MetroCentre agreement proposed

City of Rockford officials sent a memorandum to the city’s planning and development committee July 19 regarding a new MetroCentre subsidy agreement with the city.

In addition to the MetroCentre, the agreement would effect the Coronado Theatre and Davis Park, which are also managed by the MetroCentre Authority.

The memorandum outlines what City Administrator Einar Forsman, Legal Director Ron Schultz, and Finance Director Andres Sammul believe is “necessary to establish stability” of the three venues.

Included with the memorandum was a July 2003 study of 10 other civic centers in the state of Illinois. The report showed that while most of the civic centers in Illinois receive subsidies similar to Rockford’s, the MetroCentre is one of the only facilities paying property taxes.

Under the new agreement, the Authority would still receive a $912,000 annual subsidy from the city. New provisions in the suggested agreement would make the MetroCentre a tax-exempt facility comparable to the other facilities covered by the study. The agreement could have a significant impact on the downtown Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) since the MetroCentre would be tax-exempt.

The memorandum also suggests that the Coronado Theatre turn over its utility and repair and upkeep bills to the City of Rockford. The money to cover these expenses would be drawn from the city’s redevelopment fund and would save the Authority an estimated $200,000 annually. It also asks the city to forgive about $240,000 in parking fees and entertainment taxes. This would be a one-time exemption, and the city would then continue to receive money from these sources in the future.

To compensate the city for financial help, the agreement has a few provisions that would help the city, including giving the city more opportunities to control the parking decks downtown, a topic that has been hotly debated. Full profits from the parking garage at the corner of Wyman and Elm streets would be transferred to the city. The garage’s profits are currently split 50/50 between the MetroCentre Authority and the City of Rockford. Also, in the event the Authority acquires the parking deck owned by Dr. Gautam Gupta at 303 W. State St., this agreement would allow the city a window of time to purchase the deck for an agreed appraised value.

The City of Rockford and Gupta have been arguing over the value of the property for more than a year. Gupta believes the city is trying to coerce him into selling the property by threatening him with code violations and grass ordinance violations. The city has said it is offering Gupta a fair deal—$250,000—despite Gupta’s own appraisal of the property that put the value at $645,000. The city also recently purchased a smaller property in a less prominent location across the street from the Brown Loft Apartments for $600,000.

The city argued the new provisions would be good for the city, which has been attempting to better control downtown parking. The agreement is far from finalized, however. The Planning and Development committee is expected to start debating the provisions at its July 26 meeting.

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