Business owners react to downtown Rock River West Casino Group proposal

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The reality of a Rockford casino is closer now than ever and three groups have requested the right to build.

The Rock River West Casino Group proposed its idea to dozens of nearby business owners and community leaders Thursday evening.

Gorman and Company Illinois market president Ron Clewer believes downtown has transformed into the ideal location for an entertainment district.

“[This is the place] for us to truly make the most economic impact and create the most jobs,” said Clewer. “We believe here on this site it does exactly that.”

Clewer says their intention is to cover the cost of the project with private equity. The district would be built south of the new Embassy Suites and Convention Center.

“In the anchor of that, there would be about a 60,000 square foot casino,” said Clewer. “There would be another boutique hotel that would be created, a great number of restaurants and bars.”

Clewer says the project would continue the work other downtown pioneers started years ago.

“Their investments here, were for all the right reasons,” said said Clewer. “We can help leverage those to truly bring this to the area.”

J.R. Kortman Center for Design and The Kortman Gallery co-owner Doc Slafkosky says this is the type of development he’s been waiting for in downtown Rockford.

“If it’s between a $500 million entertainment district with an aquarium, restaurants and a casino, or a casino out in a parking lot out by I-90… I mean, to me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Slafkosky.

Supporters say the combination of the walkable area and nearby businesses will create a beneficial environment for all.

“Of course we get a lot of good business off of it,” said Slafkosky. “People tend to move around in areas like that. They don’t tend to stand in one place.”

Stephen Pitkin owns Pitkin Studio on Chestnut Street. He says he doesn’t find any of the three proposals better than the other but likes the idea of having an entertainment area within walking distance.

“When there’s a district of things and different kids of activities all working together, we get a vital energy that I think is really self sustaining in a really great way.”

The Rock River West Casino group says it will name it’s gaming partner on September 23rd.

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