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One Stateline City's Vision for Cashing In on the 'Road to Riches'

Why Machesney Park is investing in the I-90 corridor, and Rockford isn't.
MACHESNEY PARK--Nearly 50,000 cars and trucks speed past Rockford and Machesney Park. Two communities seven miles apart, but when it comes to development around I-90, the two couldn't be further apart.

In Machesney Park, the signs are everywhere. Real estate for sale all along I-90. "It is a gold mine.," says Gregory Adams, Development Coordinator for Machesney Park. "I've worked in many communities that have been right on the interstates and the interstate drives the daytime population to the community, it brings them to the community."

Signs which also show two different approaches to economic development when it comes to the I-90 corridor between Machesney Park and Rockford. "We've directed our attention to areas that require a little extra help," Rockford's Economic Development Director Reid Montgomery tells Eyewitness News, "because we have more vacant and abandoned buildings in the downtown area than we do in the i-90 corridor"

As a city with an aging infrastructure, Rockford is focused on rebuilding. They're using the state's River Edge Redevelopment Zone program to entice businesses downtown by offering tax incentives and grants.. "In that zone, any building that qualifies as a historic building can get a 45% tax credit," says Montgomery. "20% federal and 25% state."

Encouraging development in run down areas where attracting new business is diffcult like where the old Barber Colman building is on South Main Street. No talk in Rockford about developing near the tollway. "It's easier to go build in a green field, but we have all this property that needs to be redeveloped and find a new purpose for so the strategy where we take infill property, take down a building if we need to, build something new or refurbish a building if we can."

But in a world where development is all about location -- location -- location -- Developer Sunil Puri will tell you there's one area in Rockford that clearly has it. "I-90, Cherryvale Mall, State Street. These are where we are drawing people, literally 750,000 people from a 4 county area," he says.  That's why the head of First Rockford Group is building a 16,000 square foot retail center on Perryville in east Rockford, right across the street from.another property he owns. "It should be open by this July," Puri tells us, "and half of it is pre-leased and we're talking to several tenants as we speak. That's a very vibrant market. State and Perryville especially on the right hand side on the way to Cherryvale Mall its very retail relevant and we're thrilled with the pre-leasing."

But that kind of expansion has its limits, because this is one area so popular, Rockford is running out of space. The Perryville corridor, made up of wide boulevards built decades ago to encourage commercial development to the west of the tollway, is now crowded. Rockford never made a similar investment to the east of the Interstate, meaning the next place developers will likely go won't be to Rockford, but Machesney Park. 

The village is making a big bet on the areas that hug the tollway. They've even laid the ground work lterally. "There's land available out there," says Adams for commercial retail, to start developing. For industrial manufacturing, operations, we have plats in place. Subdivision plats in place, water and sewer have already been extended out there." It's all part of Machesney Park's comprehensive plan which was adopted in 20-10. A vision to build a new stateline commericial center around I-90.

Our tale of two cities ends with one, Machesney Park, investing in the road to riches, and the other, Rockford, not. Only time will tell which strategy, Machesney Park's or Rockford's, will reap real rewards.

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