Wal-Mart intends to increase its presence in Rockford. Another locationat the intersection of Alpine Road and Linden Roadis on the citys WallyWorld horizon, added to the locations on East State Street, East Riverside Boulevard, West Riverside Boulevard, plus Belvideres and the upcoming Roscoe location.
But the new locations future is still up in the air. Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11) voted to lay over a development agreement between the City of Rockford and Peoria-based Wald/Land Corp. at the April 3 City Council meeting.
Holt cited preventing a suspension of procedural rules as the reason for his layover vote.
According to Ald. Victory Bell (D-5), any item laid over must be voted on at the next meeting.
In addition, he had reservations about the agreement when it was approved during a March 27 Codes and Regulations Committee meeting.
Holt also vowed to vote against the agreement for intersection improvements at Alpine and Linden roads, which would clear the way for the developments second phase, at the upcoming April 10 City Council meeting. He said he thinks the improvements should be entirely Wal-Marts responsibility, without the citys initial outlay, despite the agreement for reimbursement by Wal-Mart.
City Administrator Jim Ryan said the developer must fulfill some promises for the project to proceed. Ryan said the developer bears the responsibility for improving the intersection of Alpine Road and Linden Road.
Wald/Land Corp. President Russell Waldschmidt said the agreement spells out the necessary improvements.
They told us what they wanted after seeing the traffic study, Waldschmidt said, after the March 27 committee meeting.
He submitted an estimate of $811,451.25 to the committee. City Public Works Director Bill Bittner said city workers would do the work and be reimbursed by the developer.
Holt wasnt happy with the price.
Their estimate is 25 cents higher, Holt said.
He stressed the agreement stipulated costs wouldnt exceed $811,451, and city staff had assured him of that as well.
Waldschmidt quickly offered the city some financial assistance.
Ill put 25 cents on the table now. Geez, Waldschmidt said.
He said he didnt know what to make of Holts objection.
Im not really sure I understand his reaction. But I think he was looking out for the city, Waldschmidt said.
Despite Holts reticence, Waldschmidt said other committee members seemed comfortable with the estimate. He said a 15 percent contingency as well as an ample amount to cover utility relocation was included in the estimate.
Basically, the city gets a free intersection, Waldschmidt said.
He confirmed Wal-Mart will be the developments primary retailer and housed in a 200,000-square-foot building. Waldschmidt said the development could also include a 27,000 square-foot building as well.
According to Waldschmidt, Nicor Gas owns the project site. He said that, in part, has affected the development timeline.
It was a longer process than might have actually occurred with a private party, Waldschmidt said.
But Holt isnt the one concerned about the Wal-Mart development. Rockford native Heidi Gonzalez, 44, spoke out against the project during the meeting.
Rockford doesnt need another Wal-Mart, Gonzalez said.
She raised concerns about how the store could affect traffic, since theres a school in the area. Jefferson High School is about a quarter-mile from the site of the proposed project. She said she was concerned Wal-Mart would be a gathering place for students, and wondered how the business would potentially deal with the students. Gonzalez said shed requested a traffic study, but never received a copy.
After the meeting, she said she and her husband circulated a petition and got 150 signatures, submitting them earlier. But Gonzalez said it didnt elicit much of a reaction.
It doesnt seem to matter to the City Council. It didnt have much of an impact, she said.
Gonzalez, who grew up on Rockfords west side, said Wal-Mart has had an impact on family-owned businesses in the area. Though the stores are now owned by corporations, she said she remembered when Logli and Hilander were both locally owned and operated.
According to Gonzalez, the citys Legal Department told her it was pursuing the Wal-Mart development to generate more revenue. She promised not to contribute her shopping dollars.
If they move in there, Ill stop my Wal-Mart shopping altogether, Gonzalez said.
From the April 5-11, 2006, issue