Heart of Rockford Awards names recipients

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-OXIR3zRSBE.jpg’, ‘Photo by Frank Schier’, ‘Kim Wheeler, executive director of the River District Association, speaks at the 18th Annual Heart of Rockford Awards Dinner Aug. 12.’);

Heart of Rockford Awards recipients were announced at the 18th Annual Heart of Rockford Awards Dinner Aug. 12 at the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center.

The Awards program has been recognizing personal and financial investment in the River District for 18 years. There have been 148 recipients of awards in various categories since the recognition program started. This year, 29 nominations were submitted for the eight award categories. Some were nominated in more than one category.

New Business: Carlyle Brewing Co.

This new business was a dream come true after several years of planning. The owner purchased a historic building and teamed with ICON Development Group to do a complete renovation to the two-story building in the design tradition of European style pubs and engineered to facilitate the time-honored traditions and standards of the old world brew masters. The high ceilings and earthy colors give the visitor a sense of charm and a feel for the quality they are about to receive. The quaint pub seats about 82 people and carries a menu of six to eight beers at a time that rotates through 30 beer recipes. It is the first distributing brewery to operate within the Rockford area for more than 100 years and uses Lorden Distributing Company to deliver their special brews to many area bars, restaurants, and public events. It is a memorable experience for tourists and a great gathering place before and after sporting events, and for residents who have a taste for something different. In the first year alone more than 15,000 gallons of beer have been brewed, distributed, and consumed. Fans are growing. Carlyle Brewing Co. has won several ribbons at tasting events and achieved first place from the Illinois Brewers Guild for its California Common.

Other nominees for the New Business award included The Learning Center, North End Neighborhood Coffee Bar, Gerlinde’s Water Street Café, and Lula’s Vintage Boutique.

Commitment by a Business: Minglewood

Karen Elyea, owner of Minglewood, has a vision for growth that is firmly rooted in River District. In February of 2001, she opened a shop in a 600-sq. ft. space. The store quickly became a hit, and soon she had to move it to a larger space. She and her staff worked tirelessly in renovating the new spot, which had been vacant for nearly seven years. The transformation of this exciting new shop showcases its beautiful maple floors and expansive tin roof ceiling. Along with the cosmetic changes, a stage and coffee bar were added to the 3,000-sq. ft. store. This business hosts a number of activities including musical acts, movie nights, and poetry showcases. Customers can browse the large inventory of clothing, jewelry, and home gift items. This business and its owner have inspired other businesses to move into her block including two storefronts next door to her and eight other businesses in her immediate area. When you take a drive down the once desolate area, you see a beautiful, inviting storefront and shopping in an area of downtown that was void of activity.

Other nominees for the Commitment by a Business award included Stepping Stones, The Learning Center, Iggy & Carl Seminerio/Little Italy, Olympic Tavern, Centre Events, and Ideal Advertising.

Festival/Special Event: Rockford Public Library, Summer Reading Club 2003

Theme: “Where’s Jane? She’s Reading at the Rockford Public Library!”

This special event drew more than 2,300 participants and their families to the downtown area one Saturday morning last year, but also drew in these and others to River District throughout the summer through a program that fostered learning at home, reading, listening, and critical thinking skills over summer vacation. This organization partnered with another organization on a cross promotion and for a “finishers party.” There were many activities at this location throughout the summer that really made it one long party! There was a total of mor than 6,600 participants between their Kick Off Party in May and the Finishers Party in August at Burpee Museum.

Other nominees for the Festival/Special Event Award included WXRX Wing Ding/Y95 Rock N Run 5K, Angel Statue of Hope Dedication Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil, Mendelssohn Club’s Die Fledermaus Operetta, Champions for Charity Ice Show 2003, RAMP Wheel-a-Thon 2003, Red Ball/River District, and Memorial Hall Centennial Celebration.

