Hanley Building fire: What we know

DOWNTOWN — A fire broke out in the former Hanley Furniture building at 301 S. Main St. Sunday, burning for hours as Rockford Fire (RFD) crews worked to snuff out the flames and preserve surrounding structures.

According to RFD, the fire was reported in the five-story building at 12:40 p.m. Sunday. Crews arrived moments later to find a fire burning throughout the first and second floors of the uninhabited structure.

Smoke engulfed much of downtown Rockford Sunday as firefighters worked to extinguish the flames in the Hanley Building. 

The blaze at one time spawned a small fire on the roof of the BMO Harris Bank Center, though officials say that was quickly contained by crews already on the scene. In total, 55 firefighters were called in to control the fire, which officials estimate caused $200,000 in damage.

The building was owned by Urban Equity Properties (UEP), who said Sunday that any decisions over the future of the building were being left up to the city. A group of Urban Equity employees, including president Justin Fern, watched Sunday afternoon as fire crews continued searching out hot spots.

More than 50 firefighters worked to contain the flames to the 301 S. Main St. location Sunday. Only a small fire was reported on the roof of the BMO Center, which RFD officials said was quickly extinguished. Photo, Carly Rice

Urban Equity purchased the Hanley Building in 2014, completing a drawn out sales process. Fern’s group was close to completing a purchase for around $350,000 after an auction in 2013 but the group ultimately walked away from that deal.

Its owners at the time, The Gierson Group LLC, had racked up $60,000 in fines to the city. The building was ultimately sold by the city to Yenom Inc. for $59,000 in back taxes before Yenom signed the deed off to Fern’s Hanley Lofts LLC in 2014. The details of that transaction have not been released due to a settlement between Fern and The Gierson Group.

Urban Equity said they planned to begin renovations on the building in the coming months. Fern had repeatedly stated in the media that any decisions on the Hanley Building were contingent on the nearby Amerock hotel project.

Ground and ladder crews worked to douse hotspots through Sunday evening.

The top floor of the building was razed Sunday evening as crews worked to save adjacent structures to the south. RFD said in a release the demolition crew planned to take the rest of the building on Monday, although the Register Star reported that Urban Equity was interested in determining if the structure could be saved. The property group had said Sunday they expected the Hanley to be a complete loss.

Rockford Fire said in a statement that an investigation into the blaze was underway but that no cause had been determined.

–Staff report (This story has been updated.)

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