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Despite pleas, city advances Church School foreclosure

July 29, 2009

· Other news and notes from the July 27 Rockford City Council meeting

During public comments of the July 27 Rockford City Council meeting, the Rev. Earl Dotson Sr. spoke on behalf of the Progressive West Rockford Community Development Corp., which purchased the former Church School, 1441 Blaisdell St., in 1997 with the intention of turning it into a community center.

Seemingly unable to make a go of it 12 years later, the city appears to have lost its patience, and will foreclose on the property Aug. 5, but Dotson asked for a reprieve.

“We feel that we can convert that facility into a community learning center to help our kids,” he asserted, describing his vision of giving kids in the distressed area a place to learn new skills, as opposed to resorting to a life of crime.

“We can cut the rate of recidivism, we can cut the rate of incarceration, and we can help them become taxpaying citizens, rather than turning that building into a senior citizens’ housing facility that the city apparently wants to do,” he said.

Landwhite Developers plans to renovate the building into a 44-unit senior living facility, but Dotson argued the need for senior housing does not surpass the need to help the neighborhood’s children.

“They need our help. They need the city council’s help to change that situation around,” he stressed. “It is almost scandalous to ride around this city and see all of the money that’s being spent on the recovery, and you almost see no African-Americans on any of the jobs. That’s sad. It’s sad. We’re saying, ‘Give us an opportunity to try and alter that situation.’”

Flossie Hoard concurred. Hoard lives near Andrews Park, where she said violence often erupts, because young people have no positive activities available in the neighborhood as an alternative.

“I believe Church School will be a viable building, if the city would see the vision that we have to rehab that building, and open it up as a community center,” she said. “I ask this city council not to baby us, but I ask you to see the vision that we have, to work with us, because we know that when any one person becomes a victim of crime, none of us are free.”

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly, who once supported the vision for a community center in her ward, feels the Progressive West Rockford Community Development Corp. has had ample time to realize its dream.

“I will say it, and I will say it very strongly,” Thompson-Kelly asserted. “We will not stop the foreclosure process for Church School. We will continue that process until we have obtained that property.”

Although acknowledging a community center would be nice, Thompson-Kelly argued the dollars simply aren’t there to get it done. Meantime, she noted, Landwhite is eager to invest in the building. Senior housing, Thompson-Kelly added, is also a need in her ward.

“It would be nice if it could be a community center,” she said. “We can’t even get ’em to cut the grass.”

Ordinances

Aldermen approved a special-use permit for a planned unit development to be used as a manufacturing and storage facility at 2400 11th St. The permit also allows the installation of a wind turbine.

The council also approved the $295,601 sale of 1.6 acres at 1225 Charles St. to William Charles Real Estate Investments.

Aldermen passed committee

reports recommending…

u All About Cleaning be awarded its low bid of $38,950 for janitorial services at three Head Start locations for a period of more than nine months.

u Anderson Rock River Ford be awarded its bid for two additional Ford Escape hybrid vehicles for $65,500.

u TCI Concrete be awarded its $163,976 bid for curb and gutter projects. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”

u Property at 1209 S. Court St. be sold to Fidencio Belmontes, the only bidder, for $3,100.

u Property at 2623 Mulberry St. be sold to sole-bidder Doris Powell for $401.

u West Side Tractor Sales be awarded its $80,297 bid for an extending backhoe. Ald. McNeely voted “no.”

u Approval of a redevelopment agreement with JMZ Properties, LLC for the rehabilitation of three storefronts and six apartments at 317-325 W. Jefferson St., formerly Rockford Business College. JMZ plans to invest $724,196 to purchase and rehabilitate the building, and the city will contribute $163,287 in tax increment financing funds for the project over nine years.

Absences

Ald. Frank Beach (R-10) was absent, and Ald. Sosnowski presided in Mayor Larry Morrissey’s (I) absence.

from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue

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