By Jim Hagerty
A 70-year-old downtown business may be forced to find another home after the Rockford City Council voted Monday, Aug. 18, to use eminent domain if needed to obtain three buildings owned by Warshawsky muffler and brake shop.
If Warshawsky agrees to sell, the city will tear the complex down to make way for parking near the planned Amerock building hotel and convention center. The lots would also accommodate downtown Amtrak stations and a future sports complex on Madison Street.
Under eminent domain, the city has the power to obtain property needed for public use. In most cases, owners negotiate a sale with the city out of court and are compensated fair market value. The city has been in talks with Warshawsky for the past few months and has agreed to relocate the business to a new shop. If Warshawsky balks at an offer, the city may initiate eminent domain before a judge. According to county tax records, the Warshsawsky buildings at 431 S. Main St., 501 S. Main St., and 319 Cedar St., are assessed at $336,260. The buildings are owned by S&L Warshawsky, Inc.
When it’s all said and done, the city will spend around$20 million from the motor fuel tax to turn South Main Street into a two-way stretch near the Amerock building and build a parking deck in Davis Park.
Downtown redevelopment is expected to bring several hundred construction jobs to Rockford withing the next few years and at least a couple hundred when the facilities open. The projects are the largest Rockford has seen since the MetroCentre (BMO Harris Bank Center) was built between 1979 and 1981, the same year Amtrak made its last stop in here.
Last Monday, Aug. 11, aldermen voted to demolish the former District 205 Administration Building, at 210 S. Madison St., for sports-complex parking. The city also plans to raze a portion of the old Rockford Watch Company building.
A discussion on Rockford’s ban on keeping chickens was again saved for for another meeting. The measure has recently been brought to the council by residents who want the ordinance lifted to accommodate a growing practice of hatching farm-fresh eggs. Leaders are expected to discuss it at the committee level before mulling a change. Opponents say raising chickens will only come with noise, foul odor and possible health risks.