Aldermen approve conference center development agreement

By Jim Hagerty 

CITY HALL — Rockford aldermen on Monday approved the development agreement for the regional convention center that will be connected to the long-awaited downtown Embassy Suites hotel.

The vote was 9-4 in favor of the agreement to allow Rockford Local Development Corporation get the ball rolling on the $12.5 million conference center. The facility is part of the $77 million hotel that was first approved in 2014 but revisited twice after Gov. Bruce Rauner took office and nixed funding to bring an Amtrak line back to the city.

The city will utilize new market tax credits on the project, something Gorman & Co. has been counting on as a significant part of the capital stack for the past three years. Under the city’s agreement with the developer, Gorman will spend $64.5 million on the 150-plus room hotel portion of the project, financed by a combination of EB-5 funds, loans and tax credits.

Gorman & Co. is expected to begin construction on the hotel this fall.

Aldermen Kevin Frost, R-4; Frank Beach, R-10; Tim Durkee, R-1; Joe Chiarelli, R-14 voted against the agreement.

• In other city business, aldermen held a motion to approve the ordinance that would authorize the sale of alcohol in buildings owned by the Rockford Public Library. The library is seeking a permit pursuant to the Illinois Liquor Control Act, 235 ILCS 5/615.

Under the law, it is prohibited for alcohol to be sold or delivered in buildings owned by the state. The 1934 law, however, allows Rockford to issue a special use permit to allow sales of alcohol on library property.

The measure has come before the city council after library leadership discovered it had been in violation of the act by serving alcohol during fundraising and cultural events for decades.

Library spokesmen say they are not intending to ramp up alcohol sales at their facilities, only continue serving beer, wine and other drinks during the same events at properties like Nordlof Center without violating the law. No alcohol would be served around children.

The item comes before the city as crews begin the $33 million on the project that will see the library move to a temporary location on Church Street as the existing 114-year-old facility is replaced by a new one. The project is expected to be completed in three to five years.

The city also approved the appointment of Marvin Hightower to a three-year term on the Community Action Advisory Board and the salary of $117,936 for Public Works Director Mark Stockman.

The Rockford City Council meets on the first and third Monday of every month. Council committee meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday at City Hall.

A special City Council meeting has been called for next Monday, July 17. R.

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