By Kyle Bevers
Friends of Ziock (FOZ, for short) is a citizens group striving to develop a new economic model for downtown development. This model utilizes historic designation and historic tax credits. Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Rockford Historic Preservation Commission unanimously supported FOZ’s nomination of the William Ziock Building to the National Register of Historic Places. This was a significant and positive first step in making FOZ’s vision for the redevelopment of the Ziock building a reality.
FOZ formed in late spring 2010 when it became clear that the historic Ziock (Amerock) Building was at risk of demolition. Members spent hundreds of hours researching local and national sources with respect to the building, uncovering the building’s pivotal role in the city’s growth era. Don Bissell, organizer of FOZ, says that if Rockford continues to take the right steps, it could be like other successful world cities that capitalize on their roots.
Jeff Orduno, spokesman for the group, notes: “We are taking advantage of financial models that demonstrate the dramatic impact of various tax credits and other incentives that may be available for projects such as Ziock. The vote by the local commission is an acknowledgment of the power of the economic incentives provided by historic designation.” Orduno further explained that, “if the numbers are right, tenants will follow.”
Located within feet of the river, and with expansive windows and gorgeous views, it’s exciting to visualize loft residential living, perhaps with some mix of dining, retail and parking. College classrooms or student housing are interesting because of the proximity to the downtown. How about a collection of global trade agencies gathered under one roof that need proximity to rail, aerodrome and the developing South Main corridor? And if a riverfront casino facility is in our future, the Ziock property could provide convenient shops, restaurants and hotel rooms.
The City of Rockford [read “taxpayers”] currently owns the Ziock Building. Thus, like multiple millions of square feet of government buildings and parking lots in the downtown, it does not contribute to the property tax base. Although it is but a first step, FOZ is favorably impressed that Rockford may finally be able to break the 50-year cycle of “bulldoze and remove from the tax base.” It is estimated that demolition of the building would cost millions of taxpayer dollars that would be better spent refurbishing the building.
Rockford was founded by entrepreneurs who mustered creativity, courage, conviction and hard work to accomplish amazing goals. It’s time we summoned that spirit once again. FOZ thinks that a perfect way to do that is to leverage artifacts that founders created by adapting them to our modern economic benefit.
FOZ thanks the Rockford Historic Preservation Commission for recognizing and concurring with the nomination of the Ziock building for historic status. FOZ also thanks the individuals and businesses who are helping make FOZ’s vision for downtown a reality.
Editor’s note: FOZ has nearly 50 members including historic building owners, contractors, realtors, attorneys, developers, business owners, students, architects, graphic designers, artists and city planners. Website: www.ziock.org.