‘Unique’ development in Block 3
By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
Get ready for the unique in East State Street’s Block 3.
Tuesday, Feb. 19, Urban Equity Properties, LLC, (UEP) acquired 324-330 E. State St. for redevelopment. The property is the former home of the Surf Lounge, and now Bar 3 and Damon’s Print Shop. UEP’s other projects include a 2009 million-dollar renovation of lofts and storefronts at the old Minglewood Building, 317-325 W. Jefferson. In 2010, UEP purchased the Adriatic/MSII Graphic Building at 327 W. Jefferson. UEP recently completed a $500,000 renovation of the old American Café, now Salvage by Sonya, Angelic Organics, and Cool Chicks Aerobics with two residential loft apartments on the second floor at 110-112 N. First St. UEP has also purchased 130-136 N. First St., and plans to do a complete historical renovation in May of this year. In 2008, UEP purchased the well-known art gallery and lofts at 317 Market St. UEP also owns various residential properties in the Signal Hill Neighborhood of Rockford and several commercial properties in Chicago and Chicago suburbs.
Urban Equity has leased back Bar 3 and Damon’s Print Shop to the former property owner, Dennis Clement, for the remainder of the year.
“Bar 3 and Damon’s Print shop will remain open until we begin our renovation in January of 2014,” said Fern, president of UEP. “I’m really excited about this acquisition because this property was a constant challenge for its owner, the City of Rockford and the surrounding neighborhood. This project will be very unique.
“I’m so happy we were able to come to an agreement that benefited both Mr. Clement and Urban Equities Properties. I have tremendous respect for Dennis personally, his business sense, his long-term commitment to downtown, and his perseverance and creativity.
“We’ve been working with the City of Rockford, and really appreciate the efforts of Mayor Morrissey, City Administrator Jim Ryan, and Building Department Director Todd Cagnone and all the staff that helped us to understand this property to improve downtown.
“However, let me make it clear — this project is 100 percent financed by Urban Equities Properties, LLC.
“Our vision for this section of East State Street’s Block 3 will incorporate a mixed-use with six market-rate residential loft apartments, with balconies, gourmet kitchens, exposed brick and all the amenities that the modern urban dweller craves. The first floor of the property will be a restaurant and bar, around 6,000 square-feet, and will be the first downtown food and beverage establishment with an accordion facade that completely opens onto the sidewalk. It will be an inside/outside open-air restaurant; it’s really going to be wild,” concluded Fern.
Rockford City Administrator Jim Ryan said: “More than anytime since I can remember in the last 10 years of working for the city, there is more interest than ever in doing residential development in downtown Rockford. One of the reasons for that is because of the River Edge Redevelopment Zone and Historic Tax Credit legislation pushed by Mayor Morrissey and our state legislators. Now, we have developments that were once unattainable being very viable. Mr. Clement has been a very good business owner and advocate for downtown, and we wish him the best.”
“I did make a deal with Justin Fern,” said Clement. “I guess the fact that I’ve owned vacant real estate for the last few decades, this eases the strain on me. I don’t really have any plans at this point that I want to discuss. The decision to do something with the property has realistically been one of a couple of options for me for some time. My children are gone and grown up, and we are official empty nesters. With the plans for downtown they’ve laid out, it was time, and I’m not in the position to do something of that scope. Justin has the vision and drive to do this. I’ve always lived within a quarter of a mile of downtown, and I want to see good things happen. That’s what it’s all about. We leased back the bar. We’ll continue to operate it for the year, and we hope to see all of our friends.”
From the Feb. 27-March 5, 2013, issue
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