Stadelman delivers $2.5 million toward proposed downtown innovation

ROCKFORD -- State Senator Steve Stadelman has secured $2.5 million in matching funds pivotal to a $100 million transformation of dated three- and four-lane downtown roads into safer, more inviting and user-friendly two-lane streets with dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes and parallel parking.

Stadelman designated the state match from the Rebuild Illinois capital program when the General Assembly approved its new budget last week in Springfield. The state's contribution is a key part of a $22.5 million federal grant application that would combine with private investment to bring at least $100 million in improvements to the region's urban core. A previous application for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant that lacked a state match failed to receive approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"Without Senator Stadelman's support, Rockford's application would not be in a strong position to win," said Bryan Davis, vice president of Government Affairs for SupplyCore, a private-sector partner. "The state's financial commitment greatly adds to the chances of Rockford prevailing in a very competitive federal grant program that doles out $1 billion annually."

The proposed Downtown Rockford Complete Streets Project calls for reconstruction of the one-way Jefferson and Chestnut streets, reducing the number of lanes reserved for motor vehicles to slow traffic and reduce crashes. Bicycle and pedestrian lanes with a median and parallel parking would be added. The grant also would pay for the "circulator route" of electric buses looping downtown every 15 minutes.

Stadelman called the Complete Streets proposal a "visionary leveraging" of an estimated $1 billion in urban renewal efforts that span 20 years from the restoration of the landmark Coronado Theater to the conversion of the abandoned Amerock factory into a high-rise luxury hotel.

"If the return is an additional $100 million, the state is making a smart investment with its $2.5 million contribution," Stadelman said. "Not only does this proposal improve traffic safety, it literally ties together the many large and small public and private investments that have contributed to the rebounding downtown we know today. That synergy is important because the economic fortune of our whole region depends on Rockford's prosperity, which depends on the continued evolution of downtown."

Chestnut Schematic

The full local match approaches $9 million with another $5.5 million coming from municipal funds and $900,000 from Rockford Mass Transit District.

During last week's special legislative session, Stadelman also secured $2.5 million in capital funding for upgrades to the BMO Harris Bank Center and $2.5 million for renovations at Davis Park, both downtown along Chestnut.

"Having an exciting downtown where people want to live, work and play benefits everyone," Stadelman said.