Guest Column: Two-way traffic essential to bringing hotel to downtown Rockford

Editor’s note: The following was submitted by leaders of Friends of Ziock, a group dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the historic Ziock Building on South Main Street in downtown Rockford.

The leadership of Friends of Ziock (FOZ) would like to weigh in on the topic of proposed two-way traffic on the Chestnut Street bridge. There are threeinterrelated issues at play: traffic patterns downtown, parking and economic development throughout the city core.

We have heard the city concern about the two streets (Jefferson and Chestnut) that form the loop through Rockford. We understand that pair currently function smoothly. But what about the future? To retain what works today at the expense of future growth is not an acceptable approach.

We understand that the BMO Harris Bank Center may have concerns about two-way traffic on Chestnut. We wonder if the bigger problem for them is availability of parking and the 30 minutes or more required to exit the decks currently in use. Optimum parking is a broader concern for more than just BMO patrons, but it would be a logical place for the next step in problem-solving.

In conversation with prospective developers for both the Ziock-Amerock building and others interested in nearby properties, future economic development within the city depends on more two-way streets, some re-routing (such as the Wyman Street Crossover) and additional parking. Easy, direct access must be a major consideration to connect the Ziock development and Ingersoll’s Reclaiming First for a user-friendly experience.

Clearly, the sports center at Ingersoll and the hotel development at Ziock-Amerock are interdependent. The sports center would like access to a nearby hotel; the hotel clearly needs the sheer numbers from the sports center to support their target occupancy rates.

We need to find a way to accommodate both the continued success and growth of the BMO and the combined sports complex and hotel/conference center directly across the river from one another!

A development agreement is under negotiation between the city and Gorman. This hotel is a $50-$60 million project with 250 permanent jobs and large property taxes at stake. Combined with a sports complex, the economic impact on our community cannot be exaggerated.

FOZ supports two-way traffic on the bridge and road in question — but with a caveat — we must encourage and enable future growth without crippling what works today. Therefore, we urge city administration and council members to convene a meeting of interested parties: BMO, the Park District on behalf of Reclaiming First, the prospective developer of the Ziock Building, Gorman & Co., and the parking contractor. Reasonable people can find a way to work this out!

From the Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2014, issue

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