Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Group taps blighted nursing home for cleanup

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – Because the city is currently unable to demolish a vacant northwest side nursing home, a group has tapped the property for a major cleanup project.

The project is called Fight the Blight, organized by the Neighborhood Network. Planners are seeking volunteers to help spruce up the former Willows on Main, a vacant eyesore on the northwest side for several years.

General cleanup at the 1920 N.  Main St. property will take place Aug. 1. Material from the city’s new Decorative Board-Up program will be painted on Aug. 4 and installed between Aug. 6 and Aug. 10.

“We are trying a different approach,” Neighborhood Network Director Cyndie Hall said of the board-up concept.

The board-up program was launched this summer with the help of Rockford’s YouthBuild chapter and Chicago’s Neighborhood Foundation. It uses protective plastic-based boards, painted to give an appearance of an occupied property. The material is expected to last between three and five years, opposed to traditional plywood that must be replaced every six months to a year at the city’s expense.

Volunteers can work three-hour shifts: 8 – 11 a.m.; 11 a.m. – noon; or 2 – 5 p.m.

“We need people to clear the site, paint boards and install them onto the building,” she added. “We also need folks for greeting, volunteer check-in and took check in and out.”

Financial donations may also be made through Transform Rockford for incidental expenses.

The cleanup is sponsored by a host of local organizations and businesses including Transform Rockford, HomeStart and Urban Equity Properties.

“We are glad to see the city and community come together to eliminate blight,” UEP President Justin Fern said.

The Neighborhood Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to bring decorative board-up programs up and running in communities across the region. Officials say it is not a substitute for demolition and that properties selected are either not eligible for demolition or are eligible but not slated to be demolished soon.  The city is currently unable to demolish the Willows property because of legal proceedings with the owner.

For more information or to register, contact Cyndie Hall at 779-348-7571, or email, R.


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