River District President Confronts Rockford City Council With Math and Logic

River District President Confronts Rockford City Council With Math and Logic

SERIOUS NOOSE Winner - Gary Anderson, River District Association, Rockford, IL, Oct. 21st, 2013

Rockford, IL Rockford’s River District Association president, Gary Anderson, handed our City Council a big ol’basket of math–Rockford math problems–to figure out with a public statement on Monday Night.  RKFDnews.com has been provided a transcript of the public statement for publishing here in our new, serious noose section.  Congratulations, Mr. Anderson, you win our first official RKFDnews golden chalice-trophy.


October 21 2013

Speaking on behalf of the River District as president, I would like you to know that our board of directors, membership and businesses love our downtown, remain passionate and believe in its bright and exciting future. Nevertheless we are discouraged by several issues.

Tonight, largely due to Historic Tax Credits we anticipate an unprecedented private investment of over $100 million in the next two years. But those investments in multiple projects could be thwarted by three extremely urgent issues. We are here to demand your immediate attention.


Issue Number 1: The Cyclone Fence Mentality.

Two years ago you ripped out the mall, upgrading Main Street with a $2 million dollar investment. You spent $20 million on the BMO Center. These investments have, in fact, attracted more patrons, visitors and private investment. BUT … you have owned the Chick Hotel for more than 10 years and it’s been surrounded by a cyclone fence for at least 8 years. At last count, this eyesore has resulted in one million negative impressions as people enter the BMO. What kind of message are we sending to our visitors … that we don’t give a damn? You should be embarrassed by your inaction and failure to exploit positive economic opportunities like the Chick Hotel and others.

Two blocks north and 9 months ago you purchased 134 N. Main Street for $1. Our recollection is that the building was to have been offered immediately to the private sector for redevelopment. We know of at least THREE developers who were more than interested. We’ve asked repeatedly for a status report. The outdoor dining experience at Octane, one of our finest restaurants sits in our million dollar streetscape and has been bordered by – a cyclone fence for the past year and a half.

The River District requests that RFPs be approved by next Monday night for the redevelopment of the Chick Hotel and 134 N. Main St. Each should be a separate proposal, not encumbered with unreasonable requirements. Please … no more excuses; no more delays, just provide some action oriented leadership.

To the casual observer, your inaction demonstrates gross disrespect to adjacent business and property owners. Is this the way we should approach economic development and reinvestment — by acting like a slum landlord? And … is it our intention to continue to treat our local businesses in this manner?

You have held these and other properties far too long. Please represent your constituents appropriately and facilitate the sale of these buildings to private sector development.


Issue Number 2: Building Maintenance and Public Safety.

In the course of my architectural practice we work with many other municipalities – who, by the way, differ from Rockford in that they protect their investments by maintaining and making necessary improvements to their own buildings while at the same time maintaining public safety.

You just condemned the Hanley Building – an action long overdue. The building has a gaping hole in its roof … and the owner has no plans for the building. You need to motivate the owner – you should be levying heavy daily fines. Put yourself in the shoes of the owners and tenants in the William Brown Building … how would you be feeling about your investment right about now?

Why are we not proactive in preserving assets that pay property taxes? We allow properties to deteriorate at the expense of us all. Both of these properties have the potential and the financial tools to make them viable.

Issue Number 3: Assessed Property Value.

Declining property values and an out-of-control Mil rate of almost $14 per $100 of evaluation is cause for alarm – and immediate action. For decades we’ve recognized and endured low (and declining) property values in spite of substantial major renovations downtown. Sadly, in the eyes of our assessor, a return on investment of 20 to 30 cents on the dollar has been the norm. This does not foster nor sustain an atmosphere conducive to investment – on the contrary, it is economic suicide. Historic Tax Credits have helped change that picture, but the bankability of loans remains encumbered by assessed values.

The Friends of Ziock have spent THOUSANDS of hours promoting, marketing and supporting the development of the Ziock/Amerock Building. You approved and granted Gorman & Co., an option to do its due diligence. The administration has been highly supportive in receiving Gorman’s proposal. Now, as part of TIF processing, the assessor’s office reviewed the proposed plans that have an estimated construction value of $45 million yet found it to be worth only $4.9 million. How is it possible to

dismiss 90% of the project value? Not only that, Ken Crowley further discouraged Gorman by saying that the project could NOT be done and “no one is capable of making it work”. What an outrageous and (according to Gorman) unprecedented way to discourage economic development! We spend hundreds of thousands of valuable dollars and untold amounts of effort to entice new commerce and with one conversation the assessor can negate all our efforts.

The assessor’s office must be held accountable for how they appraise and assess buildings. Their method of calculating values is clearly flawed, antiquated and unreasonable. It completely discourages and undermines development and investments. This downward spiral of property values if allowed to persist will ultimately turn our community into a literal wasteland.

You should know that we have initiated a private sector task group and ask to work with you to solve this issue of declining property values. It is complex, difficult and it will not be an overnight fix. But other communities have faced similar issues, found solutions … and so can we.

Tonight, we’re at a proverbial crossroads. From our perspective bold action is mandatory. We urge you to be a council of visionary and decisive action.


Gary W Anderson

President, River District Association

[email protected]

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