By Jim Hagerty
The former Rockford Public School District headquarters will be razed to make room for a parking lot for the new downtown sports complex, aldermen voted Monday, April 14.
In an abbreviated meeting overseen by Mayor Pro Tem Ald. Karen Elyea, D-11, the council voted 10-0 to tear down the building at 201 S. Madison St, and part of the old Rockford Watch Factory building at 325 S. Madison St.
Both buildings anchors the Haight Village Historic District, which means certain conditions must be met before they can be torn down, according to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).
The agreement specifies that the school district will raze the buildings and give the land to the city to build a 115-spot parking lot. In turn, the city agrees to pay for new sidewalks at Froberg Elementary School and tear down six houses near East High School to make room for a new fieldhouse. The city will also give the district 500 tons of road salt and plant trees on RPS property as part of the in-kind trade.
Before any of that can happen, the city must show that a developer is interested in the property as part of the sports complex project and work with the agency to preserve the architecture through photos and historic documentation. Environmental tests must also be done, which could take up to six months. Total cost is estimated at $725,000.
The former district headquarters was built in 1885 as Rockford High School. It was Rockford’s single high school until 1940, when East and West high schools opened.
Construction on the Rockford Watch Company building, at 319-325 S. Madison St., was completed in November 1875. The company built handmade time pieces at the location until 1915. The building was later acquired by the school district.