Architectural students dream of redesigning Rockford

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Architecture students on a mission to “re-imagine Rockford” presented their design ideas to a local non-profit at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Graduate students at Judson University, 200 Y Blvd, toured the Orchid, Swift and Fordam neighborhoods in January and spent the spring semester workshopping potential improvements. Members of the non-profit Transform Rockford and other community members came together to hear their presentations.

Cira Richardson, the Great Neighborhoods program director for Transform Rockford, said it’s good to have new ideas from outside of the city.

“Bringing people into our community and then having them take a look and hearing what they have to say…it’s really beneficial for us,” Richardson said.

Some of the students’ ideas included a riverfront baseball stadium, a downtown aquarium and an urban farm. Alan Frost, associate professor of architecture at Judson University, said he hopes these proposals inspire community leaders to take on related projects.

“I don’t imagine that a local entrepreneur is going to knock down our door to build a baseball stadium tomorrow,” Frost said. “But hopefully, these ideas will inspire someone to take on something similar.”

The aim of the partnership between Judson University and Transform Rockford is to provide city leaders with a new perspective, while providing an opportunity for students to gain real-life work experience. Randy Reyes, a student at Judson, said he’s happy to design something “meaningful” that may help Rockford.

“I think that was the biggest takeaway…to prepare me to actually do something like this, but [also] possibly making it a reality,” Reyes said.

Frost said that getting work experience in these communities is important for the students’ education.

“It’s part of why I teach, is getting them to have those experiences, have them engage with the communities where they’ll be doing the work,” Frost said.

Judson students initially planned to complete this project in a different city, but came to Rockford due to travel restrictions in place at the time from COVID-19.

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