By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL – Rockford City Council on Monday approved the latest agreement with Wisconsin developer Gorman & Co. to turn the Ziock/Amerock Building into a $77 million Embassy Suites and conference center.
While all 13 aldermen present approved the dozen amendments to the agreement, the vote to spend $12.5 million in city funds on the conference center passed by a narrow 7-6 margin.
“We (will be) putting people to work right now,” Second Ward Alderman Jamie Getchius said before voting for the agreement, referring to 372 construction jobs created by the project and more than 120 people employed when the hotel is finished. “We have a workforce we need to fill.”
Also voting yes were Third Ward Alderman and mayor-elect Tom McNamara, Ann Thompson-Kelly (Ward 7), Jeanne Oddo (8), Karen Elyea (11), Linda McNeely (13), and 12th Ward Alderman John Beck.
An overflow crowd in City Hall’s lobby erupts as the vote to approve the project is announced upstairs. pic.twitter.com/PMbbFsb9wd
— The Rock River Times (@RockRiverTimes) April 11, 2017
Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin Frost was the leading dissenter, saying the city will be overpaying for the hotel by approximately $17 million.
“I truly believe downtown hotel is much needed,” Frost said. “It would provide a boost to the economy in respect to construction jobs, and it could be a economic development for the entire city. However, with respect to this particular project, this deal is the worst negotiated deal I have ever seen.”
Pam Connell (6), Venita Hervey (5), Frank Beach (10), Teena Newburg (9) and Joe Chiarelli (14) also voted no.
First Ward Alderman Tim Durkee was absent Monday.
Gorman CEO Gary Gorman said while it took time to iron out details, he remained confident both sides would come to an agreement and that the amendments presented by the city lent to a fair deal.
“It’s been a long road, and I am extremely happy it passed,” Gorman said. “This will have a catalytic impact on downtown Rockford.”
Three years ago, the council voted 13-1 in favor of a previous version of the project.
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and last two years.
We will have further coverage of the Amerock project in this week’s issue.