A century old historic building in downtown Rockford could soon look completely different after Rockford aldermen signaled Monday night that they are on board with transforming the old Barber Colman building.
Without any debate, aldermen unanimously approved the city’s application for a $3.2 million federal grant. The goal for this money to make a dent in the Barber Colman renovations, which are estimated at over $9 million.
5th Ward Aldermen Venita Hervey says she supports the plan for Rock Valley College to bring its Technical Training Institute to the site, providing certification and degrees in things like manufacturing and welding at the downtown building.
“If this was just for loft housing, I wouldn’t be turning cartwheels,” Hervey (D) says. “That doesn’t do it for me. But I honestly believe this will provide that skill development.”
If the city receives the grant, it says the remaining cost would be split between itself, Winnebago County and Rock Valley College. The city is also working to secure things like historic tax credits for the project.
Republican Alderman Kevin Frost says while he is in favor of the overall project, he wants to make sure it is not just the city footing the bill.
“What are the other costs? I don’t want commit to a project and have the Rockford citizens to be on the hook for that if it goes from 9 million, to 19 million, to 29 million,” Frost says. “That would be a deal changer and so I don’t want the city to be the sole participant and the sole entity obligated to pay that.”
After the meeting Mayor McNamara’s chief of staff said the city received an official letter of support from both RVC and Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney.
The measure still needs to go before the Winnebago County Board for its full approval.
The application deadline for the federal grant is this Saturday. From there the city will wait to see if it has been approved.