By Jim Hagerty
DOWNTOWN — An early 2018 groundbreaking is being eyed on the long-awaited project to turn the Amerock/Ziock factory into a four-star, flagship hotel.
The final closing on the $76.5 million project concluded Monday. The deal was approved April 10 with a City Council vote of 7-6. Under the agreement, Gorman & Co. will spend about $64 million from a varied capital stack on the hotel while the city will use $12.5 million from its 1 percent sales tax on hotels, bars and restaurants to build an adjoining conference center.
The hotel will be the first major entertainment-related development project since the MetroCentre was built between 1979 and 1981. The riverfront facility will fly the Embassy Suites flag and is slated for 156 rooms.
It’s also been questioned since the city council first gave Gorman the green light in 2014, largely because of delays and changes in the way deal would be financed. The first version of the development agreement included an Amtrak station and parking deck that was nixed when Gov. Bruce Rauner pulled the funding after he unseated Pat Quinn.
“It’s been a long road, and I am extremely happy it passed,” Gorman said in April. “This will have a catalytic impact on downtown Rockford.”
Gorman has since secured various bridge loans, renewed historic tax credits and additional pledges through the federal EB-5 visa program.
Remediation has been ongoing at the site for the past couple years, mostly inside the 13-story building. Work on the outside commenced in June to prepare the structure for inspection.
The project will create more than 300 construction jobs and 123 hotel and convention center positions when the facility opens. Construction is expected to take approximately two years. R.