Committee approves $70M Amerock project, council votes for downtown wellness center

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Rockford aldermen took the next step in turning the former Amerock building, at 416 S. Main St., into a luxury hotel and conference center, as the plan was approved by the Planning and Development Committee Monday, March 31.

Going into Monday’s meeting, Alds. Ann Thompson-Kelly, D-7, and Ninth Ward independent Teena Newburg said they were not ready to approve the development agreement without additional information. Thompson-Kelly wasn’t sold on the city’s ability to fund it, while Newburg wanted time to weigh whether Rockford needs to move on the $70 million proposal.

Newburg voted for the plan, while Thompson-Kelly voted no, saying the project would only make sense if the city can finance its part without compromising the capital improvement plan.

The vote was 3-1.

The agreement gives Milwaukee developer Gorman & Co. the green light to rebuild the 102-year-old Amerock building, turning it into a hotel and conference center along the Rock River next to Davis Park. When finished, the hotel will complement the redevelopment of the Ingersoll property at 301-401 S. Water St. That project will transform the Ingersoll complex into a 104,000-square-foot indoor sports facility that will host an array of regional, state and national youth tournaments.

Under the development agreement, Gorman would contribute $50 million to repurpose the Amerock building, while approximately $20 million would come from the city to build a parking deck and make improvements to South Main and Chestnut streets. To make that happen, leaders say they would utilize the motor fuel tax, part of Rockford’s capital improvement budget.

We are pleased to have the development agreement pass out of committee,” City Administrator Jim Ryan said. “We are hopeful for its passage by the city council next week.”

In other business, aldermen voted 10-4 in favor of allocating $256,000 to renovate the former Fran Kral Lincoln Mercury building downtown into a family wellness center for city employees. The building was purchased last year as a possible precinct headquarters under the city’s new geopolicing plan. That proposal was scrapped when other real estate became available.

Supporters of the Apostolic Pentecostals of Rockford were also on hand Monday in an effort to sway leaders to allow them to continue operating a homeless shelter at their church at 840 Mattis Ave. The church had been feeding and lodging up to 50 homeless residents per night during January’s extreme temperatures.

In late January, the church was warned to obtain a special-use permit to continue using the facility as a shelter. Six weeks later, when the church failed to do so, it was ordered to close the shelter.

Monday morning, church leaders delivered a petition signed by thousands of backers asking the city to reopen the facility. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) met with church spokesmen Monday and said a resolution is in the process.

I expect there to be a good solution in place,” the mayor said.

A plan including when the shelter would be open and how it would meet the city’s safety requirements will be discussed in future meetings with church leaders, Morrissey said.

The Rockford City Council meets every Monday at 6 p.m., at City Hall.

Posted April 1, 2014

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