River District names Heart of Rockford winners—part one

Editor’s note: The first part of this two-part series details Heart of Rockford Award winners in the “New Business,” “Commitment by a Business” and “Commitment by an Individual” categories. Winners in “Festival or Special Event,” “Commercial Renovation,” “Residential Renovation” and “Best of Heart of Rockford” categories will be detailed in the second part of the series.

River District Association hosted the 20th Annual Heart of Rockford Awards & Dinner program Wednesday, Aug. 9, at Rockford Woman’s Club and Rockford Theatre.

The Heart of Rockford Awards program recognizes outstanding personal and financial investment in the heart of the city. Over the past 20 years, there have been 172 recipients of the awards, representing hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in Rockford’s central city.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the awards program, the committee commissioned Scott R. Long, architect at SaavedraGehlhausen Architects, 504 N. Church St., and president of the AIA, Northern Illinois Chapter, to create a new design for the award. Frank Houtkamp of Houtkamp Art Glass Studio made the awards.

Guests started socializing at 5 p.m. with cocktails in the lower level of Rockford Woman’s Club. Entertainment was provided by Brio and The King’s Table Café & Catering at 5:30.

At 6:30 p.m., guests moved to the Rockford Theatre for the program, which was emceed by Steve Stadelman, co-anchor of WTVO Channel 17 News. River District Association Board President Rebecca Kopf reported to Association members about what the organization has been working on over the past several months, and talked about future plans.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey spoke about the significance of the Heart of Rockford Awards program and shared his thoughts on investment in the heart of the city.

The awards ceremony offered the opportunity for the award recipients to share their thoughts about their project. Executive Director of River District Association Kim Wheeler said: “This event is always inspiring to me. It’s a glimpse into the development activity in River District, and even with 26 nominees this year, there are still more projects that happened that didn’t get nominated. When you hear the personal stories of the recipients, it’s easy to feel enthusiastic and become motivated to do something yourself.”

After the program, guests enjoyed a dessert buffet by Gerlinde’s Water Street Café.

Award recipients

Projects/events had to be completed or occur between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2005. Commitment nominations showcase the person or business over a period of years. There are no specific boundaries, but nominees must be in or near the River District neighborhood. Recipients of the awards are selected by a jury consisting of past award winners and professionals in related fields (Lynn Belles, Rob Belles, Karen Elyea, Scott R. Long, Frank Turbyville).

New Business: Brio Restaurant, Wine Bar, Patio—In the River District at 515 E. State St., Brio brings a sophisticated and unique image to Rockford’s downtown with its “small plate,” tapas-style menu. Brio has created 23 new jobs, which more than triples the number of employees at the time the current owner, Paul Sletten, purchased the business in 2005. In addition to purchasing the business and the building in which it is located, the owners have demonstrated a strong commitment to Rockford’s downtown and the River District. They have joined with other businesses to promote safety and a welcoming atmosphere in the River District. They hired local contractors to help with renovations to the building and restaurant and bar area. This business attracts both punk rockers and sophisticated symphony patrons to its cozy interior.

Commitment by a Business: SupplyCore—At 303 N. Main St., SupplyCore is a company providing traditional distribution to the defense and aerospace industries around the world. It has also become a mainstay in the Rockford community. Recognizing the need for balance and committed to calling downtown Rockford home, SupplyCore has provided funding support for many events and organizations, including (but not limited to) the following: YMCA, Junior League of Rockford, Burpee Museum, Unforgettable Arts, and the Evergreen, Black Magic and River District Red balls. SupplyCore managers also serve on many boards for local organizations and nonprofits, such as Coronado Theatre, the Rockford Symphony and Rockford College, downtown River District and MetroCentre. SupplyCore is a company that gives back to its community through sponsorship and donations, and is an example of the commitment to others that the downtown area is viable and can thrive.

Commitment by an Individual: Steve Jaycox—In addition to owning and running Runner’s Image LTD, Steve and his wife, Lisa Doll, own the building at 219 E. State St. and renovated the second-floor loft, where they lived for several years before buying and moving into a historic home a few blocks away in Haight Village historic neighborhood. Steve has also been directly involved in putting on a number of races for many years, including the State Street Mile, Veggie Run, and supported many others. A few years ago, he started half-marathon training programs and coordinates clinics at no cost to corporations, schools and organizations.

From the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue

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