will not affect the development of downtown seriously, one way or the other. Sometimes, very occasionally, the MetroCentre brings us some business. Ask any downtown restaurant owner, and they will list the dozen or so times in the last 10 years when it did—the Cher concert comes to mind; Willie Nelson, but they never brought him back.

Other times, they bring in the Jehovah’s Witnesses weekend after weekend, and take up all our parking. Patrons of the IceHogs or the basketball team (when we have one) or tractor pulls, stick to primarily hot dogs and beer. The folks take their kids; they cannot afford to take them out to upscale dining. That is OK. We can share our downtown.

I, for one, would like to see the renovation of the MetroCentre. You have to reinvent any business every so often, or it gets stale, but it is about doing it for the whole community. The downtown will continue to improve as it has steadily over the last 25 years. It’s about community (downtown is the coolest neighborhood in the city, everybody knows everybody else). It’s about the old buildings and the romance that goes with them. It’s about Rockford’s roots, and it’s about a group of people who have made a commitment to rebuilding what is oldest and best about Rockford. It will be nice if the MetroCentre, one small part of downtown, reinvents itself, but it will not affect or determine the success of the area.

Mike Leifheit owns the Irish Rose Saloon in downtown Rockford. His regular column, “Hanging Out in Rockford,” appears most weeks in the Vibe Entertainment section of this newspaper.

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