By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD â€“ City of Rockford aldermen, on Monday, gave Urban Equity Properties the green light on to start three major projects on the west side of downtown.
And leaders say they aren’t just any developments. They are coming with 87 residential unitsâ€“market-rate apartments vital to the sustainability of the city’s core.
“It’s terribly exciting,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “I’ve been meeting with potential investors in the city of Rockford, and that’s the No. 1 thing they are commenting onâ€“the number of units coming online.”
Even more important than the growing downtown housing market is the occupancy rate. It’s more than 90 percent. That means a prediction that a new building at the site of the former Hanley Furniture building, The Residences at Talcott, andÂ CA Flats will soon be leased to capacity would be an accurate one.
The four-story building at the Hanley site will boastÂ 33 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments and a rooftop deck, as well as restaurant and retail on the ground floor. The $5.5 million project will break ground next year.
Urban Equity Properties was poised to redevelop the building last year when a fire shuttered the project. Citing safety concerns during the Fourth of July weekend, city officials decided to quickly demolish what was left and passed the cost of more than $600,000 on to the developer. There’s still a more than $540,000 balance that will be paid from the tax increment the building is expected to generate.
“(The repayment plan) allows us toÂ recoup costs that the city outlaid to demolish the building,” McNamara added. “And again, it’s new construction on the west side, which is really exciting.”
The Residences at Talcott,Â at 321 W. State St., will feature 42 apartments and 13,000 square feet of commercial space spread throughout 13 floors. There will be a tenant lounge, game room, deck and fitness center. A bridge will adjoin the West State Street parking deck.
UEP President Justin Fern bought the Talcott Building in 2015 from Dave Casazza, who owned it for 30 years. When Fern took over, he was putting the finishing touches on a string of other projects, namely on 300 and 400 block of East State Streetâ€™s north side, an area that houses Wired Cafe, Woodfire Brick Oven Pizza and the law offices at 416 E. State. UEP also owns the Chase Building on the 400 blockâ€™s south side. Its property on First Street and the 500 block of East State are also part of the footprint. Except for Chase and 416 E. State, each is a mixed-use buildingâ€“commercial on the ground floor with residential upstairs.
The smallest of the projects is the three-story CA Flats at 327 W. Jefferson St. It will boast a dozen residential lofts on the corner of W. Jefferson and Church streets. There will be underground parking, a rooftop deck and ground-floor retail.
Fern said construction on the Talcott Building will be begin this month. Work on CA Lofts will commence this fall.
The total cost of the development package is approximately $27.8 million. The capital stack includes a $20 investment from UEP and about $7.8 in TIF funds. The CA Flats and Hanley projects are pay-as-you-go TIF agreements, while Talcott includes a $743,000 advance payable to UEP in three installments. The agreement requires the advance to be repaid by the increment. Urban Equity is liable for any TIF shortfalls. R.