Guest Column: Rethinking the Amerock Building

March 17, 2010

Editor’s note: With all the talk of tearing down the Amerock Building, I thought it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of one of the last owners of the property who, in my opinion, along with his partners in that and another venture got a pretty raw deal in Rockford. One of those partners, an architect, told a local businessman that to build a comparable new building of reinforced concrete, to the same quality of the Amerock, would cost $35 per square foot, or $8 million. He said you could put a swimming pool on each floor without stressing the building. So why tear it down and at what cost, with what firm pocketing the dollars? On the other hand, county officials have told me the Tapco Building’s rebar reinforcing the building’ s concrete has rusted, making it structurally inviable, but I have not seen any technical data or opinion to support that assertion. With the mall out of Main Street, the new federal building, rail coming and increased traffic flow, I’m glad to hear other investors are considering the property. The following is what one of the last investors is thinking.

By Bill Mathis
Consultant and author

Why I am concerned about the Amerock demolition?

As the past owner of the Amerock Building and principal of Mathis Properties, my organization maintained tremendous hope for this keystone piece of property as well as the Tapco property. The vibrancy we saw with what could be done with this real estate was tremendous. We saw the opportunity to reinvent and improve upon this stoic structure and create a great opportunity for growth in Rockford. Never in our darkest dreams did we consider tearing down this properties as an option.

What would I do with 2.9 million taxpayer dollars that is proposed to be thrown at the demolition? First of all, in the current financial climate that has been compared with the likes of the Great Depression. I would not be investing it into tearing down anything that can stand for another 20 years without endangering the public. The Amerock has shown us that this is not an issue.

In this financial climate, people need work. with a current unemployment rate in this region in excess of 10 percent, I have estimated that 200-300 jobs would be created and $2.9 mil would insure that at least 50 eager Rockfordians immediately would benefit from a decision to forge forward and look at growth opportunities.

The Illinois EPA may have brown-field tax credits that it could commit to the abatement of these two properties and insure that a successful clean-up can occur. This may see an additional 20 -30 workers employed

There is well over $1 million in historical tax credit that could come to such an effort to compensate the hard-working people of Rockford, insuring that this keystone piece of property can be salvaged and additional jobs created. Plus, we are saved from a $2.9 million public park where the 10 plus percent of unemployed workers can congregate thinking of what soup kitchen is available to them and their families.

If the numbers can be crunched and $2.9 million is that number, why not see it multiply and create jobs, create hope for a better, more vibrant downtown? Intuition and emotions should not have a seat at the decision table, but rational thought that takes into account the current economical climate and untapped opportunity.

Maybe I have an emotional bond with this property and Rockford’s downtown that can only be compared to a lost love. With the substantial investment in time, money, sleepless nights and broken dreams, I would hope that future decisions around this property can continue to be made based on sound principles and solid business decisions even in this financial crises.

Since my failed attempt, I have maintained focus on the future and continued my career as a management consultant. I’ve even begun work on my Ph.D. in Management Engineering and Information Systems. I have completed a book called Analysis (Oct. 2009), Business v Technology, which is premised on how organizations must adapt more effective decision-making practices.

Yes, I have something more to say on the subject of not giving up—to tear down is easier than to build and develop innovative measures.

I believe that all of our futures depend on clear, concise and effective decision-making, and we must keep in mind our children and our neighbors. They rely on our looking after their tax debt and the greater good of their future city. Rather than destroying and spending, let’s restore and reuse for a greener tomorrow for us all.

From the March 17-23, 2010 issue

One Comment

  1. Jeanie Lawrence

    March 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I could not agree more with the comments of Mr. Bill Mathis. In a failing economy, $2.9 million dollars would be a tremendous waste if given to demolition. I think that any venture that could possible bring more jobs would be a boost to this country’s economic recovery. Look at what IBM did in Dubuque Iowa with the Roshek Building. This venture created more than 1300 jobs and we are still seeing job postings for positions at this location. Not only IBM but you can imagine how this one venture has boosted the economy in Dubuque Iowa as a whole.
    If it is possible to see the same thing done closer to home in Rockford Illinois, why not do it? Why not create jobs instead of more soup kitchens, failing schools and neighborhoods. I’m sorry that this investor could not cut through the bureaucracy to get the job done. This article did not say how long ago this investor attempted to restore this building, but Rockford Illinois could have possibly been well on its way to economic recovery.

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