Commercial Renovation: 120 N. 2nd St./Norstar Residential Services

The goal of this renovation was to create a quality workspace utilizing the historic fabric that already existed, and to maximize its visual impact on the users of the space. The impact on the community and surrounding area was to encourage others to redevelop their properties. After purchasing the two historic buildings that served as service garages for many years, the owner and his team of architects, designers, and contractors began an extensive restoration effort to bring back the historic character and enhance the aesthetic value with contemporary lines and color. Bricked-up windows were opened, brick masonry was cleaned, the wood ceiling was sandblasted of all the dirt and oils that had accumulated over the years, and the building was tuckpointed.

Other nominees for the Commercial Renovation Award included Belles Firm of Architecture and Minglewood.

Commitment by an Individual:

Chandler Anderson

Chandler Anderson works hard on a daily basis to change the heart of Rockford into a more vibrant, urban downtown. Since 1994, he has been purchasing and developing properties in downtown and Historic Haight Village, a downtown residential neighborhood within the River District boundaries. In 1996 he formed his own company, ICON Development Group LLC. The name ICON was chosen because he wanted to be an icon for change in downtown Rockford. He was one of the charter board members for River District Association. His work has inspired others, and he has served as consultant and/or general contractor to those who wanted to start a business and renovate a building. He has helped renovate 5Spa, Kryptonite, Pranayama Yoga Studio, Carlyle Brewing Co., and his own restaurant, Bacchus, which inspired a trend in upscale dining in River District. He has also renovated properties into market rate housing such as the Morrissey Building lofts and the luxury three- story loft home of Greg and Lulu Watt. His passion, determination, generosity, and willingness to take chances inspires others to share in his vision and work alongside him.

Other nominees for the Commitment by an Individual Award included Kurt & Sarah Bell, Lori Gustafson, Ruth Miller and Ed McCullough.

Historic Preservation:

409 S. 1st St./Icon Development Group

This three-story building is the largest one located in the Historic Haight Village neighborhood and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally constructed in the 1910s and was home to workers in the Rockford furniture industry, which was booming during that time period. The building was originally constructed of seven apartment units, two on each floor plus a garden apartment. At some point many years ago, it was renovated into 13 units. Over time, it succumbed to massive deterioration and became an eyesore in the neighborhood. ICON Development Group bought it in 1996 and began to restore the structure to the original seven units and create an opportunity for market rate housing in the downtown area. It took a few years to finish as it was completed just last year, but after you see the beautiful job they did, you will gasp with pleasure and appreciate the time it took to bring it back to its historic beauty.

Other nominees for the Historic Preservation Award included Belles Firm of Architecture, 120 N. 2nd St./Norstar Residential Services, and St. Anthony of Padua Church.

Residential Renovation:

409 S. 1st St./Icon Development Group

Other nominee for the Residential Renovation award was 904 N. Church St., Garden/Stepping Stones.

Best of Heart of Rockford:

Kurt and Sarah Bell

These two have been stakeholders, advocates and active participants in Rockford’s city center for m

ore than 30 years. They have worked tirelessly on historic preservation efforts such as Restoration Education and the Coronado Theatre renovation. They bought their historic home (and renovated and landscaped it) long before it was trendy to be a part of the “urban living” movement. They have renovated and restored several homes on their block and have raised their two children, John and Katie, in an urban setting. They have done more than most for furthering the image and economic development of the heart of Rockford.

Other nominees for the Best of Heart of Rockford Award included Angel Statue of Hope Dedication Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil, The Learning Center, Iggy & Carl Seminerio/Little Italy, and Centre Events.

Nomination guidelines for the 2005 awards program can be obtained now by contacting the River District office (815-964-6221 or e-mail: KimRiverDistrict@aol.com).

River District Association is a private, non-profit organization with 460 business and residential members. The organization’s mission is to create a growing, thriving, prosperous business and residential community in the heart of the city. River District is a downtown neighborhood with geographical boundaries.

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