Rockford becomes largest city to enter Illinois Main Street Program

Rockford’s downtown River District Association applied for the program, which helps promote and create downtown growth

Rockford’s River District Association made history Monday, Nov. 7, as state and local officials announced Rockford would become the largest “Associate” member in the Illinois Main Street program.

The River District Association—a group of nearly 500 members—applied for the Associate Program of Illinois Main Street in August. The proposed Main Street district would include properties on both sides of the Rock River on portions of Main Street and State Street.

The Illinois Main Street program helps communities create their own vision for downtown preservation and growth. Main Street architects also help with design feedback and ideas. Since its inception, Main Street communities have reported net gains of more than 1,500 new downtown businesses and created more than 3,200 full-time jobs. Rockford is the 57th community to join the Illinois Main Street program.

The “Associate” designation is a start-up level that allows a period of one year for a new group or existing organization to work on accomplishing specific requirements that will meet the standards of a full-fledged Main Street program. These standards are set by the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, along with Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey and River District Association President Steve Moore, made the announcement from the auditorium of the historic Memorial Hall.

“Rockford is actively doing its part to make this city a destination with its improvements to the Coronado Theatre and Riverfront Museum Park,” Quinn said. “The Illinois Main Street program will give the community even more tools to make revitalization, tourism and business a reality.

“The Illinois Main Street program is designed to bring people back to the downtown,” Quinn added. “Through technology, special events and good old-fashioned word of mouth, the spirit of the program is proving to be successful all across the state.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office administers the Illinois Main Street program, which is based on a national model that offers communities help with issues of historic preservation, economic development and downtown improvements. Illinois is one of 40 states that belong to the National Main Street program, administered through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

River District board members Pam Hein and Chad Bryden spearheaded the evaluation process and preparation of the application to Illinois Main Street. In August, Illinois Main Street Program Director Wendy Bell visited Rockford and spoke to the River District Board and community partners at an afternoon meeting and then presented information about the Main Street program at a public meeting in the evening.

Through the evaluation process, it was determined the program would help strengthen the organization and provide opportunities to resources that weren’t currently available. According to the River District’s evaluation, there are many benefits associated with being a Main Street community.

River District Board Members Steve Moore, president; Pam Hein, Preservation Committee chairman; Chad Bryden, Business Liaison Committee chairman; and Executive Director Kim Wheeler were to attend the Illinois Main Street State Conference in Springfield Nov. 8-9.

For more information about the program and upcoming events, visit

From the Nov. 9-15, 2005, issue

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