CITY HALL — Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara Monday addressed a weekend fire that ravaged downtown’s former Hanley Furniture Building, calling the damage to the historic structure “incredibly disappointing.”
The first-term mayor said the Rockford Fire Department and its partners were still combating the fire and evaluating the stability of the structure.
“It’s 28 hours later; they have been working non-stop,” McNamara said, adding that the state fire marshal had been called in to help with the ongoing investigation.
The mayor stressed the importance of reopening the roadways around the Hanley Building and allowing business owners in adjacent storefronts back into their shops, saying that the building’s owner, Urban Equity Properties, was cooperating in the city’s efforts to assess the structure.
“We’re working as quickly as possible with all our partners to get to our next steps.”
McNamara said the loss the of the Hanley was a setback for downtown. “As recently as the past couple weeks, we’ve had discussions (with the owners) about redeveloping that structure,” he told the media, echoing comments from Urban Equity on Sunday.
The mayor called the fire a setback to the continued work of rebuilding downtown, saying the 300 South Main Street block that the Hanley occupied was critical to connecting the current Main Street District with the planned Amerock hotel. But he added that the Hanley was only a small part of the overall development of downtown.
“It’s an important structure, for certain,” said McNamara, “but it’s just one building.”
McNamara said his office had no estimate for the city’s total cost of fighting the Hanley Building fire, including demolition work done Sunday night to remove most of the fifth floor of the structure.
The city says it hopes to conclude the evaluation of the safety of the structure within the next 24-48 hours, allowing adjacent business owners to re-enter their buildings